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Department of Plant Sciences


Research group 


Research overview

My research focuses on establishing and testing a theoretical framework that identifies the mechanisms that control invasion, persistence, scaling and variability of epidemics within changing agricultural and natural landscapes. Applications include large-scale pandemics, pesticide resistance, genetic control and biocontrol in sustainable agricultural systems and the design of intervention strategies for invasive pathogens and pests in subsistence agriculture.


Taught a range of courses in epidemiology, plant pathology, statistics and mathematical biology. Designed and led for many years an innovative 60-lecture course with practicals in Quantitative Biology (now Mathematical Biology) that introduced first year biology students with the equivalent of A-level mathematics to modelling, computing and statistical analysis.

Previous positions

2020-present Director of Research, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
2009-2013 Head of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge
2008-2009 Deputy Head of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge
1999-2020 Professor of Mathematical Biology, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1995-1999 Reader in Mathematical Biology, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1989-1995 University Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1988-present Fellow, King’s College, University of Cambridge
1982-1989 University Lecturer, Department of Applied Biology, University of Cambridge
1982-1982 Visiting Professor, Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, Colorado State University
1977-1982 University Demonstrator, Department of Applied Biology, University of Cambridge


1999 ScD, University of Cambridge
1978 MA, University of Oxford
1977 MA, University of Cambridge
1974-1978 DPhil Plant Pathology, Wolfson College, University of Oxford
1971-1974 BA Agricultural & Forest Sciences, Keble College, University of Oxford



Key publications


All publications


Awards and fellowships

  • CBE for Services to Plant Pathology in the field of Epidemiology (Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2015)
  • R.W. Holley Lecturer, Cornell University, 2012
  • Professorial Research Fellow, BBSRC (UK National Research Council), 2005-2010
  • Fisher Lecturer, Rothamsted Research, 2009
  • Honorary Fellow, American Phytopathological Society, 2005
  • President, British Society for Plant Pathology, 2001
  • Professorial Fellow, King's College, Cambridge, 2000
  • ScD, University of Cambridge, 1999
  • Personal Chair, University of Cambridge, 1999
  • Senior Research Fellow, Royal Society Leverhulme Trust, 1998-1999
  • Honorary Research Fellow, Rothamsted Research, 1998-2013

Principal Boards, Trusteeships

  • Trustee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2021-2024
  • Trustee, James Hutton Institute, Scotland, 2021-2024
  • Trustee, Natural History Museum, London: Prime Ministerial Appointment, 2011-2019
  • Chair, Science Advisory Council: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2011-2014
  • Chair, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership Board, 2011-2014
  • Council Member, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, 2003-2009
  • General Board Member, University of Cambridge, 2009-2013
  • Trustee, Silsoe Research Institute, 1998-2008

Chairing of National Scientific Reviews

  • Chair, UK Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce, 2012-2013
  • Chair, BBSRC Council Science Group for Institute of Animal Health, 2008
  • Chair, BBSRC Chair Review Institute of Animal Health, 2006
  • Chair, BBSRC Council Review of Crop Science Research, 2003-2004
  • Chair, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique Chairman, Commission d'Evaluation National Research on Plant Health and Environment, 2003

Public engagement

Outputs from our models have been used to inform policy on emerging pest and pathogen threats by the UK Government, United States Department of Agriculture with ongoing work on practical applications for surveillance and management of disease of staple crops in 15 sub-Saharan African Countries, supported by the Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, commonwealth and Development Office. We have introduced a successful early warning system for wheat rusts in Ethiopia in collaboration with the UK Met Office, CIMMYT and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research that is also being trialled in Bangladesh and Nepal. 
Director of Research
Head of Epidemiology and Modelling Group
Professor Chris  Gilligan

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
01223 748986