Dr. Craig L. Nessler, a plant scientist who had led agricultural research at Virginia Tech since 2004, was named director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research in December 2009.
Dr. Nessler’s appointment brought him back to Texas A&M University, where he began his 30-year career as an assistant professor of biology. During his 21 years on campus, he rose in rank to professor and associate head in the Department of Biology. He left in 2000 to head the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
In 2004 Dr. Nessler was promoted to director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean for research in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During his tenure leading the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, the college rank rose from 14th to 5th nationally in National Science Foundation research expenditures among agricultural and natural resource programs.
Until 2009, Dr. Nessler himself headed a research program that generated over $8 million in competitive grants, and he was the first to metabolically engineer an increase in vitamin C in plants. Although he has recently stepped away from the lab because of administrative duties, his former colleagues are investigating a promising vitamin C pathway to genetically improve the productivity, shelf life, and nutritional value of a variety of crops.
Dr. Nessler earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at the College of William and Mary. He earned his doctoral degree in plant science, with a pharmacology minor, from Indiana University in 1976.