About Plant Biology

Plant Biology is the scientific study of plants as organisms. It includes the disciplines of cellular and molecular plant biology and the traditional areas of botany such as anatomy, morphology, systematics, physiology, mycology, phycology, ecology, and evolution.

Faculty members in the Department of Plant Biology share an interest in the study of plants as organisms, ranging from algae to higher plants. Their teaching and research activities focus primarily on three broad areas: plant molecular and cell biology, including plant genetics; plant physiology and biophysics; and plant structural and developmental biology. In addition, the faculty maintains an interest in the study of plant diversity.

Research in the Department focuses on basic aspects of plant biology, complementing the applied focus of programs in the campus' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Faculty members in the Department rely on approaches in molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry to identify and characterize plant genes and to investigate plant structure, function and development. Others study interactions between plants and their environment.

The Department offers a broadly based undergraduate major in plant biology that covers the areas identified above as well as plant ecology and evolution and applied plant biology. Undergraduate students can also select an area of emphasis in Plant Biology within the Biological Sciences major. The Department houses the campus' Graduate Group in Plant Biology and offers courses that contribute to the curriculum in Plant Biology as well as related graduate programs. Members of the Department serve as major advisers to graduate students in Plant Biology and other graduate programs.

The plant biology major consists of core courses in applied plant biology, plant anatomy, plant physiology, and plant ecology, as well as biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics. In addition, students complete a set of courses in one of the following areas: (1) general botany; (2) applied plant biology; (3) plant evolution an ecology; (4) plant genetics and breeding; and (5) plant physiology, development, and molecular biology. The major provides breadth in diverse areas of plant biology and depth in one of several areas of specialization. Independent research opportunities in plant biology are available.

A plant biology degree is an excellent credential for a wide range of career options, including domestic and international opportunities in business, research and teaching in both governmental and private sectors. Plant biologists can work in the field, in the forest, in the laboratory, in botanical gardens or nurseries, in food or seed companies, or in pharmaceutical, energy or chemical industries, and pursue rewarding careers in the areas of biotechnology, environmental protection, farming or agribusiness. The program is also an excellent background for students wishing to enter graduate or other professional schools, including medicine, law or journalism.