Nathaniel Westrick

Valley Laboratory

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
153 Cook Hill Road 
Windsor, CT 06095

Voice: 860-687-4763 Fax: 860-683-4987



Ph.D. (2022) University of Wisconsin – Madison, Plant Pathology
B.Sc. (2014) University of California - Davis, Environmental Toxicology


Station Career:

2023-present:  Assistant Agricultural Scientist II, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES)


Prior Appointments:

2022-2023:  Research Geneticist (Potato Pathology), USDA-ARS, Madison, WI

2021-2022:  USDA-NIFA Predoctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin – Madison

2017-2021:  Graduate Research Assistant, University of Wisconsin – Madison

2015-2017:  Junior Specialist, Foundation Plant Services, University of California - Davis


Dr. Westrick is a plant pathologist with extensive expertise in the molecular mechanisms employed by fungal and viral plant pathogens to infect their hosts. He utilizes functional genomics to investigate the biology, ecology, and etiology of various crops, such as fruits, vegetables, and tobacco, throughout the Northeastern United States.


Research Interests:

Plants produce a litany of antimicrobial compounds that give them immunity to the vast majority of microbes in their environment, but pathogens have developed mechanisms to tolerate these compounds in their hosts. These mechanisms, from active detoxification to toxin efflux, are poorly understood despite playing a singularly important role in the success of any given infection. The Westrick Lab focuses on identifying the proteins responsible for this activity and characterizing their functional role in both pathogenesis and the ecology of the organism. To facilitate this research, we develop functional genomics tools in non-model organisms of great economic importance to growers throughout the country. 

A separate area of research is the usage of RNA interference (RNAi) in controlling fungal pathogens. RNAi shows great promise in allowing scientists to tailor-make resistant plants but suffers from major knowledge gaps surrounding its implementation. We are actively studying the durability of RNAi in disease control and the mechanisms that fungal pathogens may adopt to overcome RNAi-mediated resistance in the future.

Outreach Focus:

The Westrick Lab is focused on helping growers throughout Connecticut implement IPM strategies for the sustainable and affordable management of plant diseases. Current areas of focus include tobacco and strawberries grown in the state, but active work is being done to facilitate management of diseases on a range of fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals.



Selected publications available from the author,

  • Roth, M., Westrick, N. M., and Baldwin, T. (2023). Fungal Biotechnology: From Yesterday to Tomorrow. Frontiers in Fungal Biology, 4. DOI: 10.3389/ffunb.2023.1135263
  • Westrick, N. M., Dominguez, E. G., Hull, C. M., Smith, D. L., and Kabbage, M. (2022). A Single Laccase Acts as a Key Component of Environmental Sensing in a Broad Host Range Fungal Pathogen. BioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2023.01.12.523834
  • Amare, M. G., Westrick, N. M., Keller, N. P., and Kabbage, M. (2022). The conservation of IAP-like proteins in fungi, and their potential role in fungal programmed cell death. Fungal Genetics and Biology, 162. DOI: 10.1016/j.fgb.2022.103730
  • Westrick, N. M., Park, S. C., Keller, N. P., Smith, D. L., and Kabbage, M. (2022). Fungal alcohol oxidase (AOX): a broadly conserved protein facilitating ascomycete invasion of plants. Mol Plant Pathol. DOI: 10.1111/mpp.13274
  • Westrick, N. M., Smith, D. L., and Kabbage, M. (2021). Disarming the Host: Detoxification of Plant Defense Compounds During Fungal Necrotrophy. Front. Plant Sci. 12. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.651716
  • Kabbage, M., Piotrowski J. S., Thill, E., Westrick, N. M., Ralph, J., Hockemeyer, K., and Koch P. L. (2020). Poacic Acid Suppresses Dollar Spot and Snow Mould in Amenity Turfgrass. Plant Pathology69(1), 112-119. DOI: 10.1111/ppa.13099
  • Westrick, N. M., Ranjan, A., Jain, S., Grau, C., Smith, D. L., and Kabbage, M. (2019). Gene regulation of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum during infection of Glycine max: On the Road to Pathogenesis. BMC Genomics, 20(157). DOI: 10.1186/s12864-019-5517-4
  • Ranjan, A., Westrick, N. M., Jain, S., Piotrowski, J., Ranjan, M., Kessens, R., Stiegman, L., Grau, C., Conley, S. P., Smith, D. L., and Kabbage, M. (2018). Resistance against Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in soybean involves a reprogramming of the phenylpropanoid pathway and upregulation of anti-fungal activity targeting ergosterol biosynthesis. Plant Biotechnol. J. DOI: 10.1111/pbi.13082

Full publication list available at Google Scholar