Courses of Study 2020-2021 
    
    Jan 18, 2021  
Courses of Study 2020-2021

Plant Biology


In the Biological Sciences program .


In addition to the concentration requirements outlined below, all students must complete the Biological Sciences foundation requirements:

The Plant Biology Concentration is designed for students who would like to gain a greater understanding of the structure, classification, evolution, ecology, function, development, and molecular biology of plants. It is applicable to areas that encompass either wild or cultivated/agricultural plants, or both.

Two options are offered: (a) Plant Evolutionary Biology and (b) Plant Biotechnology. Option (a) focuses on plant evolution, adaptation and interactions with the environment. Students are required to take introductory plant biology and plant physiology courses and a minimum of six additional credits from a group of courses covering plant anatomy, plant cell biology, development, ecology, taxonomy, and evolution.  Option (b) is primarily for students who wish to specialize in the molecular biology of plants and its agricultural applications. It centers on the Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants and Plant Physiology courses. Students should take at least seven credits of other courses in plants and biotechnology. Students are required to select courses from the list provided in the courses of study to complete the concentration; however, if students find another relevant course that is not listed, they may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies via the biological sciences petition to use that course for the concentration. Teaching Assistant positions will not count towards concentration credits.

Experience in working with the plants themselves is essential to obtain a grasp of the theoretical aspects of plant science. For this reason, there is a strong emphasis on laboratory work in plant biology courses. Through formal courses and independent studies, students learn skills that prepare them to address relevant questions in plant biology such as: evolution and phylogenetic relationships among plants including agriculturally important species, adaptation of plants to climate change and environmental stress, competition among plants for limiting resources (light and nutrients), how plants can be manipulated to make them more useful for humans (biofuels, production of specific compounds), and bioprospecting of plant secondary products as potential pharmaceuticals.  In addition, many laboratories are engaged in basic research addressing our most fundamental understanding of plant biology at all levels of biological organization.  Students are strongly encouraged to undertake independent research projects as a part of their training, and many professors welcome students interested in performing research and honors theses in their labs. For both the Plant Evolutionary Biology and Plant Biotechnology options, BIOG 4990 - Independent Undergraduate Research in Biology (or the equivalent in other departments) for research in the plant sciences can be used towards the required number of credits (up to 3 credits) with the approval of the faculty advisor.


The University maintains growth chamber facilities, research greenhouses, a teaching conservatory and field laboratories necessary for plant research. In addition to wild and managed land areas, which play a strategic part in the study of plants at Cornell, the local countryside offers diverse habitats for plant growth. The natural environment is used in research and teaching programs.

Many students who pursue the Plant Biology concentration are interested in continuing their education beyond the bachelor’s degree. Because the tools of research in both fundamental and applied aspects of plant science are basically the same, a concentration in plant biology provides a strong background for graduate study in either area.

Holders of a bachelor’s degree may be employed as teachers, research assistants, or technicians in public and private institutions. Employment opportunities in teaching and research are increased by advanced study.

Plant Biology Requirements


  • All requirements need to be taken for letter grade unless the course is offered S/U only.  Exceptions need to be approved by the student’s faculty advisor via the Biological Sciences petition.
  • A grade of D- or better must be obtained to count course for concentration.
  • A minimum of 13 credits of concentration requirements.

    Students choose one area of study from the following two options:

Option (a) Plant Evolutionary Biology


Students are required to take:

Students should then choose, with the aid of their faculty advisor, a minimum of three of the following courses for a total of at least 6 additional credits, to round out their botanical training:

Learning Objectives for the Concentration in Plant Biology


Students who have completed the Concentration in Plant Biology will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of core concepts and factual information from diverse areas of plant biology by placing these in an integrated conceptual framework that encompasses all of plant biology and biology in general.
  2. apply factual and conceptual information to problems in basic and applied plant biology.
  3. formulate hypotheses, design and carry out experiments, and analyze and interpret data.
  4. show proficiency in reading, interpreting and evaluating scientific literature in plant biology.
  5. effectively communicate their understanding of plant biology in both oral and written formats.

Course Offerings in Plant Biology


A complete list of PLBIO courses