Our Team - Leadership



   Douglas R. Cook

   University of California, Davis, USA

   Professor, Department of Plant Pathology
   Director, Feed the Future Innovation Lab Climate Resilient Chickpea
   Director, NSF Project

   Publications LinkArrow2.jpg

   Email: drcook@ucdavis.edu

   Cook Lab Website: cooklab.ucdavis.edu LinkArrow2.jpg 


Dr. Cook is a Professor at the University of California-Davis in the Department of Plant Pathology. He is currently Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Chickpea, funded by US Agency for International Development, and Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program project to investigate the impact of domestication on nitrogen fixation in chickpea. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in bacterial genetics in the Department of Plant Pathology and conducted postdoctoral research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Embryology at The Johns Hopkins University. He served on the faculty of Texas A&M University from 1992-2000, prior to joining UC Davis, and as an adjunct Professor of International Graduate School in Bioinformatics and Genome Research at the Universitat Bielefeld in Germany from 2002-2008. He was among a small group of colleagues who together pioneered the use of Medicago truncatula as a model genetic and genomic system for investigation of legume biology. For the past decade he has been a leading advocate for the application of basic legume science towards pressing agricultural needs in the developing world.  His current research spans model and crop legume systems, with a dual focus on (1) forward genetics, biochemistry and cell biology to characterize genes governing symbiotic development in M. truncatula, and (2) ecological genomics and association genetics to understand gene function in complex natural and agricultural legume systems.



   Sergey V. Nuzhdin

   Professor, University of Southern California, USA

   Email: snuzhdin@usc.edu


Dr. Nuzhdin has been an independent investigator since 1997. He has published over a hundred manuscripts. Nuzhdin encourages independence in research, and his trainees frequently publish papers not co-authored by him, including in top-notch journals. He has mostly worked on Drosophila, but his lab has published on multiple organisms including yeast, aphids, mosquitoes, ArabidopsisMedicago, and chickpea. For 10 years, Dr. Nuzhdin was a member of then top-rated UC Davis Evolution and Ecology Section. He subsequently moved to USC Los Angeles Molecular and Computational Biology Program to learn first hand from Molecular Biologists, and to enhance his lab Computational Biology skills. Eighteen of his previous trainees are now tenured or tenure-track investigators in the USA (or equivalent project leaders abroad).



Eric JB von Wettberg

Associate Professor, University of Vermont, USA

Publications LinkArrow2.jpg

Email: Eric.Bishop-Von-Wettberg@uvm.edu


Dr. Eric JB von Wettberg received a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College in 1999 and a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University in 2007.  He was a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award postdoc at the University of California at Davis from 2007-2009.  Dr. von Wettberg is currently an associate professor in Biology at Florida International University, and affiliated faculty in FIU’s Agroecology program. 

Von Wettberg is the author of over 40 articles and book chapters.  He was a Fulbright scholar in 1999-2000, an EPA-STAR graduate research fellow from 2004-2007, an HHMI faculty teaching scholar (2012-2013), a visiting faculty member at Ecole Nacional Superieure Agronomique de Toulouse in 2011, and a 2017 Chinese Academy of Sciences Fellow.

Von Wettberg’s research examines the effects of population bottlenecks on genetic variation and stress tolerance in plants.  Most of his recent work examines the consequences of the population bottleneck crop species experienced as a result of human domestication.  Many crops, like chickpea, lentil, and pigeonpea, have lost genetic variation as a result of human cultivation and selection.  This reduced variation impacts our capacity to breed for climate resilience.  By understanding the ecology and evolution of wild relatives with field and greenhouse experiments we can target our use of wild relative diversity to effectively restore adaptive variation to crops.



The following leadership team members are listed alphabetically by last name.



Fassil Assefa

Associate Professor of Microbiology, Department of Microbial, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia

Email: asefafasil2013@gmail.com


Dr. Fassil Assefa is currently an associate professor of microbiology at the Department of Microbial, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia. He received a BSc in Biology from Addis Ababa University in 1979, MSc in Applied Microbiology from Addis Ababa University in 1983 and a PhD in soil microbiology  from the University of Bbayreuth, Germany in 1993.  His main research focus is Plant Microbiology/Microbial Ecology/ Environmental microbiology: (1) selection of nitrogen fixing microorganisms and their hosts (trees) for agro forestry and sustainable plant production systems, (2) production of biofertilizers (rhizobia, phosphate solubilizing, plant growth promoting microorganisms, etc) for agricultural crops, (3) selection of mycorrhiza for tree establishment in agro forestry systems, (4) environmental Microbiology/Biotechnology and waste management (composting, Constructed wetland) and (5) integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) and integrated pest management (IPM).  

