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Ms Rachel Murray-Watson

Postgraduate student
Ms Rachel Murray-Watson
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 748957


I graduated from Imperial College London in 2018 with a BSc in Biological Sciences, focussing on plant diseases and immunology. My final year project, supervised by Dr Andrea Beaghton and Professor Austin Burt, investigated the spatial spread of gene drives in mosquitos. I joined the BBSRC DTP in October 2018, starting with a rotation with Dr Keith Gardner in NIAB looking at QTL mapping for yellow rust resistance traits in wheat. My second rotation was supervised by Dr Nik Cunniffe in the Department of Plant Sciences. 

Research Interests

My research looks at how we can integrate human behaviours into models of crop diseases. Plant diseases are often modelled as if individual growers are perfectly rational and always comply with management guidelines, though in the real world this is rarely the case. Growers will vary in their attitudes to risk, will have different resources available to them and may also act selfishly. These different behaviours all impact how a disease spreads, and will also affect the success of management schemes. 

My project approaches the problem in two ways. The first integrates varying levels of risk aversion, the quality of information and the resources available to growers whilst the second uses game theory. These two methods will then be combined to create a model that captures some of the behavioural complexity found amongst growers. 

I am particularly interested in how tools from game theory can be used to assess the success or practicability of Area-Wide Pest Management (AWPM) schemes, such as the Citrus Health Management Areas (CHMAs) currently running in the United States. 




I supervised Part II psychology students in their statistics modules for Homerton. 

Other Professional Activities

I have taken part in a variety of outreach and engagement events, both in Cambridge at the Science Festival and the Festival of Plants and at Imperial talking to undergraduates about careers in science. 

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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.