EEDI committee members
Prof. Gail Preston: BSPP President Elect and Chair of the EEDI committee
Prof. Gail Preston (she/her/hers) is a Lecturer in Plant-Microbe Interactions, Director of the BBSRC-funded Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership at the University of Oxford and Deputy Director of the University of Oxford’s Doctoral Training Centre.
She developed a fascination for plant pathology while studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where she was encouraged to read E. C. Large’s classic (and highly recommended) history of plant pathology “The Advance of the Fungi” and introduced to the rapidly emerging field of molecular plant pathology. She studied for her doctorate under the inspiring mentorship of Prof. Alan Collmer at Cornell University, where she began to ask questions about the biology of plant pathogens that still inform her research today. How do environmental factors regulate pathogenicity and virulence mechanisms? How do pathogens manipulate the microenvironment inside host tissues? How does the environment inside and outside plants affect disease development?
She returned to the UK to study microbial gene function in the plant environment and in 2001 she was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. She now divides her time between interdisciplinary research into molecular plant-microbe interactions and supporting the career development of early career researchers.
Jennie Brierley: BSPP Administrator and member of the EEDI committee
Jennie Brierley (she/her/hers) is a researcher at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee. Main research interests are developing the use of molecular diagnostic techniques for the detection and quantification of seed and soil-borne potato pathogens: both as a research tool to investigate disease epidemiology, and in supporting the management of potatoes by quantifying disease risk. She is the BSPP representative at the Royal Society of Biology’s (RSB) Member Organisations’ Diversity and Inclusivity Working Group.
EEDI Member representatives (2023)
Sylvester Aigbe (He/him/his) is an associate professor of plant pathology in the Department of Crop Science of Ambrose Alli University, Nigeria. He is the pioneer president of the Phytopathological Society of Nigeria (PSN) and a former honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen; isolating and identifying Pythium and Phytopythium pathogens from Nigerian cocoa farms soils. Sylvester has worked extensively on Fusarium pathogens of vegetables; including the Fusarium species on imported vegetables in Aberdeen. He is a UK global talent and one of BSPP’s 40 faces of plant pathology. He was recently a visiting scientist to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), USA, investigating the role of nanoparticles of CuO in suppressing root rot caused by Fusarium virguliforme on genetically modified soybeans. The visit was supported by a BSPP Senior Fellowship. He is the organiser of ICPP workshop on “How to Write Winning Grant Proposals” (ICPP2018, Boston and ICPP2023, Lyon).
Victoria Armer (she/her/hers) is a third-year PhD student within the SWBio DTP, based at Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter. Victoria completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, completing a BSPP undergraduate summer project at The Sainsbury Lab (TSL, Norwich) throughout this time which ignited her interest in plant pathology. She is now studying the communication mechanisms between fungal pathogens and plant cells, focussing on the Fusarium graminearum – wheat interaction. Victoria utilises a wide range of genetic and advanced imaging techniques to explore how advancing hyphae constrict and pass through plasmodesmata to colonise host tissue. Victoria is interested in the co-ordinated excretion of fungal compounds towards sub-cellular host targets, using overarching questions such as ‘Why do aspects of F. graminearum infection occur only in wheat?’ to guide her research from the cellular to population level. Outside of the lab, Victoria enjoys endurance sports and cold water swimming.
Eithne Browne (she/her/hers) is a final year Harper Adams University PhD student based at NIAB East Malling in Kent. She completed her BSc and MSc in Plant Science at the University of Galway, Ireland, specialising in algal-derived antifungal agents to control Rhizopus stolonifer, a soft rot pathogen of strawberry. Her research focuses on the detection and pathogenicity of oomycete soilborne pathogens affecting red raspberry production in the UK. Her research interests include oomycete epidemiology, molecular diagnostics and sustainable food production.
