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Ralph Dean

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor

Host-pathogen interactions in Magnaporthe oryzae

Partners Building III 237



Ph. D., Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky (1986)
B.S., University of London, Imperial College, England, Botany (1980)

Research Interests

Dr. Dean’s research program has employed Magnaporthe oryzae, the most destructive fungal disease of rice world-wide as a model to understand the mechanisms regulating host-pathogen interactions for more than 25 years.  His work focuses on both fundamental knowledge of the infection process as well as genome-enabled applications for disease control.  Following the completion of the genome sequence under his leadership, his lab currently focuses on:

  1. Application of Host-Induced Gene Silencing (HIGS) for preventing rice blast disease and elucidating the mechanisms of cross-kingdom small RNA movement.
  2. Interrogation of post-translational protein modifications (phosphorylation and ubiquitination) regulating the infection process.
  3. Identification and characterization of effector protein targets in rice that suppress recognition of the pathogen.
  4. Elucidation of the endogenous core microbiome for enhancing rice growth and production.

In addition, Dean is spearheading a new initiative: The Plant Electronic Interface.  This cross-disciplinary initiative with colleagues from the College of Engineering is aimed to develop a new generation of sensor array technology for plant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to enable the early detection of abiotic and biotic stress in plants and further understanding of stress response mechanisms in plants.  He recently co-organized a major international symposium, Stewards of the Future, Communicating with Plants

Google Scholar Citations

Citations total: 22,078; h-index: 65; i10-index: 145; 151 total publications (peer-reviewed). Dean has 10 peer-reviewed publications with >300 citations each (including Science (2), Nature, The Plant Cell (4), Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions and Molecular Plant Pathology)

Link to Peer Reviewed Publications

Honors and Recognition

2019                 NCSU Alumni Award for Outstanding Research
2019                 NCSU Research Leadership Academy
2016                 INRA Sabbatical Fellow

Professional Societies

American Phytopathological Society
Genetics Society of America
American Association for the Advancement of Science
British Society for Plant Pathology
International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions

Book Editor

Dean, RA, A Lichens-Park, C Kole 2014 Genomics of Plant-Associated Fungi: Monocot Pathogens, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg

Dean, RA, A Lichens-Park, C Kole 2014 Genomics of Plant-Associated Fungi and Oomycetes: Dicot Pathogens, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg

Journal Reviewer

Nature, Science, Proceeding of the National Academy, Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, PloS Pathogens, Plant Physiology, Nucleic Acids, Molecular Plant Pathology and many others.

Journal Editor

Molecular Plant Pathology (Editor-in-Chief 2017-present)

Education, Engagement and Research Leadership

2019- present NCSU Research Leadership Academy. Dean was awarded the NCSU Alumni Association award for Outstanding Research and was appointed to the Research Leadership Academy.

2017 – present Plant Electronics Initiative, Dean leads an initiative of researchers from CALS and the College of Engineering (COE) to develop new sensor technology for the detection and discrimination of volatile organic compounds (VOCS) released by plants under biotic and abiotic stress.  Although relatively new, the initiate has obtained significant competitive funding.

2004 – present  Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program (MMPTP). An NIH post doctoral training program co-founded by Dean, along with Thomas G. Mitchell and Joe Heitman (Duke University) and Bill Goldman (UNC Chapel Hill).  The program has trained and mentored more than 40 post doc fellows, including several at NC State University.  Dean has mentored 3 fellows and remains an active member of the Tri-Institutional executive committee.

Instruction and Mentoring

Research mentoring

Dean has mentored several junior faculty at NC State University. Dr. Thomas Mitchell (2002-2006, currently Associate Professor, Ohio State University), Dr. Paola Veronesse (2005-2012), Dr. Ignazio Carbone (2002-2008), Dr. Yeonyee Oh (2009-present) and Dr. Peter Ojiambo (2011-present).

Dean has guided the research of 23 post-doctoral fellows, 19 PhD, 7 MS, more than 40 undergraduate and 6 high school students.  Dean currently mentors 3 PhD students, 1 post-doctoral fellow, 1 senior researcher, 2 undergraduate students and 1 high school student.

12 former graduate students and or post docs are in faculty positions including at Iowa State University, Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dong Eui University (Korea), Nelson Mandela University (South Africa), Yeungnam University (Korea), Seoul National University (Korea), Wolverhampton University (UK), University of Houston, Salamanca University (Spain), and the University of Delaware. 18 are pursuing careers in government or state research institutions including the USDA-ARS, Sandia National labs, FermiLab (DOE), National Food Research Institute (Japan), Ag Canada, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, University of Minnesota, NC State University and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.  10 others are pursuing scientific careers in private industry such as at BASF Plant Science, Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta and RTI International.

Dean has established partnerships with a number of primarily minority serving institutions including Shaw University, UNC Pembroke and Fayetteville State University in NC. He has mentored both students (Robyn Hicks, La Toya Poole, Greg Bernard, Donte Jackson, and Leethaniel Brumsfield) and faculty (Sherrice Allen and Melvin Bolton) from these intuitions over the years and will continue to seek and mentor students and other researchers from underrepresented groups. He has also mentored international exchange undergraduates including Tim Kloppe (University of Halle, Germany) and Key Min Kim (Oxford University, UK). Dean currently provides a research experience for high school students (one per year) from the NC School of Science and Math, Durham, NC.

Classroom Instruction

Classes Taught

PP707               Plant-Microbe Interactions, every spring since 2015.  This advanced 3-credit course provides students with an understanding of fundamental concepts and the current status of research on the physiology, biochemistry, molecular, population biology and evolution of host-pathogen interactions during plant disease. Examples from pertinent fungal, oomycete, bacterial, viral and nematode systems are used. The course emphasizes critical thinking and the ability to read and understand current scientific manuscripts dealing with plant-pathogen interactions.

Student enrollment and Evaluation

“Instructor” and “Course” correspond to response to: “Overall, the instructor is an effective

teacher”, and “Overall, this course was excellent”; 5 = “Strongly Agree, 1 = “Strongly


PP707 Average rating 4.85

In 2016 and 2017, Dean received “Thank the Teacher” recognition from Vice Chancellor and Provost Arden for making a difference in student lives for dedication to teaching and learning.