Genetics and Plant Biology

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Science (BS)

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology's (PMB) undergraduate major program in Genetics and Plant Biology has been developed as a broadly based program emphasizing the study of plants from the molecular and genetic to organismal levels. Lower division courses are intended to produce a foundation in biological and physical sciences as preparation for advanced study at the upper division level. Coursework from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, which can be used as a foundation for medical school application, is interesting and varied. The small department provides a rich and supportive environment for learning.

Plant biology emphasizes the study of plants from the genetics to the organism. From oxygen to food to shelter to energy to shade, plants provide humans with virtually everything needed to survive and thrive. There is important work for those who want to unravel the mystery of genes, teach the next generation of biologists or to devise ways to feed the world.

Admission to the Major

Advice on admission for freshmen and transfer students can be found on the CNR Admissions Guide page or the CNR Prospective Student website. Freshman students may apply directly to the major, or they may select the College of Natural Resource's undeclared option and declare the major by the end of their fourth semester. Transfer students may apply directly to the major through the UC application.

Information for current Berkeley students who would like to declare the major after admission, including information on a change of major or change of college, please see chapter 6 of the College of Natural Resources Undergraduate Student Handbook.

Research Opportunities

In addition to the Berkeley campus Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), CNR students can also apply for the CNR Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program. For more information, please see the College of Natural Resources website

Honors Program

Students with a GPA of 3.6 or higher may enroll in the College of Natural Resources honors program (H196) once they have reached upper division standing. To fulfill the program requirements, students design, conduct, and report on an individual research project working with a faculty sponsor. For further information about registration for the honors symposium and the honors requirements, please see the College of Natural Resources website.

Other Major Offered by the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Microbial Biology (Major only)

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.

  2. A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required.

  3. A minimum GPA of 2.0 in upper division major requirements is required.

  4. At least 15 of the 36 required upper division units must be taken in the College of Natural Resources.

  5. A maximum of 16 units of independent study (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, 198, and 199) may count toward graduation, with a maximum of 4 units of independent study per semester.

  6. No more than 1/3 of the total units attempted at UC Berkeley may be taken Pass/No Pass. This includes units in the Education Abroad Program and UC Intercampus Visitor or Exchange Programs.

  7. A maximum of 4 units of physical education courses will count toward graduation.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Reading and Composition Requirement

Students are required to complete the Reading and Composition requirement by the end of their sophomore year. 

Humanities & Social Sciences Requirement

15 units of coursework need to be taken from L&S breadth list, excluding biological and physical science course. A maximum of 6 foreign language units can be used to fulfill the requirement.

Lower Division Requirements

MATH 10AMethods of Mathematics: Calculus, Statistics, and Combinatorics4
MATH 10BMethods of Mathematics: Calculus, Statistics, and Combinatorics4
CHEM 1A
1AL
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory
4
CHEM 3A
3AL
Chemical Structure and Reactivity
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory
5
CHEM 3B
3BL
Chemical Structure and Reactivity
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory
5
BIOLOGY 1A
1AL
General Biology Lecture
and General Biology Laboratory
5
BIOLOGY 1BGeneral Biology Lecture and Laboratory4
PHYSICS 8AIntroductory Physics4
Recommended, not required: PLANTBI 20
1

Students seeking exception to the MATH 10A and MATH 10B requirement must contact the GPB Major Undergraduate Adviser at CNR's Office of Instruction & Student Affairs. This requirement applies to students who entered as an GPB Major Fall 2015 or later. 

