Plant Biology

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Course offerings in diverse areas of plant biology, ranging from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. Research opportunities and facilities are available in the following areas: cell biology, cellular imaging, cellulose biology, cellular signaling, developmental biology, plant hormones, epigenetics, systems biology, genetic engineering, transgene regulation and silencing, stress biology, plant gravitropism, phytochemistry, metabolic engineering, plant-microbe interactions, aquatic ecology, toxic dinoflagellates, endangered species, community ecology, physiological ecology, tropical ecology, evolutionary ecology, population ecology, paleobotany, plant systematics, evolution of flowering plants, and ethnobotany.

Admission Requirements

Students entering the graduate program in plant biology should have a bachelor's degree in plant biology or a related undergraduate program that includes biological, physical and mathematical science training including undergraduate courses in organic chemistry, calculus and genetics, as well as biology. All applications are screened by a departmental committee, and the best qualified applicants will be accepted until all available spaces are filled. 

Master's and Doctoral Degree Requirements

The M.S. requires a total of 30 credit hours (20 of the 30 credit hours must be from 500-, 600-, 700/800-level courses; 18 credit hours must be letter graded); the Master of Plant Biology requires a total of 36 credit hours. The Ph.D. requires a total of 72 credit hours. Two core courses (Functional Plant Biology and either Plant Functional Ecology or Systematic Botany) are required. Other requirements include: a Plant Biology Colloquium, Plant Anatomy, an additional plant biology course, a graduate statistics course, a graduate ethics course, a thesis (for the M.S., but not the Master of Plant Biology) or dissertation (for the PhD), written and oral preliminary examinations (Ph.D.), oral thesis or dissertation defense, and a one (M.S.) or two semester (Ph.D.) teaching experience. Students must maintain a "B" average in all course work.

Other Relevant Information

Graduate research and teaching assistantships and tuition remission information are available from the department. New students supported by departmental research/teaching assistantships may elect to rotate through three laboratories during their first semester. At the end of the semester, they will choose a laboratory for their research activities consistent with their interests and available research projects. Cooperative research in more than one laboratory is encouraged. Graduate students are expected to attend and participate in the seminar program every semester they are in residence. The department participates in training grants in biotechnology.

Full Professors

  • Adrian John Percy

Associate professors

  • Jose Miguel Alonso
  • Richard L. Blanton
  • Kent Oliver Burkey
  • Joann M. Burkholder
  • Susan B. Carson
  • Ralph E. Dewey
  • Robert Graham Franks
  • Amy Michele Grunden
  • Candace Hope Haigler
  • Linda Kay Hanley-Bowdoin
  • Christine Veronica Hawkes
  • William A. Hoffmann
  • Shuijin Hu
  • James E. Mickle
  • Thomas W. Rufty Jr.
  • Jean B. Ristaino
  • Heike Inge Ada Sederoff
  • William F. Thompson
  • Ross W. Whetten
  • Qiuyun Xiang
  • Deyu Xie
  • Tzung Fu Hsieh
  • Slavko Komarnytsky
  • Alexander Krings
  • Xu Li
  • Terri A.Long
  • Marcela Pierce
  • Rosangela Sozzani
  • Anna N. Stepanova
  • Jillian Marie De Gezelle
  • Chad Victor Jordan
  • Imara Yasmin Perera
  • Carole H. Saravitz
  • Nina S. Allen
  • Udo Blum
  • Wendy F. Boss
  • Rebecca S. Boston
  • Margaret E. Daub
  • Roger C. Fites
  • James W. Hardin
  • Walter Webb Heck
  • Rongda Qu
  • Jon M. Stucky
  • Judith F. Thomas
  • C. Gerald VanDyke
  • Thomas R. Wentworth

Assistant professors

  • Orlando Arguello-Miranda
  • Colleen Jennifer Doherty
  • Manuel Kleiner
  • William Kevin Petry
  • Seema Nayan Sheth

Plant Biology

PB 501/MB 501/PP 501  Biology of Plant Pathogens  (3 credit hours)  

Biology of microbes that cause plant diseases. The ecology, genetics, physiology, taxonomy, and mechanisms of parasitism, pathogenicity and virulence of bacteria (and other prokaryotes), fungi (and oomycetes), nematodes, and viruses that cause plant diseases. Prepares graduate students for advanced courses in plant pathology, host-parasite interactions, and provides a knowledge base for students in other disciplines involved with plant pathogens or who seek to broaden their knowledge of microbes.

Prerequisite: PP 315, or PP 318, or an introductory course in microbiology

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 503/PB 403  Systematic Botany  (4 credit hours)  

The course introduces basic and contemporary systematic principles and methods as applied to vascular plants, with emphasis on flowering plants. It covers classification, identification, phylogenetics, and molecular approaches, and surveys important and common plant families representing major groups of vascular plants.

