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Luis Sequeira Student Travel Award

Colleagues and friends established this award in honor of Dr. Luis Sequeira for the contributions he made to the science of plant pathology through his research, teaching, and service.


Luis Sequeira

Dr. Luis Sequeira, Emeritus J. C. Walker Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was born in San José, Costa Rica. He entered Harvard University where he completed his B.A. (cum laude), M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in biology. In his Ph.D. thesis, entitled “Studies on Omphalia flavida, the agent of the American leaf spot disease of coffee,” he demonstrated for the first time that auxin inactivation by an enzyme of a fungal plant pathogen could lead to a damaging premature leaf drop and defoliation of coffee trees.

From 1953 to 1960, Dr. Sequeira was in charge of research on banana diseases for the United Fruit Company at a small research station in Coto, Costa Rica. During this period, he was introduced to the Moko disease caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, which became the focus of research throughout his career. In tracing the origins of an epidemic of this wilt disease, he established the information needed to lead to controls for the disease. He also designed experiments indicating that the continued use of oil sprays for control of the Sigatoka disease of bananas would lead to marked declines in yields.

Following a study leave at North Carolina State University, he joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1960, and initiated an innovative and highly productive research program initially involving studies on the control of lettuce diseases and the disease physiology of R. solanacearum. His studies enhanced the understanding of interactions between bacterial pathogens and host cells. As a result of an analysis of the molecular biology of virulence in R. solanacearum, the use of RFLP emerged as a means of reevaluating the taxonomy and evolution of R. solanacearum. For many years, his laboratory was a major world center for research and training in bacterial disease physiology.

Research achievements in both applied and basic areas have brought Dr. Sequeira international recognition. He released three cultivars of lettuce resistant to corky root disease. He collaborated with others to produce interspecific hybrids of potato from which a bacterial wilt-resistant cultivar was developed.

Dr. Sequeira’s career also has been distinguished by outstanding contributions in teaching. As a reflection of his skill as a teacher, Sequeira’s course in disease physiology became an integral unit in the training of graduate students at the university. He currently shares teaching responsibilities for “Plants, Parasites, and People,” a plant pathology course for nonscience majors. In the course of his career, he has made a major commitment in service to The American Phytopathological Society. As president of APS, he initiated program changes and activities that will have lasting influence on future generations of plant pathologists. He served as editor-in-chief for Phytopathology. He was instrumental in the inception of and served as the first editor-in-chief for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. As the chief scientist for the USDA Competitive Research Grants Office (1987–1988), he had a major influence on the effectiveness of this program and increased funding particularly in biotechnology research.

Among many honors, Dr. Sequeira has received the highest awards of APS (the Fellow Award and the Award of Distinction) and was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology. Other honors include honorary president, Phytopathological Association of Costa Rica, E. C. Stakman Award, and member of the Linnean Society of London.

As an emeritus professor, Dr. Sequeira continues his commitment to agricultural sciences. He served as director of the APS Office of International Programs and was recently elected to the council of the National Academy of Sciences, and he has served as the chair of academy’s Section 62, Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, in Class VI, Applied Biological and Agricultural Sciences.