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Dr 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, particularly at very large spatial scales. 

I have supervised four PhD students to successful completion, and am currently lead supervisor of three further students at the University of Cambridge. I am also co-supervisor of one student based at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and another based at the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB).

My work has previously informed UK government policy for invading tree pests and pathogens, and has been published in a range of journals. For a full list of publications, please see Google Scholar.


At Girton I am Director of Studies for Part IB Biology and for Part III Systems Biology. I give supervisions in mathematics to first year biologists, and occasionally to others too. I also sit on a number of collegiate committees.

Within the Department of Plant Sciences, where I am a University Senior Lecturer, I deliver lectures and practical classes for various options in the Natural Sciences course. Topics taught include: mathematics, mathematical modelling, statistics, plant disease epidemiology, theoretical ecology and computer programming. I am also currently responsible for all teaching within my department as Teaching Co-ordinator. In 2015 I was awarded the University's Pilkington Teaching Prize

I am currently the Elected Board Member with special responsibility for education at the British Society for Plant Pathology, 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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