Rita is a trained plant breeder and quantitative geneticist, holding a PhD from the University of Illinois, USA. A leader in bringing new crop varieties to market utilizing technological innovations and genomics-assisted approaches, she has contributed to agricultural food system advancements through the seed industry, academia, and international development. She holds several US and European patents.
In addition to serving as Director of the African Plant Academy, she leads the Education and Training component of the USAID Soybean Innovation Laboratory, provides consulting services to the seed industry through GeneMax Services, and teaches around the world in the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy. She serves on several scientific advisory boards, and previously served two terms on the CIMMYT Board of Trustees, with roles as Chair of the (Scientific) Program Committee and Chair of the Nominations Committee. She was the first President of the US-based National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB).
Rita is passionate about Plant Breeding Education, that is, preparing the next generation of crop improvement scientists and supporting the current global workforce through continuing education to address food and nutritional insecurity and eradicate stunting due to malnutrition.