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Ph.D. in Plant Biology

Doctoral student Nicholas Tomeo works in Dr. David Rosenthal’s lab

Doctoral student Nicholas Tomeo works in Dr. David Rosenthal’s lab.

Program Overview

The Environmental & Plant Biology Ph.D. graduate program provides educational and research experience in plant biology from the molecular to the organismal and ecosystem levels. 

Most students are trained within three general areas of study: plant ecology, plant systematics and evolution, or plant molecular and cellular biology.

The program strives to foster communication across and beyond these areas of study to provide unique opportunities to meet each student’s specific career goals. The Ph.D. program is designed to train and prepare students to be successful in teaching and research positions in academia, industry, government, or non-governmental organizations.

Each student is trained to conduct independent research in the pursuit of knowledge. Students are mentored in grantsmanship and have many opportunities to support their own research with internal and external funding. Students have hands-on teaching experience because the program provides a teaching assistantship.

As teaching assistants, students have the opportunity to assist in a variety of courses and interact with faculty. Students may additionally have opportunities to supervise and mentor undergraduate students in a research laboratory environment. All students are exposed to the national and international plant biology community through colloquia, seminars, and scientific meetings that will aid them in achieving their post-Ph.D. career goals.

A Ph.D. with Molecular and Cellular Biology and Plant Biology also is offered.

Career Opportunities: A student with a Ph.D. in plant biology could work at a college or university, teaching or doing research in a variety of specialty areas. He or she also could work in private industry, or governmental agencies dealing with agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, biotechnology or pharmaceuticals, conservation agencies and museums of natural history, environmental consulting firms, food companies, botanical gardens, and arboreta.

Advising & Program of Study

All new students will report to the Graduate Chair for initial instructions.

A student may be co-advised by two Plant Biology tenure-track faculty members.

A student may change advisers, but only after approval of the current and potential adviser and the Graduate Chair. If a student leaves his or her adviser, for whatever reason, he or she must find another adviser within four weeks or before the start of the following semester.

  • An unadvised student cannot remain in the Plant Biology graduate program beyond this time limit.

Important Deadlines

End of second semester – Course Approval Form to Graduate Chair.

Beginning of fourth semester –Dissertation Committee Information (CAS#5) to Graduate Chair. NOTE: For students in the Plant Biology & Molecular Biology Ph.D. program, this form is due at the beginning of the second semester.

End of fourth academic semester – Dissertation Proposal approved by Dissertation Committee, Department Proposal Approval Form to Graduate Chair.

End of sixth academic semester – Comprehensive exam finished, Recommendation to Advance Student to Candidacy for Ph.D. Degree (CAS#6) to Graduate Chair.

Graduation semester – Apply to graduate, enroll in PBIO 6970

  1. Submit dissertation to committee at least two weeks prior to defense and provide thesis title and abstract to office staff.
  2. Check TAD for their deadlines.
  3. Submit Report of the Oral Thesis Examination/Dissertation Defense (CAS#8) to Graduate Chair.

End of every spring semester – Graduate Student Progress Report.

Degree Requirements

Successful completion of Biological Research and Science Ethics (PBIO 5170).

Required Credit Hours

A student without an M.S. degree must take a minimum of 30 graded graduate credit hours, of which 20 must be PBIO.

A student with an M.S. degree must take a minimum of 21 graded graduate credit hours, of which 12 must be PBIO.

Graded graduate credit hours course excludes seminar, supervised study, colloquium, and research. Courses will be determined by the student and the adviser, with recommendation by the graduate committee, and signed by the Graduate Chair.

Graduation Requirements

  1. Successfully complete Biological Research and Science Ethics (PBIO 5170).
  2. Successfully complete the required minimum graded credit hours. For students without an M.S. degree, a minimum of 30 graded graduate credit hours is required, of which 20 must be PBIO. For students with an M.S. degree, a minimum of 21 graded graduate credit hours is required, of which 12 must be PBIO. Seminar, supervised study, colloquium, and research are not part of these graded credit hours required for a Ph.D.
  3. Successfully complete the minimum number of courses from the following list. A Ph.D. student with an M.S. degree must take one (1) course, whereas a Ph.D. student without an M.S. degree must take two (2) courses from:
    1. PBIO 5150: Statistical Methods in Plant Biology
    2. PBIO 5160: Problem Solving with Bioinformatics Tools
    3. PBIO 5180: Writing in the Life Sciences
    4. PBIO 8700: Biostatistics II
    5. GEOG 5730: Principles of GIS
  4. Maintain a GPA at or above 3.00.
  5. Earn a minimum of 60 credits hours of research (PBIO 8950)
  6. Successfully complete four semesters of Seminar (PBIO 6970).
  7. Pass a Comprehensive Examination composed of written and oral sections no later then the 9th semester.
  8. Successfully complete a research dissertation with an oral defense
  9. Expected time to degree – 4 years with an M.S. degree, 5 years without an M.S. degree.

GPA

A GPA below 3.0 in two consecutive academic semesters, two grades below “B-“, or one grade below a “C-“ in graduate courses will result in dismissal from the graduate program. One grade below a “C+“ will result in academic probation.

  • The student should inform his or her advisor and the Graduate Chair before withdrawing from a course because it may impact departmental support.

Research & Seminars

A minimum of 60 credits hours of research (PBIO 8950)

Successful completion of four semesters of PBIO 6970 (Seminar) or completion of three Seminars and giving a research presentation at Ecolunch in BIOS or MCB seminar.

  • The student should enroll in seminar during the semester in which he or she is defending his or her research. The pre-defense seminar is graded by the thesis committee and satisfies one of the four required PBIO 6970 (seminar) courses.

Comprehensive Examination

Must pass a Comprehensive Examination composed of written and oral sections no later then the third year (i.e., 9th semester) or face dismissal from the program.

Dissertation

Must successfully complete a research dissertation, with the intent of submitting multiple publications to peer-reviewed journals.

Must orally defend a research dissertation.

Program Mission

To train the next-generation of scholar-scientists in plant ecology, systematics and evolution, and/or molecular and cellular biology. Emphasis is placed on conducting original research and communicating science to the scientific community and in a classroom environment.  

Program Learning Objectives

  • Students will know professional standards of science and responsible conduct of scientists that are essential for the pursuit of knowledge.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate a depth of knowledge within their area of study and a breadth of knowledge across the field of plant biology.
  • Students will be able to write a research proposal.
  • Students will know how to design and complete a research study and/or scientific experiments. 
  • Students will be able to process and analyze data to make sound interpretations.
  • Students will be able to communicate scientific ideas in both written and oral forms to diverse audiences.

 

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