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Plant Pathology

Administrative Unit:Plant Pathology
College/School: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Admitting Plans:M.S., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors McManus (chair), Allen, Ahlquist, Bent, Charkowski, Clayton, Havey, Jiang, Kaeppler, Keller, MacGuidwin, Rouse, Yu; Associate Professors Ane, Barak, Groves, Jansky; Assistant Professors Gevens, Kabbage, Koch, Rakotondrafara, Silva, Smith


The discipline of plant pathology is directed toward understanding and solving disease problems of plants. The field is broad and complex, integrating disciplines as varied as molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, organismal biology, population and community ecology, meteorology, statistics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Plant pathology encompasses basic and applied research, employs both model systems and economically important plants, and requires both laboratory and field experimentation. Active research programs in the department encompass this full spectrum of questions and approaches, including research on biological control, virology, nematology, fungal genetics, tissue culture, soil microbiology and ecology, forest pathology, bacterial plant pathogens, molecular biology of parasite–host interactions, microbial ecology, epidemiology, and integrated disease management strategies.

The graduate program in plant pathology educates students in the science of plant pathology and prepares them for successful careers. Students develop the following skills required to meet diverse professional situations: excellence in research, breadth and depth in plant pathology, breadth in an allied field, strong critical and analytical thinking skills, and effective communication skills. Students become sufficiently knowledgeable in all aspects of plant pathology to identify key research questions, recognize significant discoveries, and think analytically about interpretation of data.

The level of proficiency in specific areas will vary with the student's research area and career goals, and will be appropriate to the student's degree program (M.S. or Ph.D.). Specific areas of proficiency addressed by the Ph.D. curriculum include etiology, diagnosis, and management of plant disease; ecology and epidemiology; genetics and physiology of plant–microbe interactions; and organismal biology. Ph.D. students may elect an optional professional development experience as part of their curriculum. Graduates of the program attain positions in teaching, research in academic positions, government services, industry, extension services, and private practice.

The program is comprised of about 100 faculty members, graduate students, and research and support staff. It is housed in an eight-story wing of Russell Laboratories, a teaching and research facility on the UW–Madison campus, which is surrounded by other facilities that are also devoted to biological research. Russell Labs, together with the extensive research facilities available on the rest of the UW–Madison campus and at field research stations throughout Wisconsin, provide a rich and comprehensive environment for research and graduate studies in all branches of plant pathology.

Financial Aid

The department offers stipends to the most highly qualified applicants, and in-course students are funded throughout their programs by research assistantships, fellowships, or traineeships. The department nominates outstanding students for external fellowships, and supports and assists students who apply for scholarships and other forms of financial support.


Students who are admitted to the department must meet the Graduate School requirements, including completion of a bachelor's degree which typically consists of courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math. If foundation course requirements have not been fulfilled before matriculation, they must be completed as early as possible in the course of study. Successful applicants typically exceed the minimum requirement of a 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale); exceed the minimum required Test of English as a Foreign Language (iTOEFL) score of 92, or a 7 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam (international applicants); perform well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE); and articulate a strong interest in the discipline in their application. Prior research experience is an asset for any applicant, and letters of recommendation from research advisors are viewed as one of the most useful means of evaluating applications.

The application deadline for the fall semester is the preceding January 2. Applications received after that date will be reviewed, but they are disadvantaged for admission and financial support.

Doctoral Minor

Ph.D. candidates in other majors seeking a doctoral minor in plant pathology must complete a minimum of 9 graduate-level course credits in plant pathology at UW–Madison, while enrolled in a graduate program, and have a plant pathology faculty member serve as the minor professor on their research committees (oral preliminary exam committee and final exam committee). Contact the department for details.

For more information: Graduate Admissions, Department of Plant Pathology, 284 Russell Labs, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-9926; fax 608-263-2626; admissions@plantpath.wisc.edu; www.plantpath.wisc.edu.