Data Science – Phylodynamics

CFEP Faculty in Data Science of Emerging Plant Diseases Hired

As part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, NC State University has hired Dr David Rasmussen as part of a new interdisciplinary faculty cluster on “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security”.   Dr. Rasmussen will conduct cross-cutting research in population genomics, epidemiology, and the evolution of emerging pests and pathogens of agricultural crops.

His research focuses on how infectious pathogens spread and evolve to infect new hosts. He has developed new phylogenetic methods to track epidemic dynamics using pathogen sequence data. This approach, called phylodynamics, allows reconstruction of  how pathogens spread through space, time and between different host populations. A major goal of his work in the Global Food Security cluster will be to combine these phylodynamic methods with geospatial information to better understand what promotes or limits the spread of pathogens across agricultural landscapes. Another major goal is to understand how pathogens evolve to escape host defenses and expand their host range. Future work in his group will couple experimental work on plant viruses with phylogenetic analysis to study the evolutionary genetics of pathogen emergence and adaptation to novel host environments.