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Plant Biology

The Plant Biology Concentration is designed for students who would like to gain a greater understanding of the structure, classification, ecology, function, development, and molecular biology of plants.

Two options are offered: (a) botany and (b) plant biotechnology. In Option (a), students are required to take introductory botany and plant physiology courses and a minimum of eight 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. In addition students should take at least seven credits of other courses in plants and biotechnology.  In addition to plant biology (BIOPL) and plant ecology (BIOEE) courses, students may choose from courses offered by other departments in areas of applied research such as Crop and Soil Sciences, Horticulture, Plant Breeding, and Plant Pathology.

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 research addressing our 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.

The University maintains greenhouses and field laboratories necessary for botanical 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.

Learning Objectives for the Concentration in Plant Biology
Students who have completed the Concentration in Plant Biology should 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.

Plant Biology Requirements


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

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:


Students choose, in consultation with their faculty advisor, a minimum of 7 additional credits from the following list: