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
A man and woman standing next to green plants


E. coli bacteria offer path to improving photosynthesis
The method is described in a paper, “Small subunits can determine enzyme kinetics of tobacco Rubisco expressed in Escherichia coli,” published Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Plants. Scientists have known that crop yields would increase if they...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
A woman bends over rows of potted seedlings


Plant communication project gets $1.3M grant from NSF
Scientists know that some mRNA – which carries genetic code to a living organism’s protein-making machinery – are making the journey from root to shoot. But they don’t know which of the thousands of strands are purposely trying to share genetic...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Agriculture
The same flower in two phases of opening


Study explores how multiple organs end up the same size
Why do your arms grow the same length at the same time? New research shows that hormone signaling plays a critical role in controlling how organs develop — in plants, animals and humans.
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Plants
a bald man stands in a greenhouse


Algal genome provides insights into first land plants
The report, “The Penium margaritaceum Genome: Hallmarks of the Origins of Land Plants,” was published May 21 in the journal Cell. Penium margaritaceum belongs to a group of freshwater algae called charophytes, and specifically to a subgroup...
  • Atkinson Center
  • Boyce Thompson Institute
  • School of Integrative Plant Science