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Distinguished Cereal Chemistry Alumna Dies

Award winning North Dakota State University cereal chemistry alumna Dr. Evangelina Villegas died April 23, 2017 in Mexico City. She was the first woman to receive the World Food Prize for groundbreaking research that has improved the nutrition of millions of undernourished and poor people worldwide.

May 23, 2017

Award winning North Dakota State University cereal chemistry alumna Dr. Evangelina Villegas died April 23, 2017 in Mexico City. She was the first woman to receive the World Food Prize for groundbreaking research that has improved the nutrition of millions of undernourished and poor people worldwide.

Villegas completed her Ph.D. in cereal chemistry and plant breeding at NDSU in 1967. She was born in Mexico City in 1924 and studied at the National Polytechnic Institute and at Kansas State University before attending NDSU.

She joined CIMMYT in 1967 and worked with plant breeder Dr. Surinder Vasal, who was co-winner with Villegas of the World Food Prize. Their research produced Quality Protein Maize (QPM) varieties, which have essential amino acids critical to good health, especially in populations that rely on a single food as a staple in their diets. Previous high quality maize varieties are more susceptible to disease and unappealing to consumers. QPM has hard kernels and good taste similar to traditional grain.

Villegas and Vasal produced the first QPM varieties in the mid-1980s and in the 1990’s CIMMYT began promoting QPM in developing countries. The result is that nutrition and health has improved in impoverished communities in Africa, Latin America, China, Mexico and Central America.

After winning the World Food Award, Villegas said, “What I would like to do with this prize is make the world more aware of what we have developed. Because for me, the greatest honor, as a Mexican, would be to see the fields of Mexico overflowing with QPM maize.”

Villegas received the 2000 Woman of the Year Award from the Mexican Women’s Association, multiple awards and honors from the National Polytechnic Institute, and was named to Alpha Kappa Delta’s prestigious list of International Women of Distinction.

She retired from CIMMYT in 1989 but remained active in consulting worldwide on QPM production.

Read more at http://bit.ly/2oFPUW5.

Author: Karen Hertsgaard, 701-231-5384,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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