Lesley is a native of Dundee and studied for her BSc (Botany) and PhD (Plant virology) at the University of Dundee. The research work for her PhD was done at the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute (later renamed the Scottish Crop Research Institute and now James Hutton Institute). After her PhD she moved to MAFF Harpenden Lab and was tasked with devising sensitive high throughput tests for viruses, she spent time at the Babraham Institute, Monoclonal Antibody Centre where she produced some of the first monoclonal antibodies to plant viruses. In addition she worked on viruses of quarantine importance, including beet necrotic yellow vein virus and remembers the major impact that the outbreak of the Rhizomania virus disease in England had on farming at that time.
Lesley moved back to SCRI in 1988 where she continued research applying monoclonal antibodies for diagnostic purposes and for the analysis of virus proteins. Her current research is focussed on virus-host interactions and particularly the three way interaction between a virus-plasmodiophorid-plant (PMTV-Spongospora-potato). Lesley has a keen interest in development and technology transfer and currently runs two projects working with colleagues in Kenya and Malawi on strengthening potato production systems. She is head of the Cell and Molecular Sciences Department at JHI, part-time Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews and visiting Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh.