May 28, 2024  
2013-2014 Graduate Catalog 
2013-2014 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Plants, Soils, and Insects Major (BESS), PhD

Environmental and Soil Sciences Concentration

A doctorate with a major in plants, soils, and insects and a concentration in environmental and soil sciences is offered under a multi-departmental doctoral program. Three departments participate – Plant Sciences, Entomology and Plant Pathology, and the soils faculty in Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Other concentrations within the plants, soils, and insects doctoral program include bioactive natural products, crop sciences, entomology, horticulture, integrated pest management, plant breeding, plant molecular genetics, plant pathology, and weed biology. Focus areas in the environmental and soil sciences concentration include soil and water chemistry; nutrient management; pedology, genesis and classification; environmental climatology; soil biology and biochemistry; and soil physical processes. See the environmental and soil sciences doctoral concentration home page for additional information,, or contact a faculty member in the area of interest.


To the Office of Graduate Admissions submit online application, application fee, official transcripts, and scores from the general portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The online application procedure will also direct the applicant to submit an updated resume, three letters of reference (or three Graduate Rating Forms) from persons capable of assessing the applicant’s suitability for graduate work, and a statement of professional goals, research interests in environmental and soil sciences, and reasons for applying (less than one page).


The student and the major professor will select a minimum of three additional faculty, holding the rank of assistant professor or above, to serve on the student’s doctoral committee. The major professor and two committee members must be approved to direct doctoral research by the Graduate Council. At least one member of the committee must be from outside the department. The doctoral committee must be formalized by the end of the second semester of graduate study.

An approved program of study must be submitted by the end of the second semester of graduate study. A candidate for the doctoral degree must complete a minimum of 24 hours of graduate course work beyond the master’s degree.  Candidates not having a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 48 hours of graduate course work beyond the baccalaureate degree, 24 hours of which must be numbered 503 or higher. A minimum of 12 of the 24 hours, or 30 of the 48 hours, must be graded A-F. At least 9 hours of the student’s course work must be from outside the environmental and soil sciences concentration and a minimum of 6 hours of courses numbered 601 or higher, excluding ESS 603 , must be taken at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addition, 24 hours of course ESS 600  Doctoral Research and Dissertation are required.

Satisfactory preparation of a written dissertation proposal and an oral defense to the student’s committee are required. These must be completed during the first two semesters of graduate study and before enrollment in 600.

Both written and oral sections of the comprehensive examination must be passed. The candidate will be tested on his/her knowledge of the proposed dissertation and related fields. The student is expected to be conversant in the wide area of soil and environmental sciences.

ESS 603  must be taken three times during the course of the program, the last of which must be in the student’s final semester before graduation.

Preparation of a written dissertation and its oral defense to the student’s doctoral committee are required.