Dr. Mohammad Arif is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He was formerly a Research Associate in the Department of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University. Dr. Arif obtained his B.S. in Agriculture and M.S. in Molecular Biology & Biotechnology from G. B. Plant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar, India. His M.S. research focused on population genetics of Fusarium sp. associated with malformation disease in mango (Mangifera indica). His Ph.D. (Biosciences at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University, New Delhi) focused on molecular marker-assisted screening for disease susceptibility in shisham seeds and pathogenic variability in Fusarium solani. Arif’s postdoctoral experience includes: Research Associate, Central Rice Research Institute (allele mining and expression profiling of resistance- and avirulence-genes of the Rice-Blast pathosystem), National Institute for Microbial Forensics & Food and Agricultural Biosecurity at Oklahoma State University, (develop novel NGS-based detection-discrimination methods, real time qPCR, endpoint PCR, isothermal amplification and macroarray). Currently, Dr. Arif is working at Kansas State University on Rathayibacter toxicus (whole genome based comparative genomics, population genetics, evolution, genome-informed diagnostics). He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed publications and 35 abstracts.
Toni is a molecular bacteriologist (Ph.D. 2005) working with animal, plant and human pathogens at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Centre of Excellence for Animal and Plant Health located at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in Menangle, Australia. Toni’s work includes characterization of pathogens including E. coli, Clostridium difficile, Streptococcus suis and Staphylococcus aureus using molecular tools with a focus to understand gut microbial communities and develop probiotic/beneficial microbial formulations to combat these pathogens. Toni’s Plant Biosecurity research and diagnostics is focused on understanding and identifying bacterial pathogens through traditional and genomic identification technologies. This includes understanding endemic and exotic plant pathogens and developing improved identification, diagnostic, and surveillance tools for plant pests to provide a better biosecurity response. Toni’s primary target pathogen is Xanthomonas citri subsp citri. In addition, development of a probiotic diet to increase the efficiency of the Queensland fruit fly sterile insect technique (SIT) is underway. This pest is a biosecurity concern, as it affects Australian borders and our export market.
Christian D. Cruz is originally from Ecuador, a top biodiversity-rich country in South America. He attended the Zamorano Pan-American School of Agriculture, in Honduras, where he received a B.S. degree in Agronomy. He then earned his M.S. in plant pathology at The Ohio State University, where he developed a strong interest in emerging plant diseases. In 2009 he joined the Department of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University where he worked on the emerging wheat blast disease as a doctoral and later as a post-doctoral research associate. The wheat blast disease is a high consequence plant pathogen that has put increased pressure on food security in developing economies and has the potential to lower standards of living in developed economies. During his time at K-State, he has provided leadership and played a major role for all of the research and extension activities in North and South America. He has been most interested in investigating the ecology and epidemiology of the wheat blast pathogen, and understanding the components of wheat blast resistance. He was recently appointed as a Research Assistant Professor at K-State.
Dr. Fletcher received a B.S. in Biology from Emory University, M.S. in Botany from the University of Montana, and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Texas A&M. At OSU, Dr. Fletcher’s research focuses on mechanisms of virulence and insect transmission of plant pathogenic bacteria; the relationships between human pathogens, such as Escherichia coli, and plants; and the emerging disciplines of microbial forensics and agricultural biosecurity. She serves as Director of the National Institute for Microbial Forensics & Food and Agricultural Biosecurity (NIMFFAB), a multidisciplinary OSU initiative that addresses high priority national issues in plant pathogen forensics, crop biosecurity and food safety. Fletcher served on the American Phytopathological Society’s Council for ten years, including the 4-year Presidential sequence. In the months following September 11, 2001, Dr. Fletcher led APS responses and input to National biosecurity initiatives. She organized and now serves as director of both the APS Microbial Forensics Working Group and the APS Food Safety Working Group. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats at the National Academy of Sciences, and serves on several federal biosecurity advisory panels. She was named a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) in 2005 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2007.,/p>
Head of the Laboratory for Pest, Management Research, Agricultural Research Organization, ARO), Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel, and Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
Received Ph.D. in 1990, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Research activities involve the development of effective crop management strategies and technologies, in vegetable and perennial crops. Research activities focus on effective solutions for plant health while minimizing negative environmental attributes. During the recent 10 years involved in establishing crop biosecurity programs for addressing the emergence and introduction of invasive plant pests. Co-edited books on Crop Biosecurity, and Soil solarization. Authored several book chapters and invited reviews on soil disinfestation and pest management. Served as the Chairman of the Soilborne pathogen group, the International Society for Horticultural Sciences (ISHS), and the convener of the 2009 7th International Symposium on Soil Disinfestation. Member of the United Nations, Environmental Protection Program, (UNEP), Methyl bromide Technical Option Committee (MBTOC (2005-2012).,/p>
Stephen Higgs is the Director of Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute, an Associate Vice President for Research and the Peine Professor of Biosecurity. He is a Distinguished University Professor in Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology. He earned his bachelor’s from King’s College, London and his doctorate from Reading University in Reading, U.K.
