Dr. Raymond J. St. Leger, ESA Fellow (2019)

Dr. Raymond J. St. Leger, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland (UMD), was elected as Fellow in 2019. He is internationally known for his research on insect pathogenic fungi and the development of applications for insect pathogens against disease vectors and agricultural pests.

Professor St. Leger was born and brought up in London, England. He received a B.Sc. in biology from the University of Exeter in 1978, an M.Sc. in entomology in 1980 from Birkbeck College London University, and his Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of Bath. After graduation, St. Leger worked on fungal pathogens of insects with Donald Roberts (Boyce Thompson Institute) as a postdoc and Center scientist. He joined the entomology faculty at UMD in 1995 as an associate professor and attained the ranks of full (2001) and distinguished professor of entomology (2013).

St. Leger has published more than 150 scientific papers and book chapters, mostly directed toward using fungal parasites of insects as models for understanding how pathogens in general respond to changing environments, initiate host invasion, colonize tissues, and counter host immune responses. These investigations have also used highly accurate genome sequences to address the mechanisms by which new pathogens emerge with different host ranges. St. Leger's laboratory has altered insect pathogens in the genus Metarhizium so that they express genes encoding arthropod toxins or human antibody genes. The potential of these engineered pathogens to control vector-borne diseases such as malaria was successfully trialed in Burkina Faso. Other field trials are exploiting functional genomic tools to provide detailed knowledge of the evolutionary potential and invasion ecology of transgenic microbes and to predict the consequences of different types of human intervention (e.g., habitat fragmentation, climate change, invasive species, and genetically modified introductions). During these studies, St. Leger demonstrated that several very common insect pathogenic fungi colonize roots and have multiple beneficial effects on plant growth, besides killing insects. These observations have opened the way for using improved strains with customized properties to replace chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

St. Leger has been a consultant on biotechnology to many private and public concerns, nationally and internationally. He has presented more than 200 invited presentations at national and international conferences; he gave the Founders lecture at the 2009 Society of Invertebrate Pathology Meeting. He received UMD's Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award (2009) and the Kirwan Faculty Research and Scholarship Prize (2015). St. Leger is an elected Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of London (2011), AAAS (2012), and the American Academy of Microbiology (2013). He received the American Society for Microbiology Promega Biotechnology Research Award (2017) and was the inaugural recipient of the Tai Fung-Lan Award for International Cooperation from The Mycological Society of China (2016). St. Leger has an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Exeter (2018).

St. Leger has many interests besides biology, including astronomy, art, and history.

(updated September 2019)