He has solely and jointly supervised more than 93 MSc and 23 PhD students at AAU and other local universities, and has published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers. Specific to chickpea, he advised several students on symbio-agronomic effectiveness, plant growth properties on the crop, at an MSc and PhD level, and published more than eight papers. Currently, more than ten inoculants are being tested on demonstration farmer’s fields of which two isolates were from chickpea.



Abdulkadir Aydogan

Researcher and Head, Food Legume Breeding
Central Research Institute for Field Crops (CRIFC), Ankara, Turkey



Dr. Abdulkadir AYDOĞAN is researcher at Central Research Institute for Field Crops (CRIFC) at the department of Food Legume Breeding, Ankara, Turkey.  He is presently   head of Food legume Breeding department in CRIFC, and coordinator, national chickpea breeding activities.  He is a member of the steering committee at Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) program on Grain Legume.  He received his doctoral degree from the University of Ankara. He conducted many chickpea and lentil projects in Turkey. At the end of these projects 11 lentils and 5 chickpea cultivars were registered which, are common cultivars in Turkey. He has about 25 national and international publications. In 1997-1999 he studied on winter hardiness in Lentil with University of Washington State, USA. For the past two decades, highland project in 1994- 1997, food legume improvement in 2007-2010 and identification of genetic variability for herbicide tolerance in lentil germplasm in 2013 were studied with International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).  He currently carries out projects of lentil breeding activities for Central Anatolia, National Chickpea Breeding Project, Chickpea Breeding Project for Central Anatolia by Government Support. In addition, he has involved in a project on development  of tolerant chickpea germplasm to Ascochyta blight (Ascochyta rabiei)  using  classical and modern breeding techniques for 2013-2016 by support of The Scientific And Technological Research Council Of Turkey (STRCT). He has experiences on biotic and abiotic stresses in lentil and Chickpea.



B. Tuba Bicer

Assistant Professor at Dicle University in the College of Agriculture in Diyarbakır, Turkey

Email: tbicer@dicle.edu.tr


Dr. B. Tuba Bicer is an Assistant Professor at Dicle University in the College of Agriculture in Diyarbakır, Turkey.  She received her doctoral degree from the University of Cukurova in legume breeding in the Department of Field Crops.  She has published more than 50 national and international publications with a focus on lentil and chickpea breeding.  She has registered a lentil cultivar and, currently, some chickpea and lentil lines are under registration. Presently, she is conducting three national and international projects about cultivar improvement and orobanch resistance and wide adaptation.   



Bekir Bukun

Researcher and Dean of Agriculture College
Dicle University, College of Agriculture, Diyarbakır, Turkey



Dr. Bekir Bukun is Professor at Dicle University, College of Agriculture, Diyarbakir, Turkey. His primary focus is on weed control of legumes, and he developed his own variety of imazamox tolerant red lentil. He completed his Post Doctoral Fellowship at Colorado State University, USA.  Dr. Bukun has six current projects funded by different institutions including NSF, GCDT, Turkish Scientific Research Council Foundation, and the Turkish Regional Development Agency. Dr. Bukun has more than 50 national and international publications and has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy Science (PNAS), Weed Science, Weed Research and Evolutionary Applications.  He has several Master and Ph.D. students in addition to teaching undergraduate students. He is presently Dean of Agriculture College at Dicle University, Diyarbakır, Turkey.



