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Plant Biology

Explore the rich world of plants through molecular, cell, and evolutionary biology, biochemistry, biophysics, genetics and functional genomics, physiology, and root biology

Program Overview

Plants are fundamental to life on earth. Plant biologists use these important organisms to address issues such as global climate change, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, and disease. The Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Plant Biology offers students the opportunity to conduct research on plants—ranging from the cellular level to the whole-plant level.

Students' program of study includes a comprehensive set of team-taught courses that reflect the breadth of scientific fields, and the linkages between them. All students must also complete a thesis based on their own original research.

Program Ranking

The Plant Biology program was ranked among the top-four programs of its kind (out of 118 programs) by the latest National Research Council Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs, which took place in 2006. The study was based on 20 different characteristics related to research activity of faculty members, student support and outcomes, and the diversity of the academic environment.


Jared Ali named Huck Chair of Chemical Ecology

Jared Ali, associate professor of entomology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair of Chemical Ecology by the University’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Climate-associated genetic switches found in plants

Genetic variants that can act as switches directing structural changes in the RNA molecules that code for proteins in plants have been experimentally validated in plants for the first time. The changes to RNA structure can affect the molecule’s stability, how it interacts with other molecules, and how efficiently it can be translated into protein — all of which can impact its function and the traits of the plant.

Internet-based precision irrigation system shows promise for fresh-market tomato

An “internet of things” — or IoT — system monitoring real-time data from soil-based sensors to activate an automated precision irrigation setup can conserve water and boost crop production, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

New plant science team gets grants from USDA-NIFA for research on soil microbes

An assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has received $950,000 in two competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lead a team studying interactions between plants and rhizobial soil bacteria, with the long-term goal of boosting forage and crop production while reducing environmental impacts of fertilizer use.