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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Plant Biology (PLBIO)

Program Home Page (Opens New Window)

TEH-HUI KAO, Head of the Graduate Program in Plant Biology
Plant Biology Program Office
101 Huck Life Sciences Building


Degrees Conferred:

Ph.D., M.S.


The Graduate Faculty


The Program

The Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Plant Biology includes faculty from nine departments in the College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Engineering, and Eberly College of Science. Each student becomes associated with the adviser's department, which may provide financial support, research facilities, and office space. Applicants are encouraged to explore opportunities by contacting faculty who may be prospective advisers.

The objective of this program is to educate and train plant biologists using the most modern techniques available today. Graduates from this program have gone on to a diverse range of careers, including positions in colleges and universities, research institutes, industry, and government. Research interests of the program faculty span the breadth of scientific areas ranging from molecular, cell, and evolutionary biology, biochemistry, biophysics, genetics, and functional genomics to whole-plant physiology and ecology. Student training includes a comprehensive set of team-taught courses that reflects this breadth of scientific approaches.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin. Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Aptitude Test (verbal, quantitative, analytical) are required for admission.

Students with a 3.00 junior/senior grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale) and with appropriate course background will be considered for admission. The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces available for new students. Students entering this program should have a strong foundation in the biological sciences, including biochemistry, general physics, and college mathematics through calculus. Students with limited deficiencies may be admitted but must make up their deficiencies concurrently with their graduate studies. B.S.-level applicants with good academic records who have had strong training in plant biology and related courses, including research experience, are generally admitted directly into the Ph.D. program.

Master's Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

All M.S. degree candidates will be required to complete 30 credits of course work at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level, with at least 18 credits at the 500 and 600 level, combined. All students must complete the following core courses: PLBIO 512 (4 cr.); PLBIO 513 (4 cr.); MCIBS 591 (1 cr.); and PLBIO 590 (1 cr.). The remaining elective credits may be chosen from a list of approved electives maintained by the program office.

Students are required to write a thesis, and at least 6 credits in thesis research (600 or 610) must be taken in conjunction with completing the thesis. The thesis must be accepted by the advisers and/or committee members, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a thesis defense.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Students in the Ph.D. program must successfully pass the candidacy, comprehensive, and final oral examinations required by Graduate Council. To earn the Ph.D. degree, doctoral students must also write a dissertation that is accepted by the doctoral committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a minimum of 17 credits, including the following courses: PLBIO 512 (4 cr.); PLBIO 513 (4 cr.); PLBIO 514 (2 cr.); PLBIO 515 (2 cr.); PLBIO 516 (2 cr.); MCIBS 591 (1 cr.); PLBIO 590 (2 cr.); and two biochemistry courses. A list of courses approved to count towards the biochemistry course requirement is maintained by the graduate program office. Upon consultation with the head of the graduate program, equivalent courses taken at another university may be substituted for some of the above requirements. Based on the results of the candidacy examinations, the student's adviser and doctoral committee will determine other course requirements.

One of the main goals of the candidacy examination is to determine the potential of a student to successfully obtain a Ph.D. degree and is intended to be a rigorous test of a student's abilities, prior to the major investment in time and effort necessary to pass the comprehensive examination. Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program must pass a written English competency evaluation based on the dossier of papers written for PLBIO 512 and PLBIO 513. This evaluation is done at the end of the student's first year. The oral candidacy examination is based on two of the papers, jointly chosen by the student and the Candidacy Examination Committee, and must be passed by the end of the student's third semester.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set forth in the Graduate Bulletin.

In most participating departments, Plant Biology applicants are eligible for departmental teaching or research assistantships, and other assistantships supported by grant funds of individual faculty who make the award decisions. More detailed and up-to-date information about student aid may be found in the Plant Biology Student and Faculty Handbook, which is updated annually during the summer.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.



Last Revised by the Department: Summer 2018

Blue Sheet Item #: 46-07

Review Date: 6/26/2018

Date last reviewed by Graduate School: 5/24/04

Faculty linked: 6/27/14


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