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Professor Chris Gilligan

Head of Epidemiology and Modelling Group, Department Safety Officer
Professor Chris Gilligan
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge , Cambridgeshire CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 748986



  • Head of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge (2009-2013)
  • Deputy Head of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge (2008-2009)
  • Professor of Mathematical Biology, Dept Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge (1999-)
  • Reader in Mathematical Biology, Dept Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge (1995-1999)
  • Fellow King's College, Cambridge (1988-)

    • University Lecturer, Dept Plant Sciences (1989-1995), Dept Applied Biology (1982-1989), Cambridge;
    • Visiting Professor, Dept Botany & Plant Pathology, Colorado State University (1982);
    • University Demonstrator, Dept Applied Biology, University of Cambridge (1977-82).


Degrees etc.

B.A. (Keble College Oxford.) Agricultural & Forest Sciences (1974); D.Phil. (Wolfson College, Oxford.) (1978); M..A. (Cantab.) (1977); M.A. (Oxon.) (1978); Sc.D. (Cantab.) (1999).

Honours and Awards

  • Professorial Research Fellow, BBSRC (UK National Research Council) (2005-2010)
  • R.W. Holley Lecturer, Cornell University (2012)
  • 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)
  • Sc.D., 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 Natural History Museum, London: Prime Ministerial appointment (2011-15)
  • Chair Science Advisory Council: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2011-14)
  • Chair Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership Board (2011-14)
  • Member Council: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (2003-2009)
  • Member General Board: University of Cambridge (2009-13)
  • Trustee Silsoe Research Institute (1998-2008)

Chairing of National Scientific Reviews

  • Chair UK Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce (2012-13)
  • 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 INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) Chairman, Commission d'Evaluation National Research on Plant Health and Environment (2003)

Research Interests

Current research is focused 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 range from large-scale pandemics (sudden oak death, citrus canker, African cassava mosaic virus), through pesticide resistance and genetical control to biocontrol in sustainable agricultural systems, and to the design of intervention strategies for exotic pathogen threats to the UK.

The research involves a synthesis of epidemiological theory, population and evolutionary genetics, landscape ecology and economic modelling, drawing upon methods from statistical physics and Bayesian statistical inference, supported by a complementary experimental programme involving laboratory microcosms and collation of extensive field and regional data-sets to test the models.


Teaching forms part of the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge in which students attend lecturers, practicals and seminars in university departments, supported by weekly College tutorials (supervisions) in each of their main subjects. Served as Director of Studies responsible for teaching arrangements in Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Materials and Earth Sciences) King's College from 1990-2004.

Currently on leave from teaching.

Previous Teaching

First year (Part IA)

  • Quantitative Biology (now Mathematical Biology) Responsible for 60 lecture course with practicals on the application of mathematics to biological problems for students with A/AS level mathematics. The course was introduced in 1990 and has grown from ~70 to ~200 students per year. The course is motivated throughout by biological questions but provides students with an extensive grounding in modelling techniques, especially ordinary differential equations, as well as statistical methods for data analysis and model testing. The course has weekly practicals for computing to illustrate modern methods of numerical solutions as well as more traditional examples classes for analytical solutions.
  • College supervisions in Quantitative Biology, Maths for Natural Sciences, Elementary Maths for Natural Scientists, Evolution and Behaviour

Second year (Part IB)

  • Plant and Microbial Sciences Previously contributed lectures and practicals on Epidemiology and Modelling to IB Plant Science students.
  • College supervisions in Part IB Plant Sciences, Ecology

Third year (Part II)

  • Plant Sciences Lecture course on Botanical Epidemiology, with accompanying projects to Part II Plant and Microbial Science students. Previously taught courses in experimental design, spatial analysis and sampling theory.
  • College supervisions in Part II Epidemiology and Statistical methods

Other Professional Activities


  • Chair, Science Advisory Board (2011-2014)
  • Chair, UK Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce
  • Natural History Muesum Trustee (2011-2015)

Research Council

  • BBSRC Council (2003-2009)
  • BBSRC Strategy Board (2005-2009)
  • BBSRC Chairman review of crop science research (2003-2004) (report)
  • BBSRC Governor Silsoe Research Institute (1998-2009)
  • Previously BBSRC Individual Merit Sift Panel (1999-2003) BBSRC Agri-Food Committee (1997-2000) BBSRC Chairman Mathematical Modelling in Agricultural & Food Systems Panel (1999) BBSRC Agric. Systems Directorate (1996-1997) BBSRC-NERC Soil Science Advisory Committee (1995-1999) BBSRC-EPSRC Biomathematics Panel (1997-1998) NERC Ecological Dynamics and Genetics Panel (1997,1998).

Advisory and review panels

  • FC/FR Member Advisory Committee for Forestry Research (2006-2010)
  • Served as advisor on research in epidemiology, mathematical modelling and agriculture for INRA, SEERAD, DEFRA, NAO.
  • Chairman and member of numerous Visiting Groups and Commissions of Evaluation on research institutes for BBSRC, INRA, SEERAD.


  • Research Policy Committee (2003-2006)
  • General Board
  • Council School Biological Sciences
  • Council School Clinical Medicine
  • Planning and Resources Committee
  • Resource Management Committee
  • University Risk Steering Committee
  • Board of Examinations (1995-2004)
  • Finance Committee
  • International Committee

Key Publications

See Google Scholar

The Department has carried out a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment process and has opened to allow research work to take place. To ensure the safety of our staff, a range of measures to reduce building occupancy and allow strict social distancing have been introduced, including increased cleaning and hygiene regimes. We are currently not accepting visitors so please continue to contact us by email until further notice.