Plant Biology

Pressures of development, particularly in tropical countries, are causing an alarming increase in the rate of species extinction, making the current resurgence in systematics especially timely. Given the reasonable estimate that systematists have only discovered and named perhaps 10% of the species on earth, and the fact that only a tiny fraction of those species have been studied in any detail, there is much work to be done in a short time. Many species will go extinct before we even know them; it is no wonder that systematists feel as though they are watching a huge, diverse library burn down before a card catalog has been prepared (or before anyone has read even 1% of the books!). Newly developed methods for data gathering and analysis of phylogenetic relationships position us on the threshold of a deep understanding of the history of the biological world. Loss of biological diversity is thus a disaster, both from an economic standpoint (How many organisms useful for food, medicine, or technology will go extinct?) and from a broader intellectual standpoint (How did the diversity of species come to be the way it is?).

Systematists must have technical skills to extract information at all levels of inquiry (e.g., morphology, cytology, genetics, DNA sequences, organic chemistry, anatomy, ecology) and the theoretical background to interpret it correctly. Modern biological systematics integrates a diverse array of disciplines ranging from molecular, cell and developmental biology, to ecology and evolutionary biology. Data-gathering techniques include DNA sequencing, protein electrophoresis, electron and light microscopy, controlled growth experiments, and field studies of ecology and distribution. Analytical methods are computer intensive: hardware such as digitizing tablets and video cameras are used for automated description of morphology (morphometrics), multivariate statistics are used to describe and compare species and other taxa, numerical cladistic programs are used for phylogeny reconstruction.

Specialists are needed in all groups of plants, flowering plants as well as the less heavily studied algae, mosses, ferns and fungi (including lichens). This concentration is appropriate for students planning graduate studies in these areas. More immediate employment possibilities are in the National Park Service, state and natural heritage and endangered plant programs, private consulting firms, conservation organizations, botanic gardens, and herbaria. Systematic biology is a good way to indulge urges to travel, do science, and contribute to society, all at the same time.

Students fulfilling the requirements of the Concentration in Plant Biology will receive a note on their official transcript.

Area Advisor

Area Advisore Area Faculty
Dr. Paul Manos, Department of Biology
phone: 660-7358 e-mail:

Benfey, Bernhardt, Chen, Dong, Donohue, Lutzoni, Manos, Mitchell-Olds, Pei, Pryer, Rausher, Shaw, Sun, Vilgalys, Willis, Wright




For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • CHEM 101DL Core Concepts in Chemistry OR
  • CHEM 110DL Honors Chemistry: Core Concepts in context OR
  • CHEM 21 General Chemistry Credit
  • CHEM 101DL Core Concepts in Chemistry OR
  • CHEM 110DL Honors Chemistry: Core Concepts in context OR
  • CHEM 21 General Chemistry Credit
  • CHEM201DL Organic Chemistry

NOTE: CHEM 210DL and CHEM 202L are recommended for pre-med, pre-vet, biochem and pharm students.


For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • MATH 111L Laboratory Calculus I OR
  • MATH 121 Introductory Calculus I OR
  • MATH 21 Introductory Calculus I OR
  • BOTH MATH 105L/106L Laboratory Calculus and Functions I and II
  • BOTH MATH 105L/106L Laboratory Calculus and Functions I and II OR
  • MATH 111L Laboratory Calculus I (OR Math 21 or 112L or 122) OR
  • STA 102 Introductory Biostatistics  OR
  • BIOLOGY 304 (204) Biological Data Analysis (cannot be double counted as an elective) OR
  • STA 101 or above Data Analysis/Statistical Inference
  • MATH 112L Laboratory Calculus II OR
  • MATH 122 Introductory Calculus II OR
  • MATH 22 Introductory Calculus II OR
  • STA 102 Biostatistics OR STA 101 or higher OR
  • BIOLOGY 304 Biological Data Analysis (cannot also count as an elective)



For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • PHYSICS 141L General Physics I OR
  • PHYSICS 151L Introductory Mechanics OR
  • PHYSICS 161L Introductory Experimental Physics I OR
  • PHYSICS 25 (AP credit)
  • No physics required.

NOTE: PHYSICS 142L is recommended for pre-med, pre-vet, biochem and pharm students.

Biology Major Requirements (minimum 10 courses)

The following courses are required for students pursuing both the B.S. and B.A. biology credentials.

Gateway Courses (2 or 1 courses)

The gateways are not sequenced and can be taken in either order.


  • BIOLOGY 203L Molecular Biology, Genetics & Evolution (prerequisite: Biology AP 5 and Chem 101D or equivalent)

Plant Biology Area Requirements (3 courses)

Select 1 course from EACH of the following three areas. Courses listed in more than one area may only be used to meet one area requirement.

Electives (5 or 6 courses)

A maximum of 2 independent studies or tutorials may count toward the major.

Lab Experience Requirement

Through your area and elective courses, you must take at least 2 full lab courses in addition to the gateway courses. Courses must be at the 200 level or above. A maximum of 1 independent study may count as a lab course.

Capstone Course Requirement

You must take at least 1 full 400-level or higher biology 'Capstone' course or other approved capstone course. Independent study can count towards this requirement if it is a second semester continuation.