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Degree options

Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is the cornerstone of the PMB program. Most Ph.D. students earn their degree in five years by:

  • completing coursework during years one and two;
  • conducting original research during years two through five;
  • holding at least one teaching assistantship;
  • participating in professional development opportunities; and
  • attending ongoing seminars and colloquia.

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

  • All first-year students receive either a research or teaching assistantship ($27,480/year as of fall 2022).
  • All incoming students get access to a professional development fund to support participation in professional conferences, workshops, or other professional development opportunities.
  • For the remaining years, students may receive:
    • research assistantships from faculty advisors
    • training grants
    • fellowship stipends
  • Check the financial support page for more information on funding opportunities.

Master of Science

PMB also offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree, which involves two years of coursework (30 credits) and original research. (Please note: Students are admitted to the M.S. program only under special arrangement with a faculty advisor.)

Financial support

Check the financial support page for information on funding opportunities


PMB graduate program faculty members hold appointments in a variety of departments within the College of Biological Sciences (CBS), College of Food, Agriculture, and Nature Sciences (CFANS), and United States Department of Agriculture. This creates 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. 

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


See the PMB Graduate Student Handbook (pdf) for details about the program. Check ClassInfo for information on graduate courses and the University Catalog for the complete curriculum.

The PMB experience begins with a four-day orientation at the University of Minnesota Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories.

With the primary literature at the heart of the curriculum, PMB 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.

PMB 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 an microbial science research community.



The PMB graduate student association, a.k.a. “Phytograds,” is a tight-knit group of students 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. FInd out more about the Phytograds.

Annual retreat

The Phytograds plan and host an annual one-day retreat for the PMB graduate program. The entire PMB community is invited to attend:

  • graduate and post-doctoral research talks
  • faculty and administrator presentations
  • poster session
  • fun activities
PMB mentor program

PMB pairs each incoming student with a mentor-student in 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.


PMB Colloquium

In order to help students and faculty keep pace with the rapid accumulation of new knowledge and techniques in modern biological research, a seminar series is held every semester on Tuesdays, from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. in 105 Cargill Building. Two students serve on the PMB Colloquium Committee, choosing, inviting, and hosting speakers. All students are encouraged to meet with visiting scientists.

Student seminars

First- and fifth-semester PMB 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.