Prerequisite: PB 200, PB 250, BIO 183, Junior standing

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 507/PB 407  Medical Ethnobotany  (3 credit hours)  

This course covers traditional medical systems from a diversity of ancient and modern cultures, with an emphasis on the medicinal plants utilized within these healing traditions. Humans, as well as a number of other species, have utilized plants and other products from nature to treat their physical and spiritual ailments since prehistoric times. In addition to covering medicinal plant species and their known bioactivity, other topics will include traditional diagnostic techniques, complementary healing modalities, beliefs regarding health and illness, treatment and causes of spiritual diseases, food and spices as medicine, and ethical considerations in ethnobotanical research.

Prerequisite: (BIO 181 or PB 200 or PB 250) and (Junior or Senior)

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 513/PB 413  Plant Anatomy  (2 credit hours)  

Organelles, cells, tissues and organs of flowering plants and selected gymnosperms. Emphasis placed on developmental patterns and structural adaptations for survival. Laboratory focuses on dissection, histochemistry, and imaging of plant cells and tissues. Students cannot reserve credit for both PB 413 and PB 513.

Prerequisite: PB 200 or PB 250 or PB 321 or PB 421

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 545/PB 445  Paleobotany  (4 credit hours)  

Morphologic, taxonomic, geologic and evolutionary relationships of fossil plants; emphasis on vascular plants; discussions of taphonomy, biogeography and palynology. Requires weekend field trips at student expense. Credit will not be allowed for both BO 445 and BO 545.

Prerequisite: BIO 181 or MEA 102

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 550/PB 450  Plant Ecology  (3 credit hours)  

This course introduces students to the principles and methods of plant ecology. Topics include how individual plants extract resources from their environments; population dynamics and plant life histories; species interactions in communities; and global change ecology. The course emphasizes distinctive ways that plant natural history affects their ecology while also illustrating how plants can be ideal systems for studying general ecological problems. Undergraduate students gain hands-on ecological experience by gathering real data through field activities, and all students design independent research proposals.

Prerequisite: AEC/PB 360 or FOR 260

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 559  Plant Water Relations  (2 credit hours)  

Physical and biological mechanisms that govern water uptake, water transport, transpiration, and plant responses to drought; constraints and tradeoffs that limit evolution and artificial selection of drought tolerance; methods for studying water relations. Weekly lecture and paper discussions will draw upon examples from both crop and wild plants.

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 564/PB 464  Rare Plants of North Carolina  (3 credit hours)  

This course provides a taxonomic survey of the rare plants of North Carolina, focusing primarily on federally- and secondarily on state-listed species. Particular attention will be placed on: (1) the identification of rare species, their congeners, and morphologically similar species, (2) the biogeography of rare species, (3) optimum survey windows, and (4) the conservation biology of select taxa. Two Saturday field trips required. Junior level or higher. Students cannot receive credit for both PB 464 and PB 564.

Prerequisite: One of the following: (PB 200, PB220, PB 403, or PB 405)

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 570  Plant Functional Ecology  (3 credit hours)  

Mechanisms by which plants interact with their environment, with an emphasis on the role of physiological, morphological, and life history traits, and the evolution of these traits.

Prerequisite: PB/BIO 360

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 575/MB 575/PP 575  Introduction to Mycology  (4 credit hours)  

A survey of the fungal kingdom in context of phyla and classes. Systematics, ecology, biology and utilization. Illustrative material, cultural techniques in laboratories. Collection and paper required.

Prerequisite: BS 125 or BS 181 and 183 or BO 200 or PP 315 or PP 318

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 580/PB 480  Introduction to Plant Biotechnology  (3 credit hours)  

Introduction to gene cloning, plant tissue culture and transformation, and the development of agriculturally important transgenic traits. Critical thinking, case studies, and discussions are used to examine global approaches to the regulation and risks of genetically-modified organisms, plant and gene patents, and the consequences of these factors on food soverienty and trade. Students cannot receive credit for both PB 480 and PB 580.

Prerequisite: BCH 454 or BIT 410 or CS 211 or GN 311 or PB/BIO 414 or PB 421.

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 588/ECE 588/PB 488/ECE 488  Systems Biology Modeling of Plant Regulation  (3 credit hours)  

This course provides an introduction to the field of systems biology with a focus on mathematical modeling, gene regulatory network and metabolic pathway reconstruction in plants. Students will learn how to integrate biological data with mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches to gain new insights into structure and behavior of complex cellular systems. Students are expected to have a minimal background in calculus and basic biology. The course will build on these basic concepts and provide all students, regardless of background or home department, with the fundamental biology, mathematics, and computing knowledge needed to address systems biology problems.

Prerequisite: MA 131 or MA 141

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 595  Special Topics in Plant Biology  (1-4 credit hours)  

The study of special problems and selected topics of current interest in plant biology and related fields.

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 601  Botany Seminar  (1 credit hours)  

Weekly seminars on topics of current interest given by resident faculty members, graduate students and visiting lecturers.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

PB 620  Special Problems In Botany  (1-6 credit hours)  

Directed research in some phase of botany other than a thesis problem, but designed to provide experience and training in research. Credits Arranged.

