Pesach Lubinsky, from the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside, was awarded a 2004 UC MEXUS dissertation grant to undertake research on the origins and domestication of vanilla in Mesoamerica. Under the direction of UCR Professors Arturo Gómez-Pompa and Seung-Chul Kim, Lubinsky's research revealed that V. planifolia, the principal vanilla species cultivated in the world, is nearly genetically uniform, while Tahitian vanilla, a rarer, more prized species, originated as a hybrid between two vanilla species native only to the lowland tropical forests of Mesoamerica. His work sheds light on the history of vanilla use among the pre-Hispanic Maya, who Lubinsky posits as the first to domesticate vanilla. Lubinsky currently holds a postdoctoral position with Norm Ellstrand, professor of genetics in UCR's Botany and Plant Science Department, where he is examining the susceptibility of wild relatives of maize in Mexico to contamination by GM maize varieties. He continues his research with a living collection of different Vanilla species and is exploring the history of vanilla cultivation in South America. Dr. Lubinsky can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.