The 11 scientists rank in the top 1 percent by citations, which represent how often their papers have been cited in other scientific papers.
Scott, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 1996, has published 288 papers to date. His total number of citations: more than 33,500. He is internationally known for his work on the ecology and epidemiology of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti.
“Although I retired from UC Davis in 2015, I have continued to carry out research just as I had previously,” Scott said. “In reality, I retired from UC Davis, but I did not retire from science.”
Scott focuses his research on epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases, mosquito ecology, evolution of mosquito-pathogen interactions, and evaluation of novel products and strategies for disease control.
“I aim to generate the detailed, difficult to obtain data that are necessary for assessing current recommendations for disease prevention, rigorously testing fundamental assumptions in public health policy, and developing innovative, cost, and operationally effective strategic concepts for prevention of mosquito-borne disease.”
Scott has remained active on a variety of fronts. In 2015, he was in the early stages of two large grants (National Institutes of Health Program Project grant “Quantifying Heterogeneities in Dengue Virus Transmission Dynamics” and a sub-award from a Bill and Melinda Gates grant, “Spatial Repellent Products for Control of Vector-Borne Diseases”), which he continued to run and manage through the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“So, I had plenty of support (more than $10 million) to continue my work,” he said. Both projects took place in Iquitos, Peru, and were jointly led with his long-term UC Davis collaborator, Amy C. Morrison, who is in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine.
The Gates grant was a clinical trial to determine whether and to what extent a chemical that repelled mosquitoes would reduce a person's risk of dengue or Zika virus infection. Scott served as the project leader for the Iquitos trial. “Earlier this year we determined that it had a big protective effect,” he related. “We are currently writing that manuscript.”
“Both of those grants ended earlier this year, but we still have a lot of work to do and will be busy for the next couple of years writing papers about those projects,” Scott said. He is currently working as a consultant in a follow-up study on spatial repellents for dengue prevention that will begin in Sri Lanka during 2021.
“Prior to and after retirement, I worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), where I served on numerous committees,” Scott related. He chaired the Vector Control Advisory Group, co-chaired the Global Vector Control Response, chaired the Emergency Response Consultation for Zika Virus, chaired the Technical Working Group for Dengue, served on the International Health Regulators Roster of Experts, and co-authored the updated version of WHO's dengue management and control guidelines. He recently applied for membership on the WHO Expert Advisory Group on Arboviruses.
“Working with WHO is important to me because at this stage of my career, being able to translate my science experience into improved quality of life, that is, improved public health policy, for other people, many of whom live in poverty, is the most meaningful thing I can do.”
Scott, who holds bachelor and master's degrees from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University, received his doctorate in ecology in 1981 from Pennsylvania State University and did postdoctoral research in epidemiology at Yale University School of Medicine's Arbovirus Research Unit, part of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. He served on the faculty of the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, from 1983 to 1996 before joining the UC Davis entomology faculty as a professor of entomology and director of the Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory. He was acting director of the UC Davis Center for Vector-Borne Research from 1996 to 1999, and director of the UC Davis Arbovirus Research Unit (2001-2003). He was selected vice chair of the Department of Entomology in 2006, serving until 2008.
Highly honored by his peers, Scott won the coveted Harry Hoogstraal Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2018. His other honors include fellow of three organizations: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (2014), Entomological Society of America (2010), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008). He was named a UC Davis distinguished professor in 2014. In 2015, he won the Charles W. Woodworth Award, the highest honor awarded by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Other UC Davis scientists listed as Highly Cited Researchers include five others from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Eduardo Blumwald and Jorge Dubcovsky, both from Plant Sciences; Alan Crozier, Nutrition; David A. Mills, Food Science and Technology; and Andrew Sih, Environmental Science and Policy.
The study, published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS), Neglected Tropical Diseases, contradicts the long-held assumption that once you're infected with a particular dengue serotype, you won't get it again.
“Our most significant result from this study is that immunity to dengue viruses does not always provide perfect protection from reinfection,” said principal investigator and medical entomologist Thomas Scott, distinguished professor and now emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “The public health implications include evaluation of dengue vaccines, interpretation of a person's virus exposure history and susceptibility to new infections, and design of dengue surveillance programs.”
Dengue infects 400 million people worldwide each year, and 4 billion people or nearly half of the world's population are at risk for dengue,” said Scott, who has studied dengue more than 25 years and is recognized as a leading expert in the ecology and epidemiology of the disease. “There is no vaccine nor drug that is effective against this virus.”
