Prof Melania Figueroa

Group Leader

Contact details:


Dr. Figueroa grew up in Costa Rica. She received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica) and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A).
Dr. Figueroa was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.A.) with support from a highly competitive National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship. Following this, she was a Research Plant Pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services in the Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit when she accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A). Prior to joining CSIRO, she received the rank of Associate Professor with tenure at the University of Minnesota. While at the University of Minnesota she has established a productive, independent research program that has had a major impact in the areas of effector biology and rust genomics, and disease resistance. She has served as a program director or co-investigator on 12 grants totalling ~US$2,400,000
Her work is at the forefront for understanding the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions and developing durable resistance in crops. In 2018, Dr. Figueroa received the 2018 American Phytopathological Society Syngenta Award in recognition of her contributions to research.

Achievements and Awards

  • 2019--

    Outstanding Mentor Award
    Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA

  • 2018--

    Syngenta Award
    American Phytopathological Society

  • 2018--

    International Travel Grant Award
    The Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, University of Minnesota

  • 2016--

    Research Fellowship
    Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

  • 2007-2010

    Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
    National Science Foundation, USA

  • 2009--

    Travel Award
    22nd New Phytologist Symposium Effectors in Plant-Microbe Interactions.

  • 2006--

    Honorable mention
    SACNAS Genome Scholar Program

Current Roles

  • Senior Research Scientist
    Enhancing levels of rust disease resistance in Australian wheat and developing molecular diagnostic tools of rust virulence

Academic Qualifications

  • 2000

    B.Sc., Biology
    University of Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica)

  • 2007

    Ph.D., Plant Pathology
    University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ, USA)

Professional Experiences

  • 2019-2019

    Associate Professor with tenure
    University of Minnesota, St.Paul, MN, U.S.A

  • 2013-2019

    Assistant Professor (tenure- track)
    University of Minnesota, St.Paul, MN, U.S.A

  • 2011-2013

    Postdoctoral Research Scientist
    USDA-ARS, Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit , Corvallis, OR, U.S.A

  • 2007-2011

    Postdoctoral Reserach Fellow and Courtesy Faculty Member
    Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, U.S.A


  • 2018-2019

    2Blades Foundation - Construction of a haplotype phased genome assembly for wheat stem rust

  • 2018-2021

    USDA NIFA-AFRI The contribution of the alternate host to virulence and diversity in oat crown rust

  • 2017-2019

    Minnesota Small Grains Initiative-Agricultural Experimental Station FY18 / FY19 Biennium, Genetic Improvement of oat against fungal diseases

  • 2017-2021

    US DOE-Joint Genome Institute, Rust pangenomics: understanding the diversity and potential impact of rust fungi – a systematic collection of genomes & transcriptomes.

  • 2017-2021

    US DOE-Joint Genome Institute, Gene atlas of diverse plant-microbe interactions in Brachypodium and Setaria

  • 2017-2018

    Pepsico, Inc, Genetic diversity in oat crown rust

  • 2017-2017

    Pepsico, Inc, Diversity crossing block in oat

  • 2016-2016

    OECD, Uncovering the genetic basis of virulence in Puccinia coronata via an intercontinental comparative genomics approach

  • 2015-2017

    Minnesota Small Grains Initiative-Agricultural Experimental Station FY16 / FY17 Biennium.,Assessment of disease resistance durability in oats

  • 2014-2018

    US DOE, Spatial connectomics to identify agents relevant to lignocellulose deconstruction in fungi

  • 2015-2017

    Pepsico, Inc, Screening core oat collection for crown rust and loose smut resistance

  • 2007-2010

    NSF, Comparison of the mode of action of two host-selective toxins


We have publications by Prof Melania Figueroa