Emerging Plant Disease Biologist

Cluster Hire in Emerging Disease Biology Hired

As part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, NC State University has hired an outstanding new faculty member as part of the new interdisciplinary faculty cluster on “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security”.   The Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security cluster will develop new knowledge on emerging plant disease biology using an expanding array of new technologies to gather, analyze, synthesize, and share knowledge about emerging infectious diseases of plants caused by agricultural crop pathogens and arthropod vectors of these pathogens using: novel biosurveillance methods, remote sensing, GPS and mapping systems.

Anna E. Whitfield, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Plant viruses are a significant threat to global food security, and the majority of viruses that infect plants are transmitted from one host to another by arthropod vectors. Her research emphasis is the biology of plant-virus-vector interactions and the long-term goal of her research is to develop biologically-based strategies for controlling viruses and arthropod vectors. She specializes in negative-sense RNA viruses that are transmitted in a propagative manner by arthropod vectors. Her research aims are to: i) identify insect genes that are important for virus infection of the arthropod vectors using a functional genomics-based approach, ii) develop a better understanding of virus entry and the role of viral glycoproteins in this process, and iii) characterize ecological plant-virus-vector interactions at the molecular and field level. Recent work led by Whitfield has focused on expression of viral glycoproteins in plants as a method to prevent virus transmission. Other work focuses on using RNA interference (RNAi) as a control strategy and a functional genomics tool for arthropod vectors of plant pathogens.

Whitfield was awarded an NSF-CAREER grant to study the Molecular Mechanisms of Rhabdovirus-Vector Interactions. She has taught graduate courses in Plant Virology and Plant-Virus-Vector Interactions, and in 2014 was awarded the KSU College of Agriculture Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin in plant pathology.