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 624  Topical Problems  (1-4 credit hours)  

Discussions and readings on problems of current interest in fields of ecology, anatomy and morphology, taxonomy, plant physiology and cell biology. May be repeated with a change in topic for a maximum of six credits.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

PB 685  Master's Supervised Teaching  (1-3 credit hours)  

Teaching experience under the mentorship of faculty who assist the student in planning for the teaching assignment, observe and provide feedback to the student during the teaching assignment, and evaluate the student upon completion of the assignment.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 688  Non-Thesis Masters Continuous Registration - Half Time Registration  (1 credit hours)  

For students in non-thesis master's programs who have completed all credit hour requirements for their degree but need to maintain half-time continuous registration to complete incomplete grades, projects, final master's exam, etc.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 689  Non-Thesis Master Continuous Registration - Full Time Registration  (3 credit hours)  

For students in non-thesis master's programs who have completed all credit hour requirements for their degree but need to maintain full-time continuous registration to complete incomplete grades, projects, final master's exam, etc. Students may register for this course a maximum of one semester.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 690  Master's Examination  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students in non-thesis master's programs who have completed all other requirements of the degree except preparing for and taking the final master's exam.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 693  Master's Supervised Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Instruction in research and research under the mentorship of a member of the Graduate Faculty.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 695  Master's Thesis Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Thesis Research.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 696  Summer Thesis Research  (1 credit hours)  

For graduate students whose programs of work specify no formal course work during a summer session and who will be devoting full time to thesis research.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Summer only

PB 699  Master's Thesis Preparation  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who have completed all credit hour requirements and full-time enrollment for the master's degree and are writing and defending their thesis.

Prerequisite: Master's Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 704  Plant Nomenclature  (1 credit hours)  

A practical foundation in plant nomenclature and nomenclatural references. Emphasis on the evolution of international rules for naming plant taxa and their application in both wild and cultivated plants. Nomenclature applications used in patents, cultivar releases and journal articles. Taught mid-semester. Taught five weeks of semester.

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 733  Plant Growth and Development  (3 credit hours)  

Advanced course in plant physiology covering plant growth, development, differentiation, senescence and biological control mechanisms.

Prerequisite: PB(ZO) 414 or PB 421, organic chemistry

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 751  Advanced Plant Physiology I  (3 credit hours)  

Cellular mechanisms and regulatory features related to plant respiration, photosynthesis, sulfur metabolism, nitrogen fixation and metabolism, and signal transduction. One of two courses covering field of plant physiology.

Prerequisite: PB 421

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 761/BCH 761/GN 761  Advanced Molecular Biology Of the Cell  (3 credit hours)  

An advanced graduate class involving integrated approaches to complex biological questions at the molecular level, encompassing biochemistry, cell biology and molecular genetics. The course will focus on an important, current area of research in eukaryotic biology using the primary scientific literature, and will involve class discussions, oral presentations, and a written research proposal.

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 774/MB 774  Phycology  (3 credit hours)  

Introduction to taxonomy, morphology, reproduction and ecological importance of organisms which may be included in the algae. Attention to local freshwater flow and physiology of selected species in relation to algal blooms, water quality and nutrient loading in aquatic habitats.

Typically offered in Spring only

PB 780  Plant Molecular Biology  (3 credit hours)  

Molecular analysis of plant growth and development. Molecular techniques and their application to understanding control of gene expression in plants.

Prerequisite: BCH 451, GN 411

Typically offered in Fall only

PB 795  Special Topics Botany  (1-6 credit hours)  

The study of special problems and selected topics of current interest in botany and related fields.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

PB 801  Seminar  (1 credit hours)  

Weekly seminars on topics of current interest given by resident faculty members, graduate students and visiting lecturers.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

PB 820  Special Problems  (1-6 credit hours)  

Directed research in some phase of botany other than a thesis problem, but designed to provide experience and training in research. Credits Arranged.

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 824  Topical Problems  (1-4 credit hours)  

Discussions and readings on problems of current interest in fields of ecology, anatomy and morphology, taxonomy, plant physiology and cell biology. May be repeated with a change in topic for a maximum of six credits.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

PB 885  Doctoral Supervised Teaching  (1-3 credit hours)  

Teaching experience under the mentorship of faculty who assist the student in planning for the teaching assignment, observe and provide feedback to the student during the teaching assignment, and evaluate the student upon completion of the assignment.

Prerequisite: Doctoral Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 890  Doctoral Preliminary Examination  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who are preparing for and taking written and/or oral preliminary exams.

Prerequisite: Doctoral Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 893  Doctoral Supervised Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Instruction in research and research under the mentorship of a member of the Graduate Faculty.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 895  Doctoral Dissertation Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Dissertation Research

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

PB 896  Summer Dissertation Research  (1 credit hours)  

For graduate students whose programs of work specify no formal course work during a summer session and who will be devoting full time to thesis research.

Prerequisite: Doctoral Student

Typically offered in Summer only

PB 899  Doctoral Dissertation Preparation  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who have completed all credit hours, full-time enrollment, preliminary examination, and residency requirements for the doctoral degree, and are writing and defending their dissertations.

Prerequisite: Doctoral Student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer