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Graduate Study in Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Iowa State

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.

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

Degree Coursework Requirements

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)

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

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

Assistantship Information

Leath Presidential Fellowship

Zirakparvar Fellowship

Charles J. Gould Travel Award

AND most conferences offer student travel awards!

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

ISU Graduate Students at a GSO eventGraduate 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!

For more questions, contact the Graduate Program Coordinator:

Dai Nguyen

Dai Dguyen