Jun 22, 2024  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Plant Sciences Major, MS

Both thesis and project options are available for the major in plant sciences, each guided by a graduate committee consisting of the major professor and two or more other faculty members. Studies are possible across a wide variety of crop commodities, including fruits, vegetables, weeds, cereals, grains, turfgrass, ornamental plants, and public horticulture. Plant sciences students can undertake research to address challenges related to plant protection, molecular biology, breeding, genetics, biotechnology, physiology, ecology, culture, and management. Students must select a formal concentration as a focus of study.

Concentrations (Required) and Options Available

Crop Sciences — Thesis, Project

Horticulture — Thesis, Project

Plant Breeding — Thesis, Project 

Plant Molecular Genetics — Thesis, Project 

Weed Science — Thesis, Project

Campus Code

Knoxville Campus

Admissions Standards/Procedures

  • To be considered for admission, students should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with evidence of ability to do work of graduate quality.
  • Successful applicants to the Plant Sciences Graduate program are expected to have at least a 3.00 GPA on a 4.00 scale.
    • Prerequisite courses may be required by the faculty mentor and graduate student advisory committee if the applicant has insufficient background.
  • To the Office of Graduate Admissions submit an online application (with non-refundable application fee), official transcripts, and scores from the general portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and TOEFL or IELTS, if applicable.
    • The online application procedure will direct the applicant to submit an updated resume or CV, a short statement of professional goals and reasons for applying to Plant Sciences, and contact information for three evaluators who will provide letters of reference.
    • References should be capable of assessing the applicant’s suitability for graduate work in plant sciences.
  • Final admission is contingent upon the applicant contacting and obtaining a commitment from a graduate research faculty member to serve as his/her graduate mentor (major professor).

Academic Standards

  • Students must be fully committed to their graduate program, are expected to participate in departmental activities, including seminars, outreach functions, and professional development activities, and assume full responsibility for knowledge and compliance with rules and regulations of the Graduate Council and Department.
  • Retention and continuing access to graduate assistantship and stipend support may be dependent on the student maintaining a 3.0 cumulative grade point average in graduate courses taken at UT and completing other milestones in a timely manner (e.g., forming a committee, completion of coursework, submitting a research proposal, making progress in project or research objectives, and thesis preparation).


  • In addition to failure to meet UT Graduate School expectations leading to academic probation, other reasons for dismissal include failure to make adequate progress towards other degree requirements (e.g., research project, thesis preparation), academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, falsification of data), or other forms of gross misconduct as identified by the Office of Equity and Diversity, Human Resources, Dean of Students’ Office, Hilltopics, or Graduate Council. Dismissal will be accomplished by written notice to the student with a copy to the Graduate School.

Credit Hours Required

  • Thesis Option: minimum of 30 graduate credit hours
  • Project Option: minimum of 34 graduate credit hours

Required Courses

  • Thesis Option Requirement
    • PLSC 500  (6 credit hours)
    • At least 14 of these credit hours must be numbered 501 or above
  • Project Option Requirement
    • PLSC 503  (2 to 4 credit hours)
    • At least 22 of the 34 credit hours must be at the 500 level or above
  • Successful completion of 12 credit hours of graded course work in the major at the graduate level (400 or above), exclusive of Plant Sciences PLSC 500  (Project Option only), PLSC 502  (Thesis and Project Option), and PLSC 503  (Thesis Option only).
  • Graduate, graded, program elective coursework will be selected by the student in consultation with the major advisor and advisory committee.  Choice of courses associated with program electives are project/research based, may be from PLSC and from disciplines outside the major, including
    • AGNR (Agriculture and Natural Resources),
    • ALEC (Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications),
    • ANSC (Animal Sciences),
    • AREC (Agricultural and Resource Economics),
    • BCMB (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology),
    • CSE (Cultural Studies in Education),
    • EPP (Entomology and Plant Pathology),
    • ESS (Environmental and Soil Sciences),
    • EEB (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology),
    • FDSC (Food Science),
    • FORS (Forestry),
    • FWF (Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries),
    • LAR (Landscape Architecture),
    • LFSC (Life Sciences),
    • MICR (Microbiology),
    • STAT (Statistics) and
    • TPTE (Theory and Practice in Teacher Education). 

Additional Course Requirements

  • An understanding of research ethics is also required. This departmentally-enforced requirement may be achieved through either:
    • Coursework (e.g., PLSC 525 /ANSC 525 /CEM 525 ; BCMB 614 ; PSYC 660 ) or,
    • Knowledge gained via online (CITI RCR) training, as evidenced by presenting a valid CITI RCR certificate to the Graduate Director upon submission of the Application to Candidacy form.
      • CITI RCR training should be completed by the end of the third academic semester
      • For research involving human subjects, CITI IRB certification may also be required.
      • Students undertaking laboratory research and projects involving chemical use/exposure should complete online Chemical Safety Training by the end of their first or second academic semester.
  • If approved by the graduate student’s advisory committee, graduate level courses taken at another institution (that were not used to meet degree requirements for a previous degree) may be used to meet specific coursework requirements.
  • The majority of coursework must be completed at The University of Tennessee.

Non-Course Requirements

  • Thesis Option
    • Approval of an acceptable master’s graduate student advisory committee
    • If a minor is sought from another program, the student’s advisory committee must include a faculty member from the minor department.
    • Members of the student’s advisory committee are expected to contribute expertise relevant to their academic discipline area, to assist in the planning of course work, aid in formulating an appropriate research project and will assess student achievement and performance toward accomplishing other degree requirements, including the thesis defense.
    • Approval of the academic program by the master’s committee
    • Satisfactory preparation of a written thesis proposal and its oral defense to the student’s committee.
    • Satisfactory preparation of a written thesis and its oral defense to the student’s graduate committee.
  • Project Option
    • Satisfactory completion of a project, preparation of a written report summarizing the project, and its oral defense to the student’s advisory committee.
    • Passing written and oral examinations covering the project and course work.