Dr. Mai Morshidi Phillips was born and raised on the island of Borneo (Sarawak, Malaysia), one of the world’s greatest hot spots of biodiversity. Dr. Phillips came to the United States and earned a BS degree in mathematics at the University of Iowa and a MA in plant ecology at the University of Colorado. She then returned to Malaysia to work as an assistant professor of biology at Universiti Putra Malaysia, where she taught undergraduate general botany and zoology courses. In these courses, Dr. Phillips incorporated the conservation of genetic resources and initiated research on conservation of various fruit species native to Borneo. Dr. Phillips was the recipient of an East-West Center doctoral scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Hawaii.