SIPS Plant Biology Section

Without plants, life on earth would cease to exist. Plants shape our environment and provide us with food, medicine, clothing and shelter. Today we are faced with an unprecedented series of challenges — global climate change, food shortages, rapid loss of biodiversity and new and evolving diseases are threatening both the health of the planet as well as human health and well-being.

Through its broad-based and innovative studies of basic plant biology, the Plant Biology section at Cornell University's School of Integrative Plant Science is positioned to contribute real and impactful solutions to these problems at local, state, national and global scales. Learn more about the history of our section and the vision of our school.

Breadth of research

Development & signaling

Many of our faculty investigate the processes by which plants grow and develop different structures and tissue types.

Breadth of research

Organelle biology

Plant Biology faculty study the biology of chloroplasts and other plant cell organelles, providing insight into ways that photosynthesis and other plant processes might be improved.

Breadth of research

Systematics & evolution

Study of the plant evolution and diversity has a long history at Cornell with experts in many plant families.

Breadth of research

Systems biology

Our faculty are working to model complex biological systems from genes and gene regulation, to proteomics and the evolution of specialized plant compounds.

hands in blue gloves examining plant material
illustration of a protein structure from the van Wijk lab
two women looking at a computer screen
digram of plant metabolism

Graduate and undergraduate training

Plant Biology offers degrees and training opportunities at all stages of the educational pipeline.

group of people standing

Graduate field of plant biology

Students interested in obtaining an MS or PhD degree in the graduate field of plant Biology can select from a variety of research areas and concentrations, reflecting the broad diversity of faculty research in the Plant Biology Section.

Undergraduate — Plant sciences major

Undergraduates in the plant sciences major can select from a diverse set of concentrations including plant molecular, cellular and developmental biology, plant evolution and diversity, plant computational biology, and plants and human health.

Undergraduate — Plant Biology Concentration

Undergraduates majoring in biology can choose the plant biology concentration.

Undergraduate research — Plant Genome Internship

The NSF sponsored Plant Genome Internship introduces high school and undergraduate students to state-of-the-art techniques in plant biology and trains students in scientific ethics, laboratory safety, and data presentation.

Undergrad Research - other

The Office of Undergraduate Research provides information about exploring the wealth of research opportunities at Cornell.

The Honors Program in Biological Sciences is designed to offer advanced training in laboratory and field research through the performance of an original research project under the direct guidance of a member of the Cornell faculty.

Bailey Hortorium

Bailey Hortorium is a major center for plant systematics, with a mission encompassing ethnobotany, paleobotany, biodiversity studies, and pharmaceutical studies of tropical plants.

dried plant material on a paper

News from the SIPS Plant Biology Section

Learn more about our recent developments and discoveries.

three male researchers look at maize genes on a computer screen


Plant biologists reveal genetic patterns in maize development
A Cornell research team led by Michael Scanlon, professor of plant biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Integrative Plant Science, recently reported new insights into the patterns of gene expression in maize stem...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Agriculture
Male and female students sitting on a Zoom call holding up cardboard boxes

Field Note

Semester (un)interrupted: Innovative teaching in the hybrid semester
From navigating social distancing requirements to sending creative, do-it-yourself toolkits to their remote students, the CALS community has continued to persevere in the face of unprecedented challenges. Below, hear from several CALS faculty...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Soil and Crop Sciences Section
A man and his young daughter walk through the woods wearing cloth face masks

Field Note

5 things we learned about making online plant biology fun for K-6 kids
This summer, we collaborated with Cornell Botanic Gardens to lead a 4-week online course for school-aged students called “Plants Have Families Too!” The material was adapted from the Botanic Gardens’ annual family botanical event, Judy’s Day...
  • Cornell Botanic Gardens
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section
A giraff outside with trees behind it


Ph.D. students design biology lesson for undergrads
Graduate students in six fields of study have designed an evolution lesson on speciation for undergraduate non-majors that applies active-learning techniques. The lesson, “What is Speciation, How Does It Occur, and Why Is It Important for...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Soil and Crop Sciences Section