Tim Murray, professor and chair at Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, is sharing expertise to stem the spread of infectious disease as the newest member of the National Academies’ Forum on Microbial Threats.
Beginning his term in December 2022, Murray meets with 29 other forum members, hailing from health, medical, scientific, agricultural, and environmental fields, each contributing ideas that advance microbial disease control science, health care, and public policy.
“This is an opportunity to be at the table to discuss nationally important issues surrounding diseases of humans, animals, and plants,” Murray said. “It’s a structured place to talk about and scrutinize scientific issues of concern.”
Plants have only recently become part of this discussion, added Murray, who wants to educate others and learn more himself about the intersection of plant health with global wellness in humans and animals.
An alumnus and a 39-year faculty member at WSU, Murray is a researcher and teacher of ecology, epidemiology, and control of soilborne fungal wheat diseases.
“My work ranges from applied to basic—creating new knowledge as well as trying to solve problems,” he said. “Although much of that has focused on diseases of local importance, some diseases and issues have larger impacts around the world.”
As part of USDA’s National Plant Disease Recovery System, Murray led committees that developed recovery plans for two highly concerning plant pathogens, Rathayibacter toxicus, which causes annual ryegrass toxicity, an often fatal poisoning of livestock, in Australia, as well as the Ug99 race of Stem Rust, which is a serious problem in Africa.
Murray’s initial term lasts through 2023 and is renewable; members typically serve for three to five years, meeting several times over the year in conjuction with workshops held in Washington, DC.
“The National Academies represent the best in U.S. science, engineering, and medicine, so the opportunity to engage with others at this level is very exciting,” he said. “I’m representing the discipline of plant pathology at a very high level, in a group that provides input on high consequence diseases, nationally and internationally.”
Learn more about the Forum on Microbial Threats at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine website.