Higgs is an infectious disease expert whose focuses are vector biology, arthropod-borne diseases, immune modulation and vaccine evaluation. He has authored over 150 publications, 16 book chapters, 13 editorials and 150 abstracts.
Higgs is the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases, and an Editorial Board member of Health Security. He is the President-elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH): the oldest and largest international organization of experts dedicated to reducing the burden of tropical diseases and improving global health. He is a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and the ASTMH.
Julie A. Johnson is the Assistant Vice President for Research Compliance and the Biosecurity Research Institute Biosafety Officer. She oversees compliance for high-containment research projects and serves as the Responsible Official for select agent use on campus. Julie directs the BRI’s Biosafety team, overseeing laboratory and biological safety programs, providing subject matter expertise for biological and laboratory safety training, and coordinating with campus safety and research compliance programs to ensure all applicable safety regulations and guidelines are met. She is also a Graduate Faculty Associate in the Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology department of K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Julie has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from St. Olaf College, and a Master’s in Biochemistry and Doctorate in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from Iowa State University. Prior to coming to K-State in 2006, she was campus Biosafety Officer at Iowa State University for 11 years, where she developed a comprehensive campus wide biosafety program. Julie has maintained Certification as a Biological Safety Professional since 2001. She is an active member of the American Biological Safety Association, for which she currently serves as an elected Council member.
Simon McKirdy, Ph.D.
Simon McKirdy is Professor of Biosecurity and Sustainable Development in the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. Simon has extensive experience in plant biosecurity. Simon served for several years as the CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Plant Biosecurity in Australia overseeing its development to a very productive research enterprise addressing the theoretical and practical aspects of biosecurity. Prior to Murdoch University, he served as the Biosecurity Officer for Chevron.
Brendan Rodoni (PhD) is a Research Leader (Microbiology) with the Victorian government at AgriBio, and has 30 years’ experience as a plant microbiologist with a focus on the detection and epidemiology of plant viruses and phytopathogenic bacteria of temperate and tropical crops. Rodoni holds a joint appointment with La Trobe University as a Senior Research Fellow, is a member of several national committees in Plant Biosecurity (e.g. Subcommittee for Plant Health Diagnostic Standards) and is currently a Technical Expert on the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Technical Panel on Diagnostic Protocols (TPDP) standards committee (2012 – 2017) as an expert in Plant Virology, Bacteriology and Quality Assurance. In 2012 he received the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity “Biosecurity Impact” award in recognition of achievements in the development of diagnostic tools for Post Entry Quarantine in Australia and has published over 50 refereed papers.
Erin E. Smith is currently a Biosafety Specialist at the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI), Kansas State University. As a team member of the biological safety program, her responsibilities include assisting with the internal biosafety and biosecurity training program and supporting the oversight of laboratory biosafety and biosecurity programs. She also coordinates the BRI’s Occupational Medicine Program and the Respiratory Protection Program. In addition she serves as an Alternate Responsible Official for Kansas State University’s Select Agent Program. In this position it is her job to insure the University is in compliance with the Federal Select Agent Regulations. Before moving into the biosafety field Erin conducted infectious disease research at the BSL-3 level for a number of years as a Research Assistant II at Colorado State University. Erin received a Master’s of Science degree in Microbiology from Kansas State University, 2004. She is a member and Registered Biosafety Professional of the American Biological Safety Association.
Grant is a Plant Pathologist at Plant & Food Research in Lincoln (just south of Christchurch) with considerable experience in diagnostics and biosecurity in both Australia and New Zealand. For many years he worked for BSES in Brisbane developing and applying molecular diagnostic assays, principally for viral and bacterial pathogens of sugarcane. Grant was also responsible for the quarantine of both imported and exported international sugarcane germplasm, as well as the quarantine of breeding germplasm being transferred between regions in Australia. Grant ran his first RT-PCR experiments in the late 1980s and was one of the early publishers on PCR of dsRNA, duplex RT-PCR and bacterial ITS region diagnostics. His research interests grew to include bacterial and fungal pathogens, insects, monocot tissue culture and plant transformation-gene expression systems. Grant led the research teams which developed and field tested transgenic sugarcane under both the GMAC and OGTR systems, proving that viral resistance could be successfully introduced into elite sugarcane cultivars.
