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OUR Alumni

Jean Beagle Ristaino

Award: Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award

Sponsor: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Institution: North Carolina State University

Year: 2021

Professor Ristaino is a William Neil Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at NC State University.  She works on emerging plant diseases that threaten global food security.  A major focus of her research is to understand the factors that contribute to disease emergence including the epidemiology and population genetics of Oomycete plant pathogens in the genus Phytophthora. Phytophthora infestans caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, and is a reemerging threat to global food security. She studies the population genetics and migrations of both historic and present day strains of the pathogen. Her lab was part of a multi-investigator group that sequenced the genome of the pathogen. She has used genome sequencing to understand the pathogen biology and develop novel strategies for managing disease in the field. Her team has developed a web portal called USAblight.org that can be used to track recent outbreaks of disease using geospatial analytics. Dr. Ristaino serves as the director of the ‘Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security’ cluster at NC State, has served as a Jefferson Science Fellow for the US Department of State and received a Fulbright European Research Scholar Award to work with the University of Catania on late blight in Italy in 2018. In 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the American Phytopatholoical Society in August 2020 and named an AAAS Fellow in November 2020. In 2022,  Dr. Ristaino will serve as a Fulbright Scholar in the Republic of Ireland in the Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine. Plant diseases do not stop at a nation’s borders and miles of oceans do not prevent their spread, either. That’s why plant disease surveillance, improved plant disease detection systems and predictive plant disease modeling – integrated at the global scale – are necessary to mitigate future plant disease outbreaks and protect the global food supply. She and a global team of researchers recently published a commentary in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. On the Persistent Threat of Emerging Plant Disease in Global Food Security. Further information can be found at https://ristainolab.cals.ncsu.edu/