By training, Professor Leslie is a fungal geneticist with a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979) with experience as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and as a research scientist in industry. He joined the faculty of Kansas State University in 1984 and is recognized as an expert in fungal systematics, plant pathology, international agriculture, and mycotoxicology, in addition to fungal genetics. A University Distinguished Professor at K-State and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, he was the first adjunct Professor in the College of Agriculture at Seoul National University and has twice been a visiting Professor at the National University of Rio Cuarto in Argentina. Awards received include membership in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to Australia, and Fellow status from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Phytopathological Society and St. Paul's College at the University of Sydney. Professor Leslie has extensive international travel and research experience and is accustomed and sensitive to the nuances required to make international collaborative research successful. With 25 years as part of the USAID-sponsored INTSORMIL-CRSP to start with, including 10 years with a buy-in from the USAID mission in Cairo, his lens on international agricultural research is broadly focused, clear, and discerning, with a long-term goal of increasing food safety and security. He uses Nominal Group conferences in this context to foster networking, empower stakeholders, and build teams across disciplines in both host country and international research contexts. With research focuses on plant disease-causing and toxin-producing fungi in the genus Fusarium, Professor Leslie's work has been published in a patent, seven books, and over 170 refereed journal articles that have been cited approximately 21,000 times. About half of these publications have international co-authors, and he has been heavily involved in EU mycotoxin research projects. Since 2000, he has organized and co-taught the Fusarium Laboratory Workshop annually in Kansas and in six other countries. The workshops are the best-recognized training workshop in plant pathology and mycology in the world with 750 participants from 78 countries. Most of Professor Leslie's professional service has been as an editor and reviewer. He served as an editorial board member for six different professional journals and as a Senior Editor for 10 years for Applied and Environmental Microbiology, for which he handled more than 2,500 manuscripts. His experience as an editor led to short courses in Scientific Writing and Research Ethics with more than 3,000 participants in 18 different countries. While Professor Leslie was Department Head for 9-plus years, his department was highly ranked for research. In 2013, based on National Research Council data, the website Phds.org ranked the department No. 10 among Plant Science departments in the U.S. and No. 1 among Plant Pathology departments. In 2015, he transitioned to Interim Director of the USAID Feed the Future Laboratory for Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss, where he reorganized the management entity, developed and completed a $1.2 million buy-in from the USAID Mission in Kabul, and developed models for buy-ins from missions in Honduras and Nepal. Prof. Leslie conceived and leads the K-State Australia Initiative, a unique international university activity that has brought over $6 million in research funding to the university and includes a distinctive partnership with Fulbright Australia. K-State hosts a Distinguished Fulbright chair in Agriculture and Life Sciences for an eminent Australian researcher. Through the Oz-to-Oz program, K-State brings all faculty-level Australian Fulbrighters to K-State for a professional visit with colleagues on campus. This program was recognized for excellence by the IIE with a Heiskell award for leveraging the Fulbright program in a win-win manner.
Department of State Profile
Office of Global Food Security
John Leslie serves as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the State Department's Office of Global Food Security headed by the Special Envoy for Global Food Security. He has worked in countries on every continent. While in Washington, Prof. Leslie has taken particular interest in linking U.S. universities to State Department and USAID programs and expanding the agricultural research agenda to include both domestic and international problems and activities. Of particular interest has been the Feed the Future (FTF) Innovation Labs, which link faculty, staff, and students at U.S. universities with their counterparts in FTF countries. These labs develop and disseminate methods to boost agricultural output and increase food safety and security.