About the Graduate Degree

Peanut field_PLPA623 Diseases of Field Crops

The Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology offers a Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Plant Pathology.  The Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 96 hours while the M.S. program requires 32 hours. The current plant pathology curriculum reflects the need for balance between detailed fundamental knowledge of specific concepts with broad-based training.

Plant Pathology is the science of plant health management that encompasses plant diseases, their nature, causal agents, host resistance, community ecology and interrelated phenomena. Plant Pathology is a broad program with emphasis on both basic molecular biology and field application, and involves the scientific training of professional plant pathologists. Emphasis is placed on the fundamental and practical concepts associated with pathology and the conceptual schemes of fungal, bacterial, viral, nematological, mycoplasmal and physiogenic diseases, host plant resistance, and the role of environmental cues in plant health.

Department faculty research most aspects of plant pathology,  including:

  • physiology of parasitism,
  • plant-microbe interactions
  • genetics of PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI) and Effector-triggered immunity (ETI)
  • RNA silencing
  • genetics of pathogen variation and variability
  • genetics of host-pathogen-hyperparasite populations
  • ecology of soil-borne pathogens
  • etiology and epidemiology of plant disease
  • nematology
  • virology
  • biotechnology
  • phytotherapeutics
  • clinical phytopathology

Science changes continuously and it is critically important that scientists are able to grow and adapt to new technologies while incorporating the latest scientific “facts.” Our success is measured by how well our students develop the discipline, the self-confidence, and the ethical standards that are primarily responsible for their future success. The best way to teach this is by laboratory rotations, laboratory classes, seminar courses, field trips, and research experiences. Most of our student’s learning comes from primary literature and from personal interactions with professors, technical staff, and fellow students. PLPM is large enough to allow students to become exposed to all aspects of plant pathology and plant-microbiology while small enough to promote close interaction between students and faculty.

The design of the graduate curriculum in Plant Pathology is challenging from a number of viewpoints. Many variations have been tried, including mini-courses that provided students exposure to many pathogen systems in a relatively short time frame. However, these courses were discontinued in part due to scheduling difficulties. All curricula revisions and changes are submitted to the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) which discusses the proposed changes and forwards possible changes to the full faculty for discussion, vote, and implementation.

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