Dickson Despommier

Professor Emeritus of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences and Microbiology at Columbia University Medical Center. He is a microbiologist/ecologist by training, and for 27 years conducted laboratory-based research on molecular aspects of intracellular parasitism. Dick also teaches Parasitic Diseases, Medical Ecology, and Ecology 101. These courses deal with parasitism and its effects on large segments of the poor that live in the tropics. Controlling soil-based transmission cycles of helminthes that cause significant health problems throughout the world is of prime importance to Dick. Since it is generally agreed agriculture is solely responsible for so much environmental disturbance and serves as the interface for the transmission of geohelminths, one area of his focus has been on how to raise food without further encroachment into natural ecosystems. He established The Vertical Farm as a theoretical construct to look at the possibility of agricultural sustainability within cities.  Sustainable urban life is now a major interest of Dick’s. Inventing new approaches to the raising of food within the confines of a large urban center is bound to be fraught with hidden pitfalls and caveats when starting out, particularly those of a technical and economic nature. However, he firmly believes that with enough input from multiple disciplines (e.g., industrial and soil microbiology, engineering, public health, policy making, urban planning, architecture, agronomy, plant genetics, economics), vertical farming could become a reality and thus replace most of what now passes for agriculture in many parts of the developed and under-developed world. If this were to come about, large tracts of land could then be returned to nature to do what it was supposed to do for us before we eliminated the hardwood forests of the eastern states. Restoring ecosystem services and functions is what Dick envisions as the charge to the next generation of public health professionals.

Latest from Dickson Despommier

Take a breath

Take a breath

Aug. 25, 2019

Viruses of plants, fungi, bacteria, diatoms, and coccolithophores.
Nectin connection what’s your infection?

Nectin connection what’s your infection?

Aug. 4, 2019

Ebola virus outbreak in DRC, and cell surface nectin proteins cause the transfer of cytoplasmic cargo, including measles virus, between cells.
Fat cat

Fat cat

Aug. 1, 2019

The case of the Doctor with Chronic Epigastric Pain, and how levels of linoleic acid in the intestine enable the sexual cycle of Toxoplasma gondii in cats.
Glycolyl’s not for the birds

Glycolyl’s not for the birds

July 14, 2019

Delayed neurological deficits in children without microcephaly born to Zika virus infected mothers, and N-glycolyl-neuraminic acid as a receptor for influenza A viruses.
Rose colored spots

Rose colored spots

July 13, 2019

The case of the Sailor With Dysentery, and the first virus discovered in Plasmodium species.