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Plant Sciences: Rachel Murray-Watson receives I.E. Melhus Prize

27 April 2022 Students

Rachel Murray-Watson, a PhD student from Clare Hall, has been awarded the I.E. Melhus Prize by the American Phytopathological Society, one of the largest plant science societies in the world.

Rachel is part of the Theoretical and Computational Epidemiology Group at the Department of Plant Sciences here at the University of Cambridge. The group looks at models of plant disease with the aim of improving predictive models and implementing better control techniques.

Rachel describes her research as follows:
‘My research specifically focuses on how we can incorporate aspects of grower decision-making (whether they should pay for control, how risky they think economic investments are etc) into models of crop management. Epidemics have an obvious behavioural component – just think of the coronavirus epidemic, and how people’s decision to comply with scientific advice impacted the viral spread – but these things have rarely been included in models of plant disease management to date. My models combine aspects of traditional epidemiology and game theory.’ 

The American Phytopathological Society connects thousands of scientists working on plant health and disease. Each year they select just a handful of students to present their PhD work at the I.E. Melhus Symposium, which is part of their annual conference.

On her time at Clare Hall to date, Rachel says:
‘Very few universities research plant epidemiology, and I wanted a change of scene from London (where I completed my undergraduate degree), so Cambridge seemed the right fit when looking for PhDs. I also knew that I wanted to join a graduate college when applying to Cambridge for this PhD, and when I read about Clare Hall’s ethos and its focus on fostering community, it was an obvious choice. It is perhaps cliché, but the people really make the place, and I’ve met some wonderful people whilst in College. I’ll definitely miss it when I graduate!’

Learn about the American Phytopathological Society at