Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Meet the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s
Aurelie Rakotondrafara
Associate Professor of Plant Pathology
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences 


Research area Plant viruses and their regulation of gene expression. Finding the exact virus sequence that is important for protein production and their mode of action. Using viral sequences for mass production of protein of interest in plants.

What excites you about your work? 

“Science–the how and the why–has driven my interests since I was an undergraduate student. I’m into understanding the mode of action and how things work. I’m a pure scientist, and I love building our basic knowledge of science.”

What do you hope to achieve? 

“There is so much to learn about plant viruses and their translation. They’ve been neglected because we assume they work like animal viruses (influenza, HIV, etc.), but that’s an incorrect assumption. My vision is to advance the field of plant viruses. As parasites, viruses have evolved to do things “better” and with higher efficiency than their hosts. Recent studies suggest that plants respond to stress, like environmental conditions or pathogen attacks, by switching to non-canonical mechanisms to express their defense genes in a similar fashion as some viruses do. Thus, plant viruses can be great models to increase our basic understanding of the diversity of translation and cellular processes.

I really appreciate how Aurelie is elucidating plant viruses, a scientific area vital for our food systems and the environment but not as recognized as those viruses that affect humans directly. Her discoveries have great promise to make a real difference.

– Jennifer Gottwald, WARF, Director of Licensing

Want to learn more?

Jennifer Gottwald, [email protected], 608.960.9854