Grant moved to Lincoln in 2003. For seven years he was the Program Manager of B3, the Better Border Biosecurity Research Collaboration, which was the largest research initiative in New Zealand at that time, comprising over 40 projects in five themes. His current research interests include developing, improving and deploying plant biosecurity diagnostic platforms and response tools, understanding and exploiting pathogen genomes and developing new nanotechnology-based platforms and materials. He has published widely, including 12 invited book chapters, has two granted patents describing the Smartsett® tissue culture system and is a senior editor for the Springer science journal, Australasian Plant Pathology. Grant also holds an MBA in Technology Management from Deakin University, is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and is a senior contributor to the GERDA global response and eradication database.
Stack is Director of the Great Plains Diagnostic Network (GPDN) and Professor of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University. As Director of GPDN, Stack coordinates a nine-state project for the rapid detection and accurate diagnosis of high consequence plant pathogens and pests. He is principal investigator of plant biosecurity projects regarding emerging diseases and is collaborating on international biosecurity projects in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Australia. Stack’s research interests center on pathogen detection and surveillance, pathogen ecology, and epidemiology for accidental and intentional (e.g., biological control, bioterrorism) introductions of plant pathogens into natural and agricultural plant systems; interests span from preparedness and prevention to mitigation and recovery. Of particular interest is a better understanding of the intersection of plant health, public health, and food security. Prior to joining K-State, Stack was on the faculty at the University of Nebraska (1997-2003) and at Texas A&M University (1986-1989). Stack formerly worked for EcoScience Corporation as the Director of Applied Research, leading the discovery, development and commercialization of microbe-based disease management products.
Rachael is one of the BRI’s biosafety specialists. As a team member of the biological safety program, her responsibilities include assisting with the internal biosafety and biosecurity training program and supporting the oversight of laboratory biosafety and biosecurity programs. She also assists in assuring compliance with the Select Agent Program. Her background is infectious disease research at the BSL-3 level with organisms such as Brucella melitensis, Francisella tularensis, and Yersinia pestis. She enjoys teaching researchers hands-on biosafety skills and implementing practical strategies in the constantly evolving biosafety program at the BRI.
Barbara Valent, Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University, earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Colorado. She received an NIH National Research Service Award for post-doctoral training as a yeast molecular geneticist at Cornell University. While there, she began developing the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, as a model fungal plant pathogen. Dr. Valent joined the DuPont Company in 1985 to pursue rice blast research and develop novel control strategies for this pathogen, which remains a global threat to rice production. She rose to Research Fellow, the top scientific position within DuPont, before moving to Kansas State University in 2001. She is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Career highlights include service on the Board of Trustees for the International Center of Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia. Dr. Valent and her colleagues have been the “first” or contributed significantly to several fundamental advances. Her laboratory was the first to identify and clone both a fungal avirulence gene and corresponding rice resistance gene. They demonstrated that the products of these two genes physically interact to trigger resistance, a finding with important implications for engineering enhanced disease resistance in plants. Other results include new fungicide targets for chemical control of fungal diseases, a patented fungal glue (“Spore Tip Mucilage”) that sticks to hydrophobic surfaces including plant surfaces and DuPont’s Teflon, and strategies for deploying rice resistance genes using molecular markers for analysis of the fungal population structure. Currently, Dr. Valent’s laboratory is applying functional genomics and advanced techniques in cell biology to understand how specialized biotrophic hyphae invade and hijack living rice cells to cause blast disease. She has become a leader in promoting research on wheat blast, a disease that recently emerged in South America and now threatens global wheat production.
John Webster is the Education Officer at the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Kansas State University. In this role, John develops and manages the education and training programs at the BRI. He is also a Graduate Faculty Associate with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at KSU.
During his time with KSU John has worked with the BRI, CEEZAD, and One Health Kansas to provide educational and training opportunities for staff, elementary and high school students, college students, and professionals. John has experience working in classroom, corporate, and healthcare settings. He is passionate about experiential and hands-on learning activities.
Prior to coming to Kansas State University, John was an Instructional Designer/Trainer for the University of Kansas Hospital. He has also worked for Emporia State University, PureSafety, Occupational Health Research, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and Community Living Opportunities.
John received a M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology and a B.F.A. in Theatre from Emporia State University in Kansas.