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Field Requirements

Students collecting samples in a vineyard
Students collecting samples in a vineyard

Plant Pathology courses: All students in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology are required to take the following four Core Courses, preferably during the first year:

  • PLPPM 3010 Biology & Management of Plant Diseases, 4 credits, Fall
  • PLPPM 4010 Microbial Pathogens vs. Plants: Molecular Weapons, Defenses, and Rules of Engagement, 3 credits, Spring
  • PLPPM 6810, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Seminar, 1 credit Fall/Spring
  • PLPPM 6820, Graduate Student Research Seminar, 1 credit Fall/Spring

Students with prior coursework in plant pathology may petition to be exempt from taking PLPPM 3010
(see Exceptions or exemptions below).

Beyond the core courses, students are also expected to master a body of knowledge in plant pathology in a chosen Program Area. Degrees are awarded on the basis of the level of scientific competence, knowledge attained, and research accomplishments, not on the number of course credits accumulated. Active participation in discussions of current literature, e.g., in Special Topics courses, is expected of students during their degree program. All students will also be required to complete the online tutorial: Responsible Conduct for Research and any other compliance training mandated by their research activities.

Minor subjects

Students select minor fields of study to broaden their expertise. To satisfy requirements for minor subjects, students usually must take additional courses determined by the special committee.  Minor fields chosen by Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology students vary considerably. The most common minors are listed in the different program areas. For Ph.D. students, at least one of the minors must be in a subject in the life sciences or physical sciences outside of the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology.

Seminar presentations

There are two seminar-presentation experiences required in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. The Graduate Student Seminar (PLPPM 6820) is a forum for presenting research proposals and progress reports in which students develop their presentation skills. Presentations are required annually for all students, except in the first and last years of study.  Second-year students present their thesis and dissertation proposals in the Fall semester. During the last year, students give formal presentations on finished research at the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology seminar. One section seminar is required for each degree earned at Cornell.  Students are expected to attend both seminar series throughout their studies.


Each student must participate in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology teaching program as a teaching assistant for at least one semester for each degree earned at Cornell. If the special committee is not in place, the student, in collaboration with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and his or her major advisor, will identify

lternatively, students may satisfy this requirement by being a teaching assistant for an introductory biology course.

Annual student assessment

By the end of the second semester, each student should have their special committee members identified, and they must convene a special committee meeting. The purpose of this meeting is for the committee to evaluate progress during the past year and for the student to receive guidance for the following year. Note that special committee members can be changed at any time in their Student Center, however, changes after the A Exam require a petition to the Graduate School. Progress is documented in a Student Progress Report (SPR), one part of which is written by the student (a self-evaluation) and the other part of which is written by the major advisor with input from the other committee members. This process is repeated annually. Detailed steps are as follows:

  1. The student schedules their annual committee meeting as well as a follow up meeting with their advisor. The follow up meeting should be within two weeks of the committee meeting.
  2. The student completes their portion of the offline version of the SPR (Standard Form for PhD, Short Form for MS) and shares it with the advisor and other committee members prior to the committee meeting.
  3. Within a few days after the committee meeting, the other committee members send their written comments to the student and to the advisor.
  4. Within 10 days of the committee meeting, the advisor drafts their portion or the SPR, being sure to reflect the comments from the other committee members, and shares their write-up with the student and other committee members.
  5. At the follow up meeting, student and advisor review and discuss the SPR and make any changes for updates necessary, to both the student and advisor sections. Optionally, the document may then be made available to other committee members for further comment or for approval.
  6. Once finalized, student transfers their entries to the Standard Form for PhD, Short Form for MS and submits, then the advisor does the same.

Exceptions or exemptions

A student may petition the Director of Graduate Studies for exemption from any of the requirements stated above. Petitions must be made in writing, with written endorsement from the student's special committee chairperson.

Summary of degree requirements in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology:




Prescriptive interview X X
Special committee* X X
Number of minors* 1 2
Core courses  
PLPPM 3010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases X X
PLPPM 6010 Concepts of Plant Pathology X X
PLPPM 6810 Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Seminar X X
PLPPM 6820 Graduate Student Research Seminar X X
Thesis or dissertation: X X
Final exam* X  
Admission to candidacy exam*   X
B-exam*   X
Graduate student seminar (PLPPM 6820) X X
Section seminar presentations X X
Teaching experience X X
Residency units (semesters) required* 2 6
Annual student assessment X X

*Graduate School Requirements