Maarten J. Chrispeels is Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California San Diego and the Director of the San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture. His scientific research is in the area of plant cell and molecular biology. He has made major contributions to our understanding of the synthesis of reserve proteins in seeds. He and his co-workers discovered plant aquaporins, the proteins that permit water to pass through plant cell membranes. He has trained more than 50 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom now occupy important positions in the USA and overseas. His laboratory has published more than 225 research paper and 50 reviews and book chapters. With David Sadava he has co-authored the textbook "Plants, Genes and Crop Biotechnology" (2001). Recently he edited a book on Agricultural Ethics.
Professor Chrispeels has extensive contacts in Latin America and presently serves as the convener of the advisory panel for the Millennium Science Initiative in Chile. He has helped to organize workshops and meetings in Chile and Mexico. He has consulted for The World Bank in Uganda and for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on biofortification. He has consulted for different agricultural biotechnology companies (Monsanto, Mycogen) and is a cofounder of two biotechnology companies: Phylogix Inc in the USA and Arterra Biosciences srl. In Naples, Italy. He has given conferences all over the world. In 2006 he was invited to give a scientific presentation at the Spoleto Festival (Festival dei Due Mondi).
In the area of crop biotechnology, Chrispeels collaborated with Dr. TJ Higgins from Australia. They used gene transfer technologies to produce the first insect resistant seeds by transferring a gene from the common bean to the garden pea. As director of the San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture, Chrispeels has become a spokesperson/educator about crop biotechnolgy and foods from genetically modified crops. He recently produced a highly successful brochure entitled "Foods from GM Crops" that has been translated in 5 languages and distributed worldwide. He has given one-week long courses in crop biotechnology in 2006 in Italy (Naples) and in 2008 in Mexico (Cuernavaca).
In 1996 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the US, and in 2000 he received a Doctor honoris causa, degree from the University of Guelph in Canada. In 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and in 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists.
A native of Belgium, he came to the US in 1960 after graduating with a MSc degree from the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Ghent. In 1964 he obtained a PhD in Agronomy from the University of Illinois. In 1967 he joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at the University of California San Diego. His professional service includes numerous government and industry advisory panels and appointment as Editor in Chief of Plant Physiology from 1992 to 2000. In 1996 he received the Stephen Hales Award from the American Society of Plant Physiologists.