Graduate Study in Plant Pathology and Microbiology

The Seedcare Institute Fall GroupPlant pathology is an exciting field that combines knowledge from various scientific disciplines to keep our plants healthy and productive. Visit the American Phytopathological Society to learn more about our field and its opportunities. The PPEM Department at Iowa State University aims to benefit society by protecting and enhancing plant health. Please visit our About page to learn more about our department and Iowa State University.

Our laboratory research ranges from applied field-based programs to basic fundamental science endeavors.  

Organisms of interest: Bacteria, Fungi, Nematodes, & Viruses

Areas of study: Pest Management and Detection; Modeling and Epidemiology; Ecology and Organismal Biology; Genetics, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Plant-Microbe Interactions.

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Program Requirements

Academic Requirements

Both the Graduate College and PLPM require students to maintain a 3.0 GPA. Graduate students must maintain full-time status to retain stipend and tuition support. Full-time status is at least nine credits per semester and one credit during the summer. M.S. students must complete 30 credits in order to graduate, Ph.D. students must complete 72 credits. Credits are earned through coursework and thesis/dissertation research.

Degree Coursework Requirements
*A course may not be used to complete the oral communication requirements and the teaching/extension requirement.
Degree & Number of Courses RequiredCoursesTopic
MS & PhD - All Required

PLP 508 Principles of Plant Pathology (3 cr.) (for students with no previous plant pathology coursework)

PLP 506 Plant-Pathogen Interactions (2 cr.)

PLP 530 Ecologically-based Pest Management Strategies (3 cr.)

PLP 597 Laboratory Methods in Plant Pathology (1 cr.)

Oral communication course, a writing course, or a colloquium such as:
PLP 628 Improving Professional Presentation Skills (2 cr.)

PLP 698 Plant Pathology Seminar (1 cr.)
*MS - 4 semesters
**PhD - 6 semesters

Gr St 565 Responsible Conduct of Research (1 cr.)

General Plant Pathology

Plant-Pathogen Interactions

Plant Disease Epidemiology and Management

Plant Pathology Methods

Communication & Critical Thinking


 Research Conduct

MS - 2 Courses
PhD - 3 Courses

PLP 512 Lifestyles of Plant Pathogenic Fungi (2 cr.)

PLP 509 Plant Virology (2 cr.)

PLP 577 Bacterial-Plant Interaction (3 cr.)

PLP 574 Plant Nematology (2 cr.)

Biology and Plant Pathogens
MS & PhD - 1 Course

PLP 511 Integrated Management of Tropical Crops (3 cr.)

PLP 552 Integrated Management of Disease and Insect Management of Turf (3 cr.)

PLP 691 Field Plant Pathology

PLP 692 Molecular Biology of Plant-Pathogen Interactions (3 cr.)

PLP 594/594L Seed Pathology ( 3 cr.)

Plant Pathology Electives
PhD OnlyTeaching or Extension Experience (e.g. PLP 581, 590, paid TAship (1 cr. or equiv.)Teaching

Minor in Plant Pathology

For M.S. students: Two 500/600 level courses and one semester of Plant Pathology Seminar (PLP 698). For Ph.D. students: Three 500/600 level courses and two semesters of Plant Pathology Seminar (PLP 698). Your committee must approve a minor and you must have a representative from PLPM on your committee. Your minor must be tested during the preliminary exam (Ph.D.) and final oral exam (M.S. and Ph.D.). 

Course Offerings

 A full list of course offerings can be found on the ISU Course Catalog

Course sequence (all Pl P courses offered in alternate years except Pl P 408/508)


Laboratory methods (597)

Plant Virology (509)

Plant-pathogen interactions (506)

Nematology (574)

Extension experience (581)

Seed pathology (594)

Plant pathogenic fungi (512)

Bacteriology (577)

Field plant pathology (691)

Disease management (530)

Molecular plant pathology (692)

How to Apply

We suggest prospective graduate students contact a few faculty members that they would consider as their major professor/advisor before applying. Doing this will help the student further understand the research interests of that faculty member, whether or not the faculty member has openings in their lab for a new student, and if the faculty member has funding to support a new student.

There are two routes students can take to join a laboratory in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Students can directly apply to the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology for either a Masters of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Plant Pathology OR students can apply for study with one of Iowa State’s interdepartmental graduate programs and choose to conduct their research in a plant pathology laboratory.

  • Certain research labs require a stronger background in genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, for example. Therefore, these labs prefer students whose graduate degree program requires more of those courses.
  • Contact prospective faculty members before applying to determine which is the best course of study for you.

To apply for a degree in Plant Pathology, visit the Graduate College Plant Pathology Application page to get started. The Graduate College handles all applications for graduate study.

Admission Requirements
Formal admission requirements are set by the Graduate College, and PPEM follows those minimum requirements.

Application Materials
All applications are processed through the Graduate College. Applications that meet the minimum requirements will then be forwarded to PPEM. 

  • Graduate College application form
  • Official academic transcripts
  • Statement of purpose - A letter describing the applicant's academic background, previous research experience, research interests, and career goals. 1-2 pages
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
  • TOEFL scores (international, non-native English-speaking students only)

When to Apply

For full consideration of fellowship opportunities, we suggest students submit their application by the following dates:

  • Fall Admission - January 15th
  • Summer Admission - January 15th
  • Spring Admission - August 1st

Funding Opportunities

For more information about funding opportunities and graduate student financial aid, please visit our student financial aid page.

Graduate Student Resources

ISU Graduate Students at a GSO event

Graduate Student Organization

The Plant Pathology Graduate Student Organization (GSO) seeks to encourage learning and research in plant pathology through sponsoring and providing an arena for the communication of plant pathology information from research of interest. This is accomplished by helping organize weekly seminars during the academic year, hosting an annual summer retreat, and organizing informal social events. Every student in the department is considered a member of the GSO. Elections for officer positions are held in December every year. 

Check out our Plant Pathology Student Organization website for more information. Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and take a look at all the fun we have!

Graduate Student Handbook

For a complete description of student guidelines in the department, please refer to the Graduate Student Handbook. For more information about the Graduate College policies, please refer to Iowa State University Graduate Student Handbook


For more questions, contact the Graduate Program Coordinator:

Dai Nguyen

Dai Dguyen