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Professor Nik Cunniffe

College position(s)

Fellow, Director of Studies


Natural Sciences (Physical and Biological)

Specialising in

Plant Sciences, Mathematical Biology, Systems Biology

Degrees, Awards and Prizes

MA, MSc (Bath), MPhil, PhD

Research themes

I am a mathematical biologist and plant disease epidemiologist.

My major focus is on developing mathematical models of the spread, detection, evolution and control of plant and tree pests and pathogens. My theoretical work uses deterministic, stochastic and spatial models to improve strategic understanding. My applied work concentrates on using forward predictions from models to understand how detection and control can be optimised. 

I have supervised six PhD students to successful completion at the University of Cambridge, and am currently lead supervisor of four further students.

My work has previously informed UK government policy for invading tree pests and pathogens and has been published in a range of journals. In 2021 I was awarded the Sygenta Award by the American Phytopathological Society.

For a full list of publications, please see Google Scholar.


At Girton College, I am Director of Studies for Part IB and Part II Biological Natural Sciences, as well as for Part III Systems Biology. I also take lead responsibility for admissions in Biological Natural Sciences. I give supervisions in mathematics to first year biologists, and occasionally to others too. I also sit on various collegiate committees.

Within the Department of Plant Sciences, where I am a Professor of Plant Disease Modelling, I deliver lectures and practical classes as part of the Natural Sciences course. Topics taught include mathematics, mathematical modelling, statistics, plant disease epidemiology, theoretical ecology and computer programming. I currently teach on the following courses: Part IA Mathematical Biology, Part IB Mathematical & Computational Biology, Part IB Plant & Microbial Sciences and Part II Plant Sciences. Previously I have also provided teaching for Part II Zoology and Part III Systems Biology. At the moment, I am also responsible for teaching within my department as Teaching Co-ordinator. In 2015 I was awarded the University's Pilkington Teaching Prize

I am currently a Senior Editor of the American Phytopathological Society journals Phytopathology and PhytoFrontiers, and Section Editor of the Brazilian Phytopathology Society journal Tropical Plant Pathology.

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