My lab works on emerging plant diseases that threaten global food security. A major focus of research is to understand the factors that contribute to disease emergence including the epidemiology and population genetics of Oomycete plant pathogens in the genus Phytophthora. Phytophthora infestans caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, and is a reemerging threat to global food security. We study the population genetics and migrations of both historic and present day strains of the pathogen. My lab was part of a multi-investigator group that sequenced the genome of the pathogen. We are now using the genome sequence to develop novel strategies for managing disease in the field. Our team has developed a web portal called USAblight.org that can be used to track recent outbreaks of disease using geospatial analystics. We also work on other pathogens of tropical crop plants including black Sigatoka on banana, downy mildew of tobacco, soilborne fungi and coffee rust that are threats to global food security. I serve as the director of the “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security” cluster at NC State, has served as a Jefferson Science Fellow for the US Department of State and recently accepted a Fulbright European Research Scholar Award to work with the University of Catania on late blight in Italy.
See my recent participation in the Genetic Engineering and Society AGES: Untold Stories of GMO Pioneers