“This finding could help explain results of dengue vaccine trials that showed poor efficacy against one of the four serotype,” Stoddard said. “It also has broad implications for vaccine development.”
The research team investigated the "validity of the fundamental assumption" by analyzing a large epidemic caused by a new strain of DENV-2 that invaded Iquitos, Peru, in 2010-2011, 15 years after the first outbreak of DENV-2 in the region.
"Our data indicates that protection from homologous DENV re-infection may be incomplete in some circumstances, which provides context for the limited vaccine efficacy against DENV-2 in recent trials," the research team wrote. "Further studies are warranted to confirm this phenomenon and to evaluate the potential role of incomplete homologous protection in DENV transmission dynamics."
Scott and Amy Morrison of the Scott lab and U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit, co-directed the project in Iquitos. The paper is also the work of Sandra Olkowski and Kanya Long of the Scott lab; Robert Reiner of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Mich., and the Fogarty International Center; Brett Forshey, Angelica Espinoza, Stalin Vilcarromero, Tadeusz J. Kochel and Eric Halsey of the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit; Helen Wearing, University of New Mexico, Alburquerque; and Wilma Casanova, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana, Iquitos, Perú.
While vaccines are under development, it is not clear how they can be best applied when they are available, including in combination with other interventions like mosquito control, Scott said. “New disease prevention tools, in addition to vaccines, and an improved understanding of virus transmission dynamics, which will enhance surveillance and epidemic response, are needed to reduce the global burden of dengue.”
The paper, “Incomplete Protection against Dengue Virus Type 2 Re-infection in Peru,”
is online at
If a patient is the sole wage earner in the family, lost wages can amount to a third of the monthly household income.
Olkowski recently gave a presentation on the "Economic Impact of Work Absenteeism Due to Dengue Fever in Iquitos, Peru” at the fifth annual American Society of Tropical Medicine Hygiene/Peru meeting.
“Over a quarter of the laboratory-confirmed patients fell significantly below Peru's minimum monthly wage,” Olkowski said. “In the wage group with the highest rate of dengue, lost wages due to dengue illness represented more than 25 to 30 percent of their monthly income. It's also important to note that we included only wage-earners, whereas the majority of women work in the home and are not earning a wage, so these are one-income households.”
“In this project, Dr. Vilcarromero and I quantified one aspect of the 'hidden economic burden' of dengue in Iquitos,” she said. “A lot of attention is being given to the economic impact of hospitalized dengue cases but that's not the full story. Our research demonstrates that even when dengue is technically a ‘mild' illness, the people who live with it are suffering not only physically but economically.”
“For this study, we looked at how lost work days due to non-severe dengue affects people,” Olkowski said, explaining that in Iquitos, most families have a single wage earner and receive little or no paid sick leave. “Thus, taking a sick day can mean less support for their families.”
“We considered only patients who went to a clinic but were not hospitalized and who were laboratory confirmed for dengue serotype 4,” she said. “That is generally considered to cause mild, ambulatory illness so that would probably not be taken too seriously from an economic impact standpoint.”
This was her third trip to Iquitos. On each of the first two trips, she did research for about two months, and has now been in Iquitos for seven months.
Olkowski, who is seeking her doctorate in entomology with a major interest in medical entomology and public health, expects to graduate in the summer of 2016. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics from UC Davis.
The world-class Thomas Scott lab studies the dengue virus, which is transmitted by Aedes aegypti, a daytime-biting mosquito. The dengue virus has been spreading globally over the last four decades, including parts of United States. More than half of the world's population is now at risk of infection. The disease infects 400 million people each year.
Scott, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Mosquito Research Program, is the principal investigator of two grants totaling nearly $10 million to study the mosquito-borne, viral illness.
The grants, awarded in 2014, include $7.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $2.2 million from Notre Dame University.
Amy Morrison of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, co-leads the projects in Iquitos, where she directs the long-running UC Davis epidemiological field research program in collaboration with NAMRU-6. Other UC Davis researchers involved in the grants are Steven Stoddard, Robert C. Reiner, T. Alex Perkins, Veronica Armijos, Jody Simpson and Christopher Barker and Olkowski.
The $2.2 million grant, “Spatial Repellants for Control of Vector-borne Disease,” from Notre Dame University, is the first-ever project aimed at dengue prevention. It focuses on studying the potential for spatial insect repellants to reduce exposure to dengue virus in people's homes.
The NIH grant, “Quantifying Heterogeneities in Dengue Virus Transmission Dynamics,” aims to quantify how much people, with different degrees of illness, vary in their contribution to virus transmission and spread.