Gilbert Nchongboh Chofong (he/him/his), is a senior research associate at Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI) – Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Epidemiology and Pathogen Diagnostics, Braunschweig-Germany. He obtained his PhD in Plant Pathology from Huazhong Agricultural University, China. Subsequently, he was recruited as a lecturer at the Catholic University Institute of Buea, Cameroon, where he also served as a departmental coordinator. His research seeks to understand plant-virus interactions and how this could be exploited to develop efficient pest management strategies. He has immense expertise with potato viruses, citrus (Citrus tristeza virus) and petunia (Petunia vein clearing virus).
Angela Feechan is an Associate Professor in Molecular Biology at Heriot-Watt University where she moved at the end of 2022. Angela gained her BSc and PhD from the University of Edinburgh and completed postdocs at Copenhagen University, Denmark and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia before moving to Ireland in 2013 to take a lecturer position at University College Dublin. Her research is focussed on fungal pathogens that cause disease in crops, including wheat, oats and barley. In particular, she is interested in how fungal pathogens gain entry to the plant host and use secreted proteins to cause disease. As part of the BSPP EEDI committee she would like to contribute so that plant pathologists from different situations and career stages benefit from the BSPP community.
David Read is a post-doctoral researcher within the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa. David completed all his postgraduate training at UP, focusing primarily on aspects of cross-protection by Citrus tristeza virus. He continues to have a great passion for virology and currently leads the Plant Virology Group at FABI and supervises students at various levels of post-graduate training. His current research, funded primarily by Innovation Africa @UP, focusses on the diversity and distribution of novel and emerging viruses of grain crops such as wheat and maize and Mediterranean crops such as grapevine and olives, using RNA-seq to generate metaviromic data. Additionally, emphasis is being placed on several crops that have previously been overlooked from a virological standpoint and include sunflower, hops and canola. Outside the laboratory, David enjoys hiking and outdoor activities, as well as travelling within South Africa and Europe. South Africa has a history of racial and gender-based discrimination. As a BSPP EEDI committee member, David would like to get ideas for areas in which South African academics could improve on inclusivity, as well as sharing ways in which we have recently overcome certain challenges in this area.
Dr. Sebastian Samwald (he/him/his), usually referred to by his nickname ‘Basti’, is a postdoc in the Andersen lab group at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany. He completed my PhD in 2022 at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, where he focussed on using molecular biology techniques to elucidate membrane protein interactions in the context of plant-pathogen interactions — with a particular focus on plasmodesmata dynamics in the presence of fungi. He especially enjoys high end confocal microscopy techniques, such as FRET-FLIM. And has followed up his interests by now undertaking a postdoc focussed on the creation of tools with sufficient resolution to probe for vital understanding in vivo and of individual cells during plant-microbe interactions in roots. Originally, he is from Austria; he loves to bake; tends to his allotment in his spare time; and enjoys any and all outdoor adventures. He am part of the LGBTQ+ community and always has an open ear for anyone who needs somebody to talk to.
Dr. Rosa Sanchez-Lucas finished a higher engineering degree in Agronomy with a project about holm oak seedlings response to drought at the University of Cordoba. After that, she completed a master’s degree on Plant Protection, Production and Breeding with the project about nitrogen fertilization effects to frost response in olive tree. Her PhD in Agricultural, Food, Forestry and Sustainable Rural Development Engineering studied warming temperature effects on olive tree. Currently, she works as a postdoctoral researcher at the department of Plant Sciences at the University of Birmingham, studying the induced resistance of oak against powdery mildew. During all her professional career, she has studied the effect of stress on trees: and how they respond through physiological and biomolecular approaches: 1) abiotic stress as drought (undergraduate), temperatures (master and PhD) and elevated CO2 concentration (current postdoc). 2) Biotic stress as oak powdery mildew, oak acutate decline and ash dieback (current postdoc). 3)Epigenetics changes caused by plant (a)biotic stresses. 4) Transgenerational inheritance of epigenetics in forest trees.