Jun 25, 2024  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Major, Plant Sciences Concentrations, PhD

Department of Plant Sciences

The Doctor of Philosophy with a major in plant, soil and environmental sciences and concentrations in crop sciences, horticulture, plant breeding, plant molecular genetics, and weed science is offered under a multi-departmental doctoral program. Two departments participate – Plant Sciences and the soils faculty in Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Another concentration within the plant, soil and environmental sciences major is environmental and soil sciences.

Students must select a formal concentration as a focus of study. We recognize that modern research approaches in plant sciences often overlap. Students may specialize in one or more approaches, including plant biotechnology, molecular biology, breeding, genetics, physiology, ecology, culture and management. Research approaches may be applied to model plant systems, public horticulture, turfgrass, weeds, or woody ornamental plants, as well as fruit, vegetable, cereal, grain, or fiber crops.

Concentration (Required)

Crop Sciences
Plant Breeding
Plant Molecular Genetics
Weed Science

Campus Code

Knoxville Campus

Admissions Standards/Procedures

  • Applicants to the PhD program normally will have completed a M.S. degree with thesis before beginning the doctoral program.
  • 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 including reasons for applying to Plant Sciences,
    • answers to a professional bio-sketch self-assessment, 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 3.00 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 dissertation preparation).
  • Dismissal: 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, dissertation 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

  • 72 graduate credit hours beyond the Bachelor’s
  • 48 graduate credit hours beyond the Master’s

Required Courses

  • PLSC 600  (24 credit hours)
  • A minimum of 12 of the 24 credit hours (beyond the Master’s), or 30 of the 48 credit hours (beyond the Bachelor’s), must be graded A-F.
  • 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). 
  • A minimum of 6 credit hours of courses numbered 601 or higher must be taken at the University of Tennessee, excluding PLSC 602 .
  • PLSC 504  (2 credit hours) [for PhD students matriculating in Fall 2020 and thereafter]

  • If approved by the graduate student’s committee, graduate level courses taken at another institution may be used to meet specific coursework requirements.
  • A majority of coursework must be completed at the University of Tennessee

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.

Non-Course Requirements

  • Approval of an acceptable graduate student doctoral advisory committee
    • The major professor, a plant science faculty member at the rank of assistant professor or above and approved to direct doctoral research by the Graduate Council, is chair of the student’s doctoral advisory committee.
    • The student and major professor select the other signatory members of the doctoral committee, which should contain a minimum of three other faculty members at the rank of assistant professor or above, at least one of whom must be from outside the Department of Plant Sciences.
      • Members of the student’s advisory committee are expected to contribute expertise relevant to their academic discipline area, to assist in the planning and approve of course work, aid in formulating an appropriate research project and will assess student achievement and performance toward accomplishing other degree requirements, including the comprehensive exam and dissertation defense.
    • The major professor and two committee members must be approved to direct doctoral research by the Graduate Council.
    • If a minor is sought from another program, the student’s committee must include a faculty member from the minor department.
  • Satisfactory presentation of a research proposal to the department

  • Prepare and defend, to the satisfaction of the student’s committee, a written dissertation proposal with oral presentation to the student’s committee. This task is to be initiated during the first two semesters of graduate study and completed no later than the fourth semester of matriculation, before enrollment in PLSC 600 .
  • Pass both written and oral sections of the comprehensive examination, in which candidates are tested on his/her knowledge of the proposed dissertation and related fields.
  • Prepare and defend, to the satisfaction of the student’s doctoral committee, a written dissertation as well as an oral presentation of the dissertation followed by its oral defense.

Department of Plant Sciences