Upper Division Requirements

Core Requirements
PLANTBI 135Physiology and Biochemistry of Plants3
PLANTBI 150Plant Cell Biology3
PLANTBI 160Plant Molecular Genetics3
PLANTBI C107LPrinciples of Plant Morphology with Laboratory4
PLANTBI 101LExperimental Plant Biology Laboratory3

Plant Biology Concentrations

Select 5 courses, for a minimum of 14 units

Option 1: Choose five courses from one of the concentrations below

Option 2: Experimental Plant Biology: Design your own concentration, by choosing any five courses from the tracks below

Biotechnology and Bioenergy

PLANTBI C103Bacterial Pathogenesis3
PLANTBI C112General Microbiology4
PLANTBI C112LGeneral Microbiology Laboratory2
PLANTBI 120Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI 120LLaboratory for Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI 122Bioenergy2
PLANTBI C124The Berkeley Lectures on Energy: Energy from Biomass3
PLANTBI C148Microbial Genomics and Genetics4
PLANTBI 170Modern Applications of Plant Biotechnology2
PLANTBI 180Environmental Plant Biology2
PLANTBI 185Techniques in Light Microscopy3
ENE,RES C100Energy and Society4
ESPM 108ATrees: Taxonomy, Growth, and Structures3
ESPM 108BEnvironmental Change Genetics3
ESPM 152Global Change Biology3
ESPM 162Bioethics and Society4
INTEGBI 117Medical Ethnobotany2
INTEGBI 117LFMedical Ethnobotany Laboratory2
INTEGBI 151Plant Physiological Ecology4
INTEGBI 151LPlant Physiological Ecology Laboratory2
INTEGBI 162Ecological Genetics4
MCELLBI 102Survey of the Principles of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology4
PLANTBI H196Honors Research - Plant and Microbial Biology2-4
or PLANTBI 199 Supervised Independent Study and Research

Plant Diversity and Evolution

PLANTBI C110LBiology of Fungi with Laboratory4
PLANTBI 113California Mushrooms3
PLANTBI 120Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI 120LLaboratory for Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI 180Environmental Plant Biology2
PLANTBI 185Techniques in Light Microscopy3
ESPM C105Natural History Museums and Biodiversity Science3
ESPM 108ATrees: Taxonomy, Growth, and Structures3
ESPM 108BEnvironmental Change Genetics3
ESPM C149Molecular Ecology4
ESPM 152Global Change Biology3
INTEGBI 102LFIntroduction to California Plant Life with Laboratory4
INTEGBI 117Medical Ethnobotany2
INTEGBI 117LFMedical Ethnobotany Laboratory2
INTEGBI 151Plant Physiological Ecology4
INTEGBI 151LPlant Physiological Ecology Laboratory2
INTEGBI 154Plant Ecology3
INTEGBI 154LPlant Ecology Laboratory2
INTEGBI 157LFEcosystems of California4
INTEGBI 160Evolution4
INTEGBI 161Population and Evolutionary Genetics4
INTEGBI 162Ecological Genetics4
INTEGBI 163Molecular and Genomic Evolution3
INTEGBI 168LSystematics of Vascular Plants with Laboratory4
INTEGBI 181LPaleobotany - The 500-Million Year History of a Greening Planet4
PLANTBI H196Honors Research - Plant and Microbial Biology2-4
or PLANTBI 199 Supervised Independent Study and Research

Plant Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics

BIO ENG 131Introduction to Computational Molecular and Cell Biology4
BIO ENG 144Introduction to Protein Informatics4
BIO ENG 144LProtein Informatics Laboratory3
BIO ENG 143Computational Methods in Biology4
ESPM C105Natural History Museums and Biodiversity Science3
ESPM 108BEnvironmental Change Genetics3
INTEGBI 162Ecological Genetics4
INTEGBI 163Molecular and Genomic Evolution3
MATH 127Mathematical and Computational Methods in Molecular Biology4
MCELLBI 102Survey of the Principles of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology4
MCELLBI 130Cell and Systems Biology4
PLANTBI C134Chromosome Biology/Cytogenetics3
PLANTBI C148Microbial Genomics and Genetics4
PLANTBI 165Plant-Microbe Interactions3
PLANTBI 170Modern Applications of Plant Biotechnology2
PLANTBI 185Techniques in Light Microscopy3
PLANTBI H196Honors Research - Plant and Microbial Biology2-4
or PLANTBI 199 Supervised Independent Study and Research

