Sarah Gurr

Sarah Gurr

Sarah Gurr was recently appointed to the Chair in Food Security, a post created by the University of Exeter in association with BBSRC and Rothamsted Research. She also sits on the BBSRC Council.

Her role at Exeter is to engage with and enhance the activities of the world-leading fungal group in Biosciences, to catalyse research across the campus and to promote awareness and use of the unique Farm Platform capability at Rothamsted/North Wyke.

Prior to joining Exeter, Sarah was the first woman President of the British Society for Plant Pathology and Professor of Molecular Plant Pathology at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. Having authored or co-written more than 100 research papers and articles, her work reflects a desire to understand the basic mechanisms of pathogenicity in fungi with the strategic goal of controlling fungal disease and applied research in the testing of antifungals. This research has been driven by an interest in the grand challenge of food security. Professor Gurr is committed to public engagement, regularly giving Public Awareness and Understanding of Science (PAUS) lectures that have reached thousands of non-specialist audiences including both school children and adults. Prior to Oxford, Sarah held a Royal Society URF at Leeds University.

Sarah says that her initial interest in the arguably ‘unglamorous’ world of fungi was sparked by the reading of two books whilst she was still at school - one a social history of Ireland at the time of the Irish potato famine (Cecil Woodham-Smith) and the other called “The Advance of the Fungi” (E.C.Large). Her peers all read Medicine but she decided to become a ‘plant doctor’.
One of the recent highlights of her career was when a paper published in ‘Nature’ which she co-authored went ‘viral’ on the internet and she realised that the threat of fungal disease to food security and ecosystem health had made its way onto the international scientific agenda.

Sarah also takes great pleasure in lecturing which she hopes encourages undergraduates to think more deeply about plants and disease in addition to her research which has influenced government policy and resulted in better crop protection measures.

Away from work, she delights in her partner and two children, good wine and yes, plants too!