Mekasha Chichaybelu

Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) National Coordinator, EIAR, Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), Ethiopia

Email: chichemekasha@gmail.com



Dr. Mekasha Chichaybelu is a researcher on insect pest management working for the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, based at Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC). He received his BSc in plant sciences and MSc in plant protection from Haramaya University, Ethiopia and PhD in insect pest management from University Putra Malaysia. In his earlier career, he worked as a crop protection expert and farm manager of state coffee plantationand acquired wealth of experiences in agricultural development. Later he joined Haramaya University as a lecturer and researcher. Dr. Mekasha served as head of the 'crop protection' and 'crops research' departments of the DZARC for various periods and as Director of the center from January 2009 - May 2012. Currently he is coordinating two externally funded projects supporting chickpea improvement; namely, the BMGF sponsored "Tropical Legumes III project" hosted by ICRISAT and an USAID sponsored "FTF Innovation lab for climate resilient chickpea project'' hosted by UC Davis.



Masresha Fetene

Professor of Plant Ecophysiology, Department of Plant Biology and Biodiversity, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia

Email: masresha.fetene@aau.edu.et


Dr. Masresha Fetene is Professor of Plant Ecophysiology at Addis Ababa University (AAU). He obtained his BSc (1982) and MSc (1985) in Biology from AAU and his PhD in Plant Ecophysiology from the University of Darmstadt, Germany (1990). Currently, he is Executive Director of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences (EAS). In the past, he has served AAU in various capacities: Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies, Head of Department of Biology, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, and Director of Addis Ababa University Press. He was also the Editor-in Chief of Sinet: Ethiopian Journal of Science.

He has initiated several international and regional partnerships in teaching and research and has led and conducted many research projects with collaborators from East African countries and Europe. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals in the area of plant eco-physiology, plant stress and crop physiology, tree physiology and plant ecology. He is a recipient of several research awards and fellowships, including the UNESCO-ICRO research award and the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. Masresha Fetene is a founding and active member of many professional associations, both national and international. He spearheaded the initiative for the establishment of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences (EAS).



Asnake Fikre

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Ethiopia



Dr. Asnake Fikre is a senior legume breeder at ICRISAT, Ethiopia. Previously he served as Director of Crop Research at EIAR where he oversaw research involving greater than 50 crop species grown throughout Ethiopia. Prior to joining EIAR headquarters in Addis Ababa, Dr. Asnake served as Director of the Debere Zeit Agricultural Research Center. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Biological Sciences from the University of Gent, Belgium, in 2008. His initial professional assignment was as a legume breeder (chickpea, lentil, grass pea) at the EIAR Deber Zeit Agricultural Research Center. During that time he developed and released improved legume varieties, including several currently under wide cultivation.  For these efforts he has been recognized with Best Performer Awards from the Ethiopian government. He has been a constructive partner in several grain legume projects, including those funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the current USAID project on chickpea. He currently serves on the Steering Committee for the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes (CRP 3.5). 



Mahmut Gayberi

Legume Breeder, GAP Agriculture Research Institute (GAPTAEM), Turkey

Email: mahmutgayberi@hotmail.com


Dr. Mahmut Gayberi is a researcher at GAP Agriculture Research Institute (GAPTAEM) in the department of Field Crops, located in Sanliurfa, Turkey.  He graduated from the Department of Plant Protection, Faculty of Agriculture, Ataturk University, Erzurum.  He has past experience in cotton breeding and curation of genetic resources of ornemental plants with specific interest on Geophytes. He is currently working on legume breeding with special emphasis on chickpea improvement. 



Kassahun Tesfaye Geletu

Director, Institute of Biotechnology, AAU and Assistant Professor, Institute of Biotechnology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia


Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye Geletu is currently Director of the Institute of Biotechnology at Addis Ababa University. He received a BSc in Plant Science from Haramaya University (Former Alemaya Agricultural University) in 1995, MSc in Applied Genetics from Addis Ababa University in 2000 and a PhD in Plant Genetics from University of Bonn in 2006.

His main research focus is food crop improvement using conventional and molecular breeding approaches to contribute to ongoing efforts of food security in Ethiopia. His research involves both legumes, grasses, with a focus on genomics to develop cultivars for small scale farmers and genetic markers to aid breeding at national level. He has solely and jointly supervised more than 30 MSc and PhD theses, and has published 21 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. Specific to chickpea, he is interested in against abiotic stress and soil acidity. As crop breeder and later as University staff, Dr. Tesfaye have made several contributions in crop varietal release to benefit smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and also to capacity building of NARS researchers and national universities. 