 Plant Microbe Interactions

ESPM C105Natural History Museums and Biodiversity Science3
ESPM 131Soil Microbial Ecology3
MCELLBI 102Survey of the Principles of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology4
PLANTBI C103Bacterial Pathogenesis3
PLANTBI C110LBiology of Fungi with Laboratory4
PLANTBI C112General Microbiology4
PLANTBI C112LGeneral Microbiology Laboratory2
PLANTBI 113California Mushrooms3
PLANTBI C114Introduction to Comparative Virology4
PLANTBI C116Microbial Diversity3
PLANTBI 120Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI 120LLaboratory for Biology of Algae2
PLANTBI C148Microbial Genomics and Genetics4
PLANTBI 165Plant-Microbe Interactions3
PLANTBI 180Environmental Plant Biology2
PLANTBI 185Techniques in Light Microscopy3
PLANTBI H196Honors Research - Plant and Microbial Biology2-4
or PLANTBI 199 Supervised Independent Study and Research
PLANTBI C192Molecular Approaches to Environmental Problem Solving (Fall only)2

College Requirements

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing and critical thinking all majors in the College require two semesters of lower division work in composition. Students must complete a first-level reading and composition course by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester. 

Foreign LanguageEEP Majors only

The Foreign Language requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. It may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Quantitative ReasoningEEP Majors only

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Undergraduate Breadth

Undergraduate breadth provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program and many students complete their breadth courses in their first two years. Breadth courses are built into CNR major requirements and each major requires a different number of breath courses and categories. The EEP major is the only CNR major that requires the entire 7 course breadth. Refer to the major snapshots on each CNR major page for for additional information. 

High School Exam Credit

CNR students may apply high school exam credit (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-Level Exam) towards many College and Major Requirements. See AP Exam Equivalency Chart and Higher Level IB Exam Equivalency Chart in the CNR Student Handbook for more information.

Units Requirements

Students must complete at least 120 semester units of courses subject to certain guidelines:

  • At least 36 units must be upper division courses, including a minimum of 15 units of upper division courses in the College of Natural Resources. 
  • A maximum of 16 units of Special Studies coursework (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, 198, or 199) is allowed towards the 120 units; a maximum of four is allowed in a given semester.
  • A maximum of 4 units of Physical Education from any school attended will count towards the 120 units.
  • Students may receive unit credit for courses graded P (including P/NP units taken through EAP) up to a limit of one-third of the total units taken and passed on the Berkeley campus at the time of graduation.

Semester Unit Minimum

All CNR students must enroll in at least 13 units each fall and spring semester. 

Semester Unit Maximum

To request permission to take more than 19.5 units in a semester, please see the major adviser.

Semester Limit

Students admitted as freshmen must graduate within 8 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students admitted as transfer students must graduate within 4 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students who go on EAP and UCDC can petition for additional semesters. Summer session, UC Extension and non-UC study abroad programs do not count towards this semester limit. Students approved for double majors or  simultaneous degrees in two colleges may be granted an additional semester. CNR does not limit the number of total units a student can accrue.

Senior Residence Requirement

After the term in which you achieve and exceed 90 units (senior status), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence at the College of Natural Resources over at least 2 semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units taken while the student is a member of CNR. At least one of the two terms must be a fall or spring semester. Senior residence terms do not need to be completed consecutively. All courses offered on campus for the fall, spring, and summer terms by Berkeley departments and programs and all Berkeley online ('W') courses count. Inter-campus Visitor, Education Abroad Program, UC Berkeley Washington Program, and UC Berkeley Extension units do not count toward this requirement.

Students may use Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence Requirement, provided that four units of coursework are completed.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in a fall, spring or summer UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program may meet a modified Senior Residence Requirement by completing 24 of their final 60 semester units in residence (excluding UCEAP). At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after senior status is reached. International travel study programs sponsored by Summer Sessions and education abroad programs offered outside of the UC system do not qualify for modified senior residence.

