Danny Ward is one of our ’40 Faces of Plant Pathology’
BSPP members can be found in 51 different countries, with 30% of members based in countries outside of the UK. As part of the BSPPs 40th anniversary, we asked our membership to describe some things about themselves, what plant pathology challenges they would most like to see solved, and what could improve the world of plant pathology in terms of inclusivity. Click here to return to the 40 Faces Home Page.
Institution and country of residence
John Innes Centre
Area of expertise/study
I’m interested in how Pseudomonas syringae bacteria regulate plant infection via their type III secretion system. These are needle-like nanomachines necessary for pathogen virulence. I’m particularly focused on an ATPase protein connected to this system, its interaction with the signalling molecule cyclic-di-GMP, and ultimately how this impacts plant infection. By gaining a better understanding of the fundamentals of Pseudomonas virulence, we are in a stronger position for designing future controls measures against this plant pathogen.
About your early experiences in education
I always found science (particularly biology) interesting at school, so much so that it made sense for me to pursue an undergraduate degree in it, followed by a masters and now a PhD. I liked better understanding the natural world around me. I found microbiology and molecular biology to be particularly interesting as it is a hidden world with so many things to learn about with many potential applications waiting to be unlocked. Now I am linking that interest to molecular plant pathology by researching microbial virulence in relation to plant infection.
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
The current one I’m researching for my PhD would be nice! Outside of that, I think there are a variety of other interesting unsolved mysteries in the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. There are many aspects still unknown in relation to effector biology. I think it would be interesting to pick apart how many of the lesser known effectors work at a mechanistic level and find out exactly why they cause the disease symptoms they do in host plants.
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
I would like to see more individuals from a wider range of backgrounds choose plant pathology as something that interests them and potentially as a career choice. This will require promotion of our research to new audiences and breaking down any existing social barriers.
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?
If I wasn’t working with plant pathogens, I would likely be working with other kinds of pathogens. I find infection biology very interesting. If I were to pick a job outside of research science, I may have picked more of an engineering role relating to computers or technology. The field is advancing so rapidly and is changing the way we live our lives. Fortunately I get the chance to work with a variety of advanced technology as part of my research now!