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Department of Plant Sciences


Research group 


Research overview

Mathematical modelling of the spread, detection, evolution and control of plant and tree diseases. Theoretical work focuses on modelling disease spread, including stochastic and spatial models. Applied work concentrates on fitting simulation models to pathogen spread data, to understand how detection and control can be optimised. This includes developing computational techniques for efficient simulation and parameterisation of spatially-explicit stochastic models at very large spatial scales.

School of Biological Sciences theme affiliations



I deliver lectures and practical classes for courses in all years of the Natural Sciences Tripos. Topics taught include mathematics, mathematical modelling, statistics, plant disease epidemiology, theoretical ecology and computer programming. In 2015 I was awarded the University's Pilkington Teaching Prize for outstanding teaching.

Research supervision

I have supervised five PhD students to successful completion and am currently lead supervisor of two further students at the University of Cambridge, as well as co-supervisor of a student based at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Previous positions

2018-present University Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Biology, University of Cambridge
2009-present Official Fellow and College Lecturer in Natural Sciences, Girton College, University of Cambridge
2009-2018 University Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
2008-2009 Teaching Associate, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1998-2002 European Research Manager, Autonomy Corporation
1997-1998 Analyst Programmer, Alphametrics Ltd.


2003-2007 PhD in Mathematical Biology, University of Cambridge
2002-2003 MSc Modern Applications of Mathematics, University of Bath
1996-1997 MPhil Computer Speech and Language Processing, University of Cambridge
1993-1996 MA Mathematics, University of Cambridge

Key publications


All publications


Awards and fellowships

  • Syngenta Award, American Phytopathological Society, 2021
  • Schroth Face of the Future Award, American Phytopathological Society, 2016
  • Pilkington Prize for Teaching, University of Cambridge, 2015
  • Official Fellow, Girton College, University of Cambridge, 2009


2020-present Editorial Board, PhytoFrontiers, American Phytopathological Society
2019-present Elected Board Member, British Society for Plant Pathology
2018-present Editorial Board, Phytopathology, American Phytopathological Society
2017-present Editorial Board, Tropical Plant Pathology, Brazilian Phytopathological Society
Head of Theoretical and Computational Epidemiology Group
Teaching Coordinator
Dr Nik  Cunniffe

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
01223 333954