Judith Brown

Professor, Plant Science

Member of the Graduate Faculty

Professor, BIO5 Institute

Professor, Entomology / Insect Science - GIDP

Regents Professor, Plant Sciences

Research Associate Professor, Entomology

Dr. Judith K. Brown has dedicated her career to the study of vector-borne plant pathogens of global importance. Over the last 30+ years, she has tackled a number of challenging viral disease problems around the globe. She has visited, lectured, and studied emerging viral diseases in 65 countries. Her laboratory has hosted over 60 visiting scholars or graduate students from 30+ countries. Dr. Brown is best known for her groundbreaking research on begomoviruses and their whitefly vectors. She has characterized a large number of begomovirus species/strains and epidemiologies, pioneered detection/identification methods, and helped establish taxonomy and nomenclature for geminivirus classification. With respect to the whitefly vector, she has conducted research to test the hypothesis that Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species, consistent with the observed widely variable differences within and between genetic variants, i.e. host range, habitat, and begomovirus transmission.  Recently, at least five cryptic species have been delineated by nuclear genome sequence analyses. Research also involves elucidating the transmission pathway and begomovirus-gut/salivary gland interactions, and use of dsRNA/RNAi as a biopesticide for gene knockdown in insect vectors. Recently she has contributed importantly to the emerging pathosystem of psyllids and Ca. Liberibacter and the reemerging Cacao swollen shoot badnavirus complex. Her passion and commitment to international plant pathology has led to applied solutions that improve global food security.   Dr. Brown is Regents Professor (2020-onward) at The University of Arizona, Tucson in the School of Plant Sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology. She also holds an honorary appointment at Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, Merida. Brown was born in Youngstown, Ohio and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona at an early age. She received her B. S. in Horticulture / Plant Pathology minor from Texas A & M University in 1979. For her M.S. degree she studied luteoviruses and aphid vector biology at Washington State University. Judy returned to Arizona and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona where she was the first to study whitefly-transmitted viruses in Arizona, that coincidently emerged as a threat to the desert southwest as she began her graduate studies and early scientific career. Tucson remained her base with appointments as a post-doc (1985-1989) and Research Professor (1990-1999), ultimately joining the academic ranks in Plant Sciences as Associate Professor (1999), and advancing to Full Professor (2004). She has been recognized for her scholarly achievements as recipient of the Wellman Award, the Caribbean Division’s highest recognition for international contributions to plant pathology, as APS Fellow in 2011, and Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 2015.  In 2019, she was awarded the College of Agriculture’s Faculty of the Year primarily for her international research and training contributions.   Brown has been globally integrated with her begomovirus-whitefly research and has worked on this system in more than 41 countries and she has logged 5 million air travel miles. Recently, this research has led Brown to Pakistan where she is leading efforts to characterize cotton leaf curl begomoviruses and the whitefly vector and endosymbiont populations that drive disease spread. She coordinates efforts to towards identifying sources of resistant germplasm and develop diagnostic tools (1994-1998; 2011-present). Successful outcomes requires expertise in the complexity of the system, and the associated viruses and associated betasatellites. In this area of research Brown has trained Ph.D.-level and young faculty scientists on country-supported fellowships from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Sweden, and Uganda, among others.  

Offering Research Opportunities?


Prerequisite Courses

biology, biochemistry, plant pathology, microbiology

Majors Considered

Plant virology/emerging virus diseases; whitefly Bemisia tabaci cryptic species omics and development of molecular detection tools for rapid species and mitotype identification; functional genomics of insect vector pathogen biology; omics-surveillance/probe enrichment for detection and phylodynamic analysis of emergent plant viruses; microbiome/virome plants and soil environments.

Types of Opportunities

Description of Opportunity

No description given

Start Date

January 2023

Primary Department

Affiliated Departments

Research Location