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Evangelina Villegas

Evangelina Villegas (born 1924) is a Mexican cereal biochemist whose work with maize led to the development of high-quality protein maize (QPM). She and her colleague, Dr. Surinder Vasal, shared the 2000 World Food Prize for this achievement.


Education and early career

Villegas was born in 1924 in Mexico City. She obtained a B.Sc. in chemistry and biology at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City. She began her career in 1950 as a chemist and researcher at Mexico’s National Institute of Nutrition and at the Special Studies Office, which was co-sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and later was converted into the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). While at the Special Studies Office, she initiated the Wheat Industrial Quality Chemical Laboratory in 1957.

Villegas continued her education in the United States, earning a 1962 M.S. in cereal technology from Kansas State University and a 1967 Ph.D. in cereal chemistry and breeding from North Dakota State University.

Development of QPM

In 1967, Villegas rejoined CIMMYT, where she worked until 1989 and conducted her most significant research. From 1972, Villegas was responsible for the evaluation, development, and adaptation of a chemical methodology to screen large numbers of small samples for industrial wheat quality and for maize nutritional and protein quality. This methodology, in conjunction with the breeding work done by Vasal, allowed for the development of QPM in the 1980s.

Villegas also served as a maize and wheat quality consultant for national research programs throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, mentoring and training young scientists across the developing world.

Villegas retired from CIMMYT in 1989. Since then, she has consulted on quality protein maize chemical evaluation for Sasakawa Global 2000, an international organization that works to improve farm technology in Africa.

Since 2001, Villegas has been a member of the Mexican Polytechnic Group, a civil association focused on promoting and supporting science and technology in Mexico.

Honors and recognition

Besides being the first woman awarded the World Food Prize, Villegas has been recognized by several organizations. Mexico’s National Institute for Agricultural Research honored her in 1966, the National Polytechnic Institute named her a Distinguished Former Student in 1972, and she was honored by the National Polytechnic Institute’s School of Biological Sciences in 1978.

President Ernesto Zedillo presented her with the Mexican Woman of the Year Award in 2000. In 2001 Dr. Villegas was named to Alpha Delta Kappa’s list of International Women of Distinction and received the Lázaro Cárdenas Medal from the National Polytechnic Institute. She also received an honorary doctorate from Mexico's Chapingo Agricultural Autonomous University in 2002.


  • Hesser, Leon (2006). The Man Who Fed the World. Dallas: Durban House.
  • Perkins, Jerry (2000). "Prize winner defends biotech crops." Des Moines Register. October 12.
  • Wrong, Michela (2000). "Divided over a diet for the poor." Financial Times. September 8.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Evangelina_Villegas". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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