Plant Biology

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Graduate Program in Plant Biology is designed to train students in modern research areas of plant biology. Students' courses of study are designed individually, in light of their interests and career goals. The graduate program features an introductory seminar (Faculty Research Review), six five-week core course modules, and additional special topic courses and seminars in areas of faculty specialties. The department has research expertise in the following areas: molecular, cellular, genetic, biochemical, physiological, developmental, and structural biology, and plant-microbe interactions. The core courses cover plant developmental genetics, genomics and computational biology, plant diversity and evolution, plant cell biology, plant biochemistry, and plant systems biology.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Prospective students for the graduate program in plant biology are expected to demonstrate academic excellence and potential for independent scientific research. Students are expected to have a basic background in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology equivalent to those in the undergraduate program. An admissions committee composed of nine to ten members of the department will review applications and make recommendations to the full department on admissions matters. Recommendations for admission will be based on a demonstration of academic excellence and potential for independent scientific research as shown by grades in university-level undergraduate and graduate courses, letters of recommendation, written statements of academic and professional goals, and other evidence of academic accomplishment. 

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement

Normative time to advancement to PhD candidacy is two years.

Year 1
Students perform three laboratory rotations in order to explore areas of research interest and identify a faculty mentor, dissertation project, and laboratory. Students undertake required core classes and attend seminars of interest.

Year 2
Students attend seminars, enroll in core courses, perform their first teaching assignment, and prepare for the PhD qualifying exam which consists of two research proposals and an oral examination. With the successful passing of the qualifying exam, students select a dissertation committee and advance to candidacy for the PhD degree prior to the start of the fifth semester.

Normative Time in Candidacy 

Years 3–5/5.5
Students attend seminars of interest and perform their second teaching assignment. Students conduct original laboratory research for the PhD dissertation with the guidance of their faculty mentor and a self-selected 3 to 4 person dissertation committee. Students are required to meet annually with the dissertation committee. Students write the dissertation based on the results of their research. Upon approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee and Graduate Division, students are awarded the doctorate. There is no formal defense of the completed dissertation; however, students are required to publicly present a talk about their research in the final year.

Total Normative Time

Total normative time to degree is 5–5.5 years.

Time to Advancement


Courses Required
PLANTBI 200APlant Developmental Genetics1.5
PLANTBI 200BGenomics and Computational Biology1.5
PLANTBI 200CPlant Diversity and Evolution1.5
PLANTBI 200DPlant Cell Biology1.5
PLANTBI 200EPlant Biochemistry1.5
PLANTBI 200FPlant-Environment Interactions1.5
PLANTBI 201Faculty Research Review2
PLANTBI 205AIntroduction to Research2-12
PLANTBI 205BIntroduction to Research2-12
PLANTBI 210Scientific Reasoning and Logic1
PLANTBI 292Research Review in Plant and Microbial Biology1
PLANTBI 290Seminar (or equivalent)2
PLANTBI 298Plant Biology Group Studies1-6
PLANTBI 299Graduate Research (multiple)1-12
PLANTBI 375Workshop on Teaching2
PLANTBI 602Individual Study for Graduate Students1-2
Total Units24-61

Professional Development

Research Presentations

All plant biology graduate students are strongly encouraged to present their research annually from the third year and beyond in a public forum. Graduate students attend the Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) department retreat at least once during their graduate studies. Students are encouraged to attend both the Plant and Microbial Biology department retreat and the Graduate Group in Microbiology retreat and present their research. Students are highly encouraged to present during the PMB department student/post-doc seminar series. They are also encouraged to attend national and international conferences to present research. 


Plant biology graduate students are required to teach two semesters. Students are required to teach in two distinctly different classroom settings; specifically, teaching in a large enrollment course (100+) and a small upper division, lab, or low enrollment (< 100) course.

Grant Writing

Students are encouraged to take PLANTBI 297, Grant Writing and Research Presentation.


Plant Biology

Contact Information

Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

111 Koshland Hall

Phone: 510-642-9999

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Chair, Plant & Microbial Biology

Sheng Luan, PhD

Phone: 510-642-6306

Associate Chair

Britt Glaunsinger, PhD

Head Graduate Advisor

Arash Komeili

Phone: 642-4995

Graduate Adviser

Lyn Rivera

Phone: 510-642-5167

Department Manager

Joanne Straley

Phone: 510-642-4080

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