In 1975, Wambugu became the first woman in Kenya to attend the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Three years later, she received her Bachelor of Science in botany and zoology from the same university. She obtained her Master of Science in pathology from North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA in 1984; and her PhD from the University of Bath, England in 1991.
She was also awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) from the University of Bath in 2009.
Dr. Wambugu is the founder, director and the chief executive officer of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI) since 1994. AHBFI is a nonprofit foundation with offices in Nairobi, Kenya, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Washington, D.C. Previously, she founded, established and worked as Africa Region Director, ISAAA – Afri-center, in Nairobi. From 1978 to 1991, she worked as a senior research officer (pathologist) and coordinator of plant biotechnology research at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya. Thereafter (1991–1994), she was a post-doctoral fellow with Monsanto Company.
She has published over 100 articles and co-authored various papers.
Previously, she served on several board of directors including the Private Sector Committee of the CGIAR, the United Nations Millennium Development goals Hunger task force; she also was a member of the Executive Committee of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); the DuPont Company Biotech Advisory Panel, USA; the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, now called Bioversity International), and the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF). Currently, she is serving as a Council Member of the Japan Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum; a Steering committee member of the European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES); and a Science Board member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenge in Global Health.
GM Sweet Potato
Dr. Wambugu is the recipient of IITA's (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria) Award, 1981; KARI’s 1989 Crop Science Award for outstanding scientist of the year; International Potato Center’s (CIP) Regional Research Award/Grant, 1989; Farmers Support Award, Pyrethrum Marketing Board of Kenya, 1990; recognised as an exemplary PhD candidate, Virology Division of Horticultural Research International in England and KARI, 1991; Monsanto Company Outstanding Performance Award, 1992, 1993; first place medal winner, Global Development Network Awards, KARI Year 2000; World Bank Global Development Network Award in 2000 for successful introduction of the tissue-culture banana in Kenya; and Woman of the Year Award by the American Biographical Institute, 2002–03; and Woman of the Year by the Eve Magazine.
One of the latest awards is the Yara Prize that Dr. Wambugu received in 2008 from the Norway-based Yara Foundation for her significant contribution to fight hunger and poverty in Africa.
Florence Wambugu is a single mother of three children.