Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino is a William Neal Reynolds Professor of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. She earned her B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences and an M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California-Davis. Much of her research work has been on the genus Phytophthora, an Oomycete plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. She conducts research internationally on late blight, a threat to food security. She has used genetic markers to study migration and characterize historic and present day populations of P. infestans. Her research has culminated in publications in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Science. She mentors graduate students, teaches a class in Tropical Plant Pathology, is the director of the Global Plant Health internship program at NC State and leads USAID funded workshops in pathogen diagnostics in Central America. She has served in numerous leadership roles at the university including the faculty senate and the administrative board of the graduate school and nationally with the USDA, NSF and USAID. She has also communicated findings of her research with the media including CNN, Discovery Channel, radio and numerous newspaper articles. Dr. Ristaino’ research has not only impacted the understanding and direction of emerging pathogens and food security, but has also influenced how the general public views science and scientists.
Office of Agricultural Research and Policy
Bureau for Food Security
Jean Ristaino served as a senior science advisor in the Bureau of Food Security, Office of Agriculture Research and Policy (BFS/ARP). She worked on a portfolio of issues including human and institutional capacity development in Feed the Future countries. She helped launch the Borlaug Higher Education Agriculture Research Development Program and conducted a country-wide needs assessment of agricultural research capacity in Bangladesh. She worked with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) and the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) on human and institutional capacity development and implementation of BIFADS’s review of the Cooperative Research Support Program (CRSP). She conducted an analysis of the plant disease research portfolio in BFS/ARP and worked with NSF and USDA NIFA to partner and leverage their existing research portfolio’s with that of USAID’s. She organized a meeting on ecosystem services and emerging plant diseases in Africa and developed a network of U.S. research scientists to serve as mentors for the African Women in Agriculture Research and Development Program.
Dr. Ristaino’s contribution to USAID’s Feed the Future blog, Agrilinks, can be found here.