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Jan E. Leach was born in Lincoln, NE. She graduated from high school in Lincoln and attended a small college in Iowa for 2 years. She transferred to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she received a B.S. degree in 1975 in microbiology (with a minor in chemistry) and a M.S. degree in 1977 in microbiology. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1981 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the East Mailing Research Station in Kent, United Kingdom, from 1981 to 1984. She joined the Department of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University (KSU) in 1984 as an assistant professor and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 1990 and to professor in July 1995.

Dr. Leach has received many honors including Distinguished Graduate Faculty Member of KSU in 1996 and University Distinguished Professor in 1998. She was appointed adjunct scientist and plant pathologist in the Entomology and Plant Pathology Division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila, Philippines, in 1997, the first person to hold that position in the history of the institute.

Dr. Leach is an international authority on research in plant disease physiology, with emphasis on the molecular biology of hostparasite interactions and the mechanisms by which plants resist disease. Early in her career at KSU, she pioneered studies on a model host-pathogen interaction system of the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, which causes bacterial blight disease of rice. Her extensive and intensive research efforts have made this one of the top model systems to analyze how genetic determinants in the pathogen and the host interact to cause disease. Dr. Leach is noted for the diversity of approaches and quality of work directed to understand the Xanthomonas-rice pathosystem. The work of Dr. Leach and her laboratory group, along with their collaborators, has great implications for the strategies involved in breeding for resistance to bacterial blight and clarifies the many previous reports of pathogen variation. Her research program is very active and promises to shed much more light on the interactions of this important pathogen of perhaps the most important food crop in the world.

Dr. Leach is highly active within her department and campus and teaches a three-credit, upper-division, graduate-level course entitled “molecular plant-microbe interactions.” She is tireless in her service on a large number of campus committees. She advises a large number of M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, and visiting scientists, and she mentors new and existing faculty in several departments and colleges on her campus.

Dr. Leach has developed an international reputation for excellence. She is the president-elect of the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and has served for 2 years on its Board of Directors. She is also editor-in-chief of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and serves as council member of APS. She has consulted and/or presented seminars or workshops by invitation in China, England, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and she has attracted graduate students, postdoctorates, and visiting scholars from numerous countries.