Most students automatically satisfy the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless students go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through University Extension during their senior year. In these cases, students should make an appointment to see an adviser to determine how they can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Grade Requirements

  • A 2.0 UC GPA is required for graduation.
  • A 2.0 average in all upper division courses required of the major program is required for graduation.
  • A grade of at least C- is required in all courses for the major

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Training in the basic sciences (i.e,. math, physics, chemistry, biology, and statistics).
  2. Training in the fundamental aspects of plant morphology, plant molecular genetics, plant cell biology, and the physiology and biochemistry of plants.
  3. Training in a wider variety of plant and microbial courses, which may be selected by the student to enhance their knowledge in areas of their specific interest.
  4. Training in the essential laboratory techniques associated with genetics and plant biology.
  5. Training students to read and evaluate primary literature in the field of plant biology.
  6. Training students to have a high level of competency in both oral and written presentation of scientific material.
  7. Training students to carry out research projects independently (this includes critical thinking and the development of a hypothesis to test, designing experiments to specifically test their hypothesis, and other aspects of the scientific method including data analysis and interpretation, as well as oral and written presentation of their research).
  8. Training students to appreciate the relationship of their major to the community at large.

Advising

In the College of Natural Resources, we provide holistic, individual advising services to prospective and current students who are pursuing major and minors in our college. We assist with a range of topics including course selection, academic decision-making, achieving personal and academic goals, and maximizing the Berkeley experience.

If you are looking to explore your options, or you are ready to declare a major, double major, or minor, contact the undergraduate advisor for your intended major or minor. Visit our website to explore all of our advising services.

Undergraduate Adviser, Genetics and Plant Biology
Patricia Helyer
phelyer@berkeley.edu
260 Mulford Hall
510-643-9479

Courses

Genetics and Plant Biology

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

Barbara Baker, Adjunct Professor. Biochemistry, genetics, signal transduction, plant and microbial biology, biolomolecular mechanisms of plant resistance to microbial disease, plant pathogen recognition, plant resistance to pathogen diseases, tobacco mosaic virus, agriculture and crops.
Research Profile

Benjamin Blackman, Assistant Professor.

Rachel B. Brem, Associate Adjunct Professor. Genetics of regulatory variation.
Research Profile

Steven Brenner, Professor. Molecular biology, computational biology, evolutionary biology, bioengineering, structural genomics, computational genomics, cellular activity, cellular functions, personal genomics.
Research Profile

Thomas D. Bruns, Professor. Microbial biology, plant biology, fungi, nucleic acid sequences, basidomycetes, ectomycorrhizal fungi communities.
Research Profile

John Coates, Professor.

Devin Coleman-Derr, Assistant Adjunct Professor. Plant, Microbiome, Environmental Stress, Drought, Sorghum.
Research Profile

+ Lewis J. Feldman, Professor. Microbial biology, plant biology.
Research Profile

Robert L. Fischer, Professor. Plant and microbial biology.
Research Profile

Jennifer C. Fletcher, Adjunct Professor. Molecular biology, genetics, gene regulation, stem cells, plant development.
Research Profile

Michael Freeling, Professor. Genetics, genomics, plants, trends in evolution.
Research Profile

N. Louise Glass, Professor. Biofuels, biotechnology, fungal genetics, fungal cell biology.
Research Profile

Britt Glaunsinger, Associate Professor. Virology, gene expression, herpesvirus.
Research Profile

Igor V. Grigoriev, Adjunct Professor. Genomics, fungi, algae, eukaryotes, computational biology, bioinformatics, genome annotation.
Research Profile

Sarah Hake, Adjunct Professor.

Frank Harmon, Associate Adjunct Professor.

Russell L. Jones, Professor. Plant and microbial biology.
Research Profile

Cheryl Kerfeld, Associate Adjunct Professor. Bacterial microcompartments, bioinformatics, photosynthesis, synthetic biology, Structural Biology, carboxysome, cyanobacteria, photoprotection.
Research Profile

Arash Komeili, Associate Professor. Microbiology, Biomineralization, bacterial organelles, Magnetic Nanoparticles.
Research Profile

Peggy G. Lemaux, Cooperative Extension Specialist.

