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Future graduate students

PBS offers a world-renowned educational experience in the heart of a thriving metropolitan area. Learn more about the program by exploring this website.

About the program

A typical PBS cohort consists of ~7 students. At any given time, there are approximately 40-45 students in the program.

Most M.S. students earn their degree in two years by completing:

  • Two years of coursework (up to 30 credits)
  • Original research

Most Ph.D. students earn their degree in five years by completing:

  • Coursework during years one and two
  • Original research during years two through five
  • At least one teaching assistantship
  • Ongoing participation in seminars and colloquia

Over 55 faculty members hold appointments in a variety of departments within the:

  • College of Biological Sciences (CBS)
  • College of Food, Agriculture, and Nature Sciences (CFANS)
  • United States Department of Agriculture

Faculty research interests include:

  • Population genetics & molecular evolution
  • Plant & fungal development
  • Systematics & biodiversity
  • Genomics & bioinformatics
  • Regulation of gene expression
  • Biochemical & cellular processes
  • Physiological processes
  • Ecophysiology & community function

Students in good academic standing are typically financially supported for up to five years:

  • All first-year students receive either a Research or a Teaching Assistantship ($25,012 as of Fall 2016)
  • For the remaining years, students may receive:
    • Research Assistantships from faculty advisors
    • Training grants
    • Fellowship stipends
Degree Options

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is the cornerstone of the PBS program. See curriculum for more information.

PBS also offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree, including research and up to 30 credits of coursework.


Visit ClassInfo for information on graduate courses and the University Catalog for the complete curriculum.

The PBS experience begins with a week-long orientation at the Itasca Biological Research Station. Amidst the pristine headwaters of the Mississippi River, students participate in wet-lab and field-work modules as they form seedling relationships with their peers and faculty. Rooted in this early shared experience, acquaintanceships and friendships naturally blossom into intellectual collaborations.

PBS faculty members hail from many different departments across the University, creating a uniquely interdisciplinary and immersive experience. Students are empowered to grapple with the fundamentals of plant and fungal biology through a broad spectrum of ever-evolving research approaches and techniques. They begin to apprehend not only how questions have been asked in the past, but also how to formulate their own innovative ideas about everything from molecules to ecosystems.

With the primary literature stationed at the heart of the curriculum, PBS continually advances all of the skill sets essential to scientific discourse. Students employ critical reading and thinking skills to evaluate an expansive and growing body of published work. They develop competency in presenting not just the work of others, but also their own ideas and research findings—in both written and oral formats.

PBS students enjoy the rich opportunity to ask groundbreaking research questions. By working with faculty at the forefront of their fields, utilizing the University’s state-of-the-art facilities, and participating in ongoing seminars and colloquia, students make impactful contributions to the international plant science research community.


PBS community members, a.k.a. “Phytograds,” are a tight-knit group of men and women from all over the world. Join a thriving network of international scientists, get to know your peers, and have some fun while you’re at it.

PBS Mentor Program
PBS pairs each incoming student with a mentor student in their third or fourth year of the program. Mentors help first-year students with moving and acclimating to the Twin Cities, along with any other challenges that arise during the first year of study.

Phytograd Committees
PBS students have the opportunity to join Phytograd committees and get involved by:

  • Planning social events
  • Inviting seminar speakers for program colloquia
  • Hosting international faculty dinners
  • Organizing charitable benefits

Phytograds hold an annual meeting at the beginning of every semester. Please email for more information about getting involved.

Annual Retreat
PBS holds an annual one-day retreat at the Como Conservatory at Como Park. The entire PBS community is invited to attend:

  • First-year student introductions
  • Graduate and post-doctoral research talks
  • Faculty and administrator presentations
  • Poster session
  • Fun activities

Departmental Seminars
In order to help students and faculty keep pace with the rapid accumulation of new knowledge and techniques in modern biological research, Departmental Seminars are held every semester on Tuesdays, from 3:30pm– 4:30pm in 335 Borlaug Hall. Two students serve on the Colloquium Committee, choosing, inviting, and hosting speakers. All students are encouraged to meet with visiting scientists.

Student Seminars
First- and fifth-semester PBS students present at least one formal seminar on their own research plans. First-semester students take this as a for credit course. All faculty and students are encouraged to attend each week’s seminar, creating accountability towards thesis research for the entire graduate community.

Journal Clubs
Weekly journal clubs provide critical in-depth explorations of recent scientific literature for both faculty and students. All students are expected to participate regularly in at least one journal club.