MS/PhD Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology

Advancing understanding of pathogens and their control

Graduate study in Cornell's Integrative School of Plant Science is organized into five Graduate Fields providing unparalleled opportunities to connect disciplines, creatively solve problems, and integrate complex systems, preparing graduates for diverse careers and futures as leaders in science and society.

The Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology (PPPMB) focuses on all aspects of plant diseases and the biology of plant-microbe interactions at the molecular to ecosystem levels of organization. This Field is also the home for studying the biology, genetics, and evolution of fungi and oomycetes. Most of the faculty advisors in the Field of PPPMB are affiliated with the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Graduate Field Concentrations

The MS/PhD Graduate Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology consists of three concentrations:

  • Plant Pathology
  • Plant-Microbe Biology
  • Fungal and Oomycete Biology
woman seated beside a microscope

Learn more about our graduate concentrations

Students in the Plant Pathology program have diverse interests in the fundamental biology, etiology, and epidemiology of plant pathogens as well as the management of plant diseases; however, they are united in the common goal of achieving a greater understanding of pathogen biology and ecology in order to predict and mitigate disease impacts.

Students in this program will master the fundamental knowledge of plant pathogens and diseases while developing conceptual knowledge and skills necessary to design and implement programs in integrated disease management.

Core concepts in the Plant Pathology program of study:

  • Knowledge of all pathogen groups
  • Principles of disease management
  • Identification of pathogens within major pathogen groups
  • Disease etiology and epidemiology
  • Disease development and pathogen evolution
  • Mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions
  • Experimental design and applied statistics
  • Role/opportunities of plant pathology in agriculture and natural systems
  • Pathogenomics in plant pathology
  • Basic skills in isolation and culture of major pathogen groups

This suite of skills, knowledge, and abilities are developed through core and elective courses, research projects, teaching, extension, and outreach opportunities. In addition to the  course requirements of all PPPMB students, PhD students in the Plant Pathology program are required to complete PPLPPM 4020 and two special topics courses.  Additionally, PLPPM 4190 (our field course) is strongly recommended.  The course requirements for a PhD minor in the Plant Pathology program are determined by the Special Committee, but include PLPPM 3010, PLPPM 4010, and at least one special topics course.

In addition to the course requirements of all PPPMB students, the MS major in the Plant Pathology program is required to complete PLPPM 4020 and a minimum of either one additional special topics course or PLPPM 4190.  The MS minor in the Plant Pathology program requires PLPPM 3010.  In addition to the courses listed above, the Special Committee may suggest other courses that are appropriate for the student's interests and research project.

Students in the Plant-Microbe Biology program have educational backgrounds in Molecular Biology, Plant Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, and Microbiology. They typically conduct research on pathogenic, symbiotic, and epiphytic processes that enable microbial associations with plants and the mechanisms in plants that lead to defense, susceptibility, or cooperation.

Students in this concentration will master a fundamental understanding of the biology of the interactions between plants and microbes, particularly with respect to pathogenesis and symbiosis. They are expected to be interdisciplinary and able to bridge basic and translational research.

Core concepts in the Plant-Microbe Biology program of study:

  • Pathogenic lifestyles: necrotrophs versus biotrophs
  • Primary pathogenic mechanisms of necrotrophs
  • Primary pathogenic mechanism of biotrophs
  • The first level of induced plant defense
  • The second level of effector-triggered immunity
  • Systemic acquired resistance, induced systemic resistance, priming, and related plant defenses
  • Major classes of antimicrobial compounds produced by plants
  • Differences and antagonisms between plant defenses
  • Pathogenic mechanisms of bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, viruses, and nematodes
  • Development of better ways to durably protect crops

This suite of knowledge, skills, and abilities are developed from core and elective courses, research projects, and outreach opportunities. In addition to the course requirements of all PPPMB students, PhD students majoring in the Plant-Microbe Biology program are expected to complete PLPPM 4020, two special topics courses, and at least one minor in a graduate field in the core life sciences or physical sciences. The course requirements for a minor in the Plant-Microbe Biology program are determined by the Special Committee, but include at least the equivalent of PLPPM 3010 and PLPPM 4010. For students majoring in Plant Pathology or Fungal and Oomycete Biology with a minor in Plant-Microbe Biology, the Special Committee may recommend an additional life sciences course or research experience in a Plant-Microbe Biology or life sciences laboratory.

The Fungal and Oomycete Biology program serves as the center of eukaryotic microbiology on the Cornell campus. Research and teaching activities are focused on molecular and cellular biology of host associations and development, population biology, ecology and evolution, and epidemiology and management of fungi and oomycetes in natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Core concepts in the Fungal and Oomycete Biology program of study:

  • Structure and function of fungal/oomycete cells
  • Fungal/oomycete lifestyles
  • Ecological and evolutionary relationships
  • Mating systems
  • Fungal/oomycete genetics and genomics
  • Cell and molecular biology
  • Interaction Biology
  • Population genetics
  • Fungal/oomycete metabolism
  • Manipulating and identifying fungi/oomycetes

These concepts and skills are developed from core and elective courses, research projects, and outreach. In addition to the course requirements of all PPPMB students, PhD students majoring in Fungal and Oomycete Biology are required to complete PLPPM 4490 (Advanced Mycology), PLPPM 6380 (Filamentous Fungal Genomics and Development), and PLPPM 6490 (a current issues course in Fungal and Oomycete Biology). PhD students minoring in Fungal and Oomycete Biology are required to complete two of the above three courses.

For the MS major in the Fungal and Oomycete Biology program, students are required to complete PLPPM 4490 and PLPPM 6380 in addition to the course requirements for all PPPMB students. The minor requirements for MS students are determined by the Special Committee. In addition to the courses listed above, the Special Committee may suggest other appropriate courses given the student's interests and research focus.


Contact Us

Josh Balles
Graduate Field Coordinator
237 Emerson Hall
Phone: 607-255-9573
Email: jeb527 [at] cornell.edu

Adam Bogdanove
Director of Graduate Studies
360 Plant Science Bldg
Phone: (607) 255-7831
Email: ajb7 [at] cornell.edu

What's happening in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology?

Learn more about our research, extension, and teaching in the Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology

a field of malting barley growing

News

Cornell-bred malting barley has a name: Excelsior Gold
Formerly called CU-31, the barley got its name as a result of a contest co-hosted this fall by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Richard Ball, commissioner of Ag and...
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
fungi grows in a lab

News

Study of fungi may improve baby food, agriculture, food safety
Researchers from Cornell, Oregon State University and the North-West University–Potchefstroom in South Africa will team up on the four-year Dimensions of Biodiversity grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding program requires...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
  • Health + Nutrition
Golden oats outside in a field

News

Researchers identify genetics behind deadly oat blight
The study, “Victorin, the Host-Selective Cyclic Peptide Toxin from the Oat Pathogen Cochliobolus victoriae, is Ribosomally Encoded,” was published Sept. 15 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Victoria blight is caused...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
  • Disease
A hand holds a handful of malting barley, pouring it into a grain bag.

News

Name that grain: CALS’ barley will boost NYS beer industry
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets are co-hosting a naming contest, Nov. 12 through Dec. 3, for this promising new variety – currently called CU-31. All those...
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
People standing outside at an apple orchard and wearing masks

News

Hudson Valley lab donates 47,000 pounds of apples to local food pantries
The Hudson Valley Research Laboratory (HVRL), a Cornell center for tree fruit research in Highland, New York, donated 47,000 pounds of apples and pears to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and Ulster Corps this fall. The contribution has helped...
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Hudson Valley Lab
  • Horticulture Section