Areas of Study

Graduate students are trained in plant-microbe interactions and related disciplines including biochemistry, ecology, evolution, genetics, genomics, and molecular biology. Our department has a particular strength in molecular and cytological studies of plant-microbe interactions.


Program of Study

graduate curriculum

Individualized Program

The department's philosophy is to provide each student with the training and credentials to maximize employment prospects in the student's area of interest. Even in times of limited employment prospects, this department has consistently placed its graduates in highly desirable professional and academic positions.Our graduate program of study includes a minimum of required course work to allow maximum flexibility in designing individualized curricula that suit the needs of each student. The student, together with his or her major professor and advisory committee, decides upon a specific plan of study early in the second semester.

A majority of our Master's degree students finish within 3 years, while the average for our Doctoral students is about 5 years.


Course Requirements

Our required courses focus on the fundamental principles of plant pathology and on the biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology of plant-microbe interactions. A plant disease diagnosis course provides field experience. Advanced courses are taught in the areas of plant virology, disease resistance, plant bacteriology, and plant pathogenic fungi. Most students complete their formal coursework within three or four semesters. The rest of the time is then devoted to research leading to the Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation.

Required courses are PPA 400G (for those students without a prior course in Plant Pathology); PPA 500; PPA 600; PPA 640, PPA 641; and the seminar course, PPA 770. The student's Major Professor and Advisory Committee recommend what other courses in various programs will enhance prospects for the student's research and intended career. The M.S. degree requires 24 credit hours of graduate coursework and a successfully defended research thesis. The Ph.D. program requires four terms of residency before the Qualifying Examination, two semesters of post-qualifying residency, and a successfully defended research dissertation.


Research Emphasis

The M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are based primarily on independent research. Regular courses provide the underpinnings of Plant Pathology at both a holistic level (such as in epiphytology and plant protection strategies) and a reductionistic level (such as molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis or resistance).

A student is assigned to a Major Professor either before admission or during the first few months of residence. This assignment is principally based on the student's chosen area of specialization. Under the guidance of the Major Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies, the student chooses an Advisory Committee and begins thesis/dissertation research.


Additional Learning Opportunities

Students gain experience in plant pathology through participation in a variety of activities. All students are required to present formal seminars to the department and are encouraged to present the results of their research at regional and national scientific meetings. Practical experience with plant diseases is gained in Plant Disease Diagnosis (PPA 640), which includes field trips throughout the crop season.  While teaching is not required, students are encouraged to obtain teaching experience through appropriate coursework and instructional involvement in the department's undergraduate courses.