Jennifer Lewis, Assistant Adjunct Professor. Plant-pathogen interactions, plant immunity, type III effector proteins.
Research Profile

Steven E. Lindow, Professor. Microbial ecology, microbial biology, plant biology, plant frost control, bacterial plant diseases, plant disease epidemiology.
Research Profile

Sheng Luan, Professor. Microbial biology, plant biology.
Research Profile

Sheila Mccormick, Adjunct Professor. Molecular biology, genetics, pollen, plant reproduction.
Research Profile

Anastasios Melis, Professor. Photosynthesis, Metabolic Engineering, bioenergy.
Research Profile

Krishna K. Niyogi, Professor. Genetics, plant and microbial biology, algae, photosynthesis, antioxidants.
Research Profile

Markus Pauly, Professor. Cell walls, extracellular matrix, plants, polysaccharides, carbohydrates, lignin, nucleotide sugars, analytical carbohydrate chemistry, plant genomics, enzyme biochemistry.
Research Profile

Daniel A. Portnoy, Professor. Mammalian cells, molecular and cellular basis of microbial pathogenesis, defense against infection, listeria monocytogenes, cell biology of infection, mechanisms of secretion.
Research Profile

Peter Quail, Professor. Plant biology, plant and microbial biology.
Research Profile

Kathleen Ryan, Associate Professor. Bacterial cell cycle regulation, signal transduction, and regulated proteolysis.
Research Profile

Henrik Scheller, Adjunct Professor. Biofuels, polysaccharides, plant cell walls, biochemistry, plant biotechnology, glycosylation.
Research Profile

Kimberly Seed, Assistant Professor.

Kimmen Sjolander, Professor. Computational biology, algorithms, phylogenetic tree reconstruction, protein structure prediction, multiple sequence alignment, evolution, bioinformatics, hidden Markov models, metagenomics, statistical modeling, phylogenomics, emerging and neglected diseases, machine-learning, genome annotation, metagenome annotation, systems biology, functional site prediction, ortholog identification.
Research Profile

Chris Somerville, Professor. Biochemistry, biotechnology, bioenergy, cell biology, biofuels, cell walls, polysaccharides, cellulose, arabidopsis, cellulose synthase.
Research Profile

Shauna Somerville, Professor. Powdery mildew disease, cell wall integrity sensing, plant-fungal interactions, plant cell walls.
Research Profile

Chelsea Specht, Associate Professor. Molecular evolution, adaptation, plant systematics, evolution of development (evo-devo), evolution of form and function, plant morphology, comparative phylogenetics, floral developmental evolution, diversification rates.
Research Profile

Brian J. Staskawicz, Professor. Biotechnology, plant and microbial biology.
Research Profile

Zinmay Sung, Professor. Plant biology, plant and microbial biology.
Research Profile

Michiko Taga, Assistant Professor. Molecular biology, genetics, microbial biology, chemical biology, cofactors, nutrient exchange, microbial communities.
Research Profile

John Taylor, Professor. Evolution, fungi, phylogenomics, mycology, population genomics.
Research Profile

Norman Terry, Professor. Phytoremediation, Bioremediation, environmental cleanup, soil and water, plant biology, microbial biology.
Research Profile

Matthew Traxler, Assistant Professor.

John Vogel, Adjunct Professor.

Mary Wildermuth, Associate Professor.

Patricia Zambryski, Professor. Microbial biology, plant biology, plant intercellular communication via plasmodesmata, Agrobacterium, bacterial type IV secretion.
Research Profile

Daniel Zilberman, Associate Professor.

Emeritus Faculty

Bob B. Buchanan, Professor Emeritus. Biotechnology, environmental policy, plant biology, thioredoxin.
Research Profile

Andrew Jackson, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

111 Koshland Hall

Phone: 510-642-9999

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

John D. Coates

312G Energy Biosciences

Phone: 510-643-8455

jdcoates@berkeley.edu

Associate Chair

Patricia Zambryski

281A Koshland Hall

Phone: 510-643-2903

zambrysk@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Adviser

Patricia Helyer

260 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-643-9479

phelyer@berkeley.edu

Graduate Advisor

Rocio Sanchez

111C Koshland Hall

Phone: 510-642-5167

rocio_s@berkeley.edu

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