Michel Edmond Ghanem

Crop Physiologist and Head of Crop Physiology Laboratory, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco

Email: M.Ghanem@cgiar.org


Dr. Michel Edmond Ghanem is a Belgian national who works at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) as Crop Physiologist where he leads the crop physiology laboratory. He holds an Agricultural Engineering degree and a Ph.D. in Plant Biology from the University of Louvain (Université catholoque de Louvain, UCL, Belgium).  Prior to joining ICARDA, he was an Associate Professor of Plant Physiology at the UCL and the University of Namur (Belgium).  He also worked as a Research Fellow at the CEBAS-CSIC (Murcia, Spain) where he was actively involved in the conception and the coordination of a EU-funded FP7 project in the field of root-science research (Rootopower). Dr. Ghanem is also expert at the Biosafety Advisory Council (BAC) of Belgium on transgenic plants and serves on the Executive Board of the Experts Working Group on Wheat phenotyping within the Wheat Initiative. Within the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes, Dr. Ghanem serves on the board of the Research Management Committee as coordinator of the work on “Heat tolerant chickpea, common bean, faba bean and lentil”. His research expertise covers plant abiotic stress physiology, plant modeling, root biotechnology, and plant phenotyping.



Abdullah Kahraman

Assistant Professor, Department of Field Crops, Faculty of Agriculture, Harran University,  Sanliurfa, Turkey

Email: kahraman@harran.edu.tr


Dr. Kahraman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Field Crops at Harran University in Sanliurfa, Turkey. He received his Doctoral degree in plant genetics from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University-Pullman. His research emphasis is in plant breeding and plant genetics with particular interest in the application of molecular breeding to cultivar enhancement in cool season food legumes. His current interests involve the application of cultivar and germplasm enhancement and agronomic strategies to improve productivity and nutritional value of Chickpea and Lentil.



Jana Kholova

Senior Scientist – Crops physiology and modelling, Systems Analysis for Climate Smart Agriculture, Innovative Dryland Systems, ICRISAT, India

Email: J.Kholova@cgiar.org


Dr. Kholova is a Senior Scientist – Crops physiology and modelling, Systems Analysis for Climate Smart Agriculture, Innovative Dryland Systems, ICRISAT, India. She has obtained her PhD in plant stress genetics and physiology from The Charles University in Prague, The Czech Republic, in 2010. Since then she has been associated with GxExMxS team, ICRISAT (http://gems.icrisat.org/) to execute the research activities. Her main research focuses on integrated interdisciplinary cropping systems production improvement and encompass cross-disciplinary research on plant stress physiology & modelling & genetics & phenotyping & plant nutrition & biochemistry & molecular biology.

In her current position, she is responsible for integrating the knowledge of crops eco-physiology through modelling tools into the inter-disciplinary pipeline for crop improvement and so contribute to enhancement the agricultural production in semi-arid agro-ecological production system (South Asia, West and Central Africa). Apart of application-oriented research, she conducts the basic research on various aspects of plant water use to elucidate underlying processes of crops adaptations to water-limited environments. To achieve the top-research outcomes, she established collaborations with the top-research teams all-over the world to push the limits of current research and its application further.



Huseyin Ozcelik

Legume Breeder, Head of Field Crops Department, Black Sea Agricultural Research Institute, Turkey

Email: huozcelik@hotmail.com


Dr. Hüseyin Özçelik is a legume breeder and agronomist at the Black Sea Agricultural Research Institute of Samsun, Turkey. He is presently head of the Field Crop Department. He is also the national bean research coordinator of Turkey. His academic background spans both applied chickpea and bean breeding, from a BS program in Agricultural Science (Ondokuzmayıs University, Turkey), graduate degrees in Crop Science (MS, Ondokuzmayıs University, Turkey) and Genetics (PhD, Ankara University, Turkey), advanced training in farming system research and extension at the University of Florida. His breeding efforts focus on biotic and abiotic stresses in both dry bean and chickpea, including mutation breeding. He has released four chickpea, three bean and four coriandrum varieties to date, including three chickpea varieties (Çağatay, Sezenbey and Zuhal) that account for 55% of certified seed production in Turkey. Among his current research emphases is the breeding of dry beans tolerant to high temperature and drought stress under a project supported by The Scientific And Technological Research Council Of Turkey (STRCT). He has published 35 national and international publications. 



