Petri dishes with cultures


Students extracting RNA
Students extracting RNA from plant tissue

Welcome to the Field of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology, which is managed by the Department of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University.

From our beginnings as one of the first departments of plant pathology in the country, our tradition of excellence has centered on training graduate students for leadership in the field.  As a graduate student in our Department, you will be part of this extraordinary legacy.

We invite you to explore our three program concentrations

Or browse our faculty profiles to see where you would fit into our team.

Graduate Student Research Spotlight

Sara Villani

Sara Vilani

Sara Villani

I am both a research technician and graduate student in the Tree Fruit and Berry Pathology program under the supervision of Dr. Kerik Cox. A key component of my research is monitoring resistance to systemic fungicides in populations of the apple scab pathogen, Venturia inaequalis and developing molecular tools to detect and understand genetic mechanisms underlying DMI and QoI fungicide resistance. Apple scab has historically been one of the most economically devastating diseases of apple in the northeastern United States. In the absence of durable resistance in most of the commercially desirable apple cultivars, fungicide applications are the only means of providing acceptable levels of disease control in the fresh apple market industry. While systemic fungicides are considered advantageous because of their pre-infection and curative activity and their high degree of specificity to fungal pathogens, their highly specific mode of action unfortunately favors the development of resistant isolates and populations. I am interested in understanding the role of cytochrome b mitochondrial heteroplasmy in V. inaequalis in regards to QoI fungicide resistance, the role of drug efflux pumps in multiple or cross resistance to systemic fungicides, and investigating potential explanations for differences in apple cultivars with respect to the development of practical resistance to fungicides. Through this research I hope to transform discoveries of our research into applicable information for stakeholders. In doing so, growers will be better able to refine their apple scab management programs and preserve the efficacy of a limited number of systemic fungicides.