Dr. Craig L. Nessler, who began his career as a research scientist at Texas A&M University 30 years ago, has returned to serve as director of Texas AgriLife Research, the state’s lead agency for research in the life sciences, natural resources and agriculture.
Nessler’s appointment was approved by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Friday, completing a nomination process that began in September when the board designated him as the sole finalist for the position.
“We are extremely pleased that Dr. Nessler is joining our administrative team,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “He is an outstanding scientist and a proven administrator who knows how to build a research program. He also has a strong record for building positive relationships with stakeholder groups in production agriculture and partners in corporations and government.”
For the last five years, Nessler held a similar position as director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Virgina Tech. Under his leadership, the research faculty produced a 10 percent increase in new grant awards every year, raising the college’s national ranking from fourteenth to fifth in research expenditures in agriculture and natural resources.
Nessler started at Texas A&M in 1979 as an assistant professor of biology, later becoming a full professor, then associate head in the department of biology. He left for Virginia Tech in 2000 to head the department of plant pathology, physiology and weed science.
“The first thing I am going to do is listen,” Nessler said, when asked about his initial priorities in his new position. “I want to visit all (13) of the research centers around the state, as well as all the departments within the college. I want to hear what administrators, faculty and staff have to say, and I want to also communicate with our (industry) stakeholders. Working with all of these groups, we will develop a strategic plan for research within the state.”
“There’s no question that our agricultural producers are under a lot of stress on the economics of their enterprises," he said. "All the more reason for our research to be in alignment with helping them succeed.”
Nessler, 59, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in biology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He earned his doctoral degree in plant science with a pharmacology minor from Indiana University in 1976.
AgriLife Research has an annual budget of more than $170 million and employs 1,700 people in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M and in the regional research centers. Some 375 doctoral-level scientists are engaged in nearly 600 research projects, with collaborations in more than 30 countries.
The agency has long supported the efforts of the state’s farmers and ranchers, but its researchers are also developing fruits and vegetables with enhanced nutrition and disease-fighting compounds, leading innovative research for renewable energy sources, and implementing new methods to improve air and water quality.
A member of The Texas A&M University System, AgriLife Research collaborates with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and others to help fulfill the A&M System's land-grant mission of teaching, research, extension and service.