Teklehaimanot Haileselassie Teklu

Associate Professor, Institute of  Biotechnology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Email: tekle1961@yahoo.com


Dr. Teklehaimanot Haileselassie is an Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University, Institute of Biotechnology (IoB), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  His current duties at IoB include: teaching, research and community services. He earned his doctoral degree in Biology from Lund University, Department of Plant Ecology and Systematics, Lund, Sweden, in September 2005. The title of his thesis was “The effects of Environmental factors on Maternal Choice and Gene Dispersal in Plants”. The research work was on the effect of gene flow from cultivated crops to their wild relatives through pollen and the implications of this in ecological risk assessment of genetically modified crops (GMOs) through the use of non-GM model plants. Since December 2006 he served at Addis University in various academic positions including University Registrar; Associate Dean for Finance and Administration and Associate Dean for Research and Technology Transfer for the College of Natural Sciences, AAU. His current research is in the area of Agricultural Biotechnology, particularly, studying the genetic diversity of crops of economic and food security importance in Ethiopia to aid in future crop improvement through molecular methods. Besides, in collaboration with international partners, he studies abiotic and biotic stress tolerance of crops such as chickpea and wheat to enhance productivity and improve the livelihood of small holder farmers of the country. He has also research interest in Environmental Impact Assessment of Genetically Modified Crops (Biosafety) and is currently serving as member of Biosafety Technical Advisory  Committee for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC). He has also been involved in research activities on the interphase between science and policy, particularly bio-resources innovation policies.



Sripada M. Udupa

Senior Scientist, Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management Program, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Rabat, Morocco

Email: s.udupa@cgiar.org



Dr. Udupa is a Senior Scientist at ICARDA, Rabat, Morocco. He received his doctoral degree from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi and conducted postdoctoral research at University of Frankfurt, Germany. He started his research carrier at ICARDA on application of molecular markers in chickpea improvement. He is currently involved in backstopping and capacity building Moroccan agricultural research program. His current research interest is integrating genomics tools for improving food legumes and cereals. In this project, he is involved both in bacterial genomics and phenotyping.



Vincent Vadez

Principal Scientist – PhD, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Email: v.vadez@cgiar.org


Dr. Vincent Vadez is a crop physiologist and agronomist, initially trained in engineering. Prior to ICRISAT, he has worked 4 years with a Bolivian lowland indigenous group to understand and measure the socio-economic drivers of deforestation and of new farming technology adoption. Before that he worked for 10 years on symbiotic nitrogen fixation research, at the University of Florida on drought in soybean, at CIAT Colombia on low soil P in bean, and at the National University of Singapore on low soil P in Acacia.

His group works on the genetic and mechanistic deciphering of plant traits contributing to drought adaptation and they have shown that plant traits contributing to drought adaptation revolve around the critical need to match water supply and demand. They have shown that water-saving traits (low leaf conductance, restriction of transpiration under high evaporative demand, slower leaf development) are critical for drought adaptation in several crops. His research has also contributed a quantum leap in the approach to understand the role of roots in drought adaptation, by developing a large lysimetric platform for a direct, precise, rapid, in-vivo assay of water extraction (http://www.icrisat.org/bt-root-research.htm) to tackle the functionality and highly dynamic nature of roots. His team is now deciphering the genetic basis of these traits and of their complex interactions with the environment. The on-going exciting thrust is the development of a phenomics platform (LeasyScan) that combines the lysimetric approach to 3-D scanning of the crop canopy for the analysis of water-saving traits. 



Mehmet Yildirim

Assistant Professor, Dicle University, College of Agriculture, Diyarbakır, Turkey




Dr. Mehmet Yıldırım is a Assistant Professor at Dicle University, College of Agriculture, Diyarbakır, Turkey. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Cukurova in cereal physiology and tissue culture in the Department of Field Crops. He has published more than 60 national and international publications. He is Chief editor of “Dicle University Journal of Institute of Natural and Applied Science”. His main research focus is wheat and barley improvement using crop physiological traits in breeding to obtain drought and heat resistant genotypes.  Yildirim has mostly worked on availability of indirect selection tools in wheat breeding such as SPAD meter, CTD (Canopy Temperature Depression), stomatal conductance, MTS (Membran Thermal Stability) and digital and thermal imaging.