University of Vermont

The Plant Biology Major

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Offered by: CALS Botany and Agricultural Biochemistry Department


Plants play a central role on our planet. Plant biologists are deeply involved with learning about, cultivating, and unlocking the mysteries of the plant world -- from the molecular level to individual plants, whole plant populations, communities and ecosystems.

A Look at Our Program

Our plant biology program emphasizes an introduction to life sciences, spanning the range from biochemistry to organismal biology to ecology, all essential to the study of plant biology. Course work allows you to master subdisciplines in the field, such as molecular biology, biophysics, genetics, ecology, growth and development, physiology, and evolution.

Our program provides an excellent education for a career in plant biology, or in any of the other natural sciences. The flexible curriculum and wide choice of electives lets you tailor your studies to your future goals, spanning everything from research in universities or industry, teaching, or professional positions in the private sector and government.

What Will I Study?

A basic botany major must complete distribution requirements from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that include such courses as communication, computer science, and mathematics. At least 30 hours of courses specific for the botany major are also needed, which include chemistry, biology, genetics, plant ecology and evolution.

Opportunities for Exciting Laboratory Experience

Undergraduate research opportunities abound within the department and include biophysics, phototosynthesis, computer modeling, sequencing DNA, ecology, forest ecosystems, evolution and systematics. Nearly every botany undergraduate works in the laboratory of a professor to gain experience in their chosen field. A student who has worked on a project for a semester or more may compete for a Helix Fellowship or SUGR and FAME Awards. These may support a research project during the academic year or provide a stipend for the summer. In other instances students perform independent research projects for academic credit.

There are also opportunities to work in the Pringle Herbarium, the second largest herbarium in New England, with a collection of 300,000 plant specimens and a library of books, many of them unique to the Pringle. A state-of-the-art computerized greenhouse and modern laboratories also afford a variety of research opportunities. And because UVM is a comprehensive university, student research opportunities extend to a variety of other disciplines as well, such as agriculture, medicine, and liberal arts and sciences.

Regardless of your interests, undergraduate research opportunities are an excellent way to discover first hand, the thrill of doing science. The experience was summed up nicely by a recent botany major who has since gone on to graduate school "Undergraduate research has been the best learning experience that I have encountered in college and has changed the way that I approach science and my education".

Opportunities for Exciting Field Experience

UVM has a rich array of Natural Areas, providing students easy access to a many different ecosystems -- northern woodlands, alpine tundra, lakes, streams and fields. You'll have wonderful opportunities for field studies, from the alpine tundra on the summit of Mt. Mansfield where it is possible to study how plants adapt to an extreme environment, to studying the ecology of Lake Champlain and surrounding areas. For those interested in the Vermont tradition of producing maple syrup, research opportunities are available at the Proctor Maple Research Center, a state-of-the-art laboratory located on the flanks of Mt. Mansfield, where basic research is conducted on the biology of the sugar maple tree. Students also have the opportunity to join ecologists in the department who conduct world-renowned research in invasive species biology and ecosystem-level responses associated with global climate change. In addition, there are opportunities to study abroad. Every other year, David Barrington, one of the world's leading experts on ferns, leads a three-week trip to Costa Rica, where students study the diversity of flowering plants in tropical habitats.

Looking to the Future

An undergraduate degree in botany can lead you into many career fields, with most graduates going into research, government, education and industry. Many students have gone on to graduate school whereas others teach in high school biology, or work as environmental consultants or natural resources managers. A botany degree also prepares you for advanced study in plant biology, biochemistry, ecology, and related fields, or for professional careers in medicine or dentistry. Studying plants is fun - check us out!

  • General Botany
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Plants
  • Plant Molecular Biology
Basic Botany Courses
  • Introduction to Botany
  • The Green World
  • Physiology of the Plant Body
  • Morphology and Evolution of Vascular Plants
  • Systematics and Phylogeny
  • Principles of Genetics
  • Plant Anatomy
  • Plant Ecology
  • Introduction to Wetlands
  • Mineral Nutrition of Plants
  • Biology of Ferns
  • Plant Communities
  • Fundamentals of Field Science
  • Botany Field Trip
  • Ecology of Freshwater Algae
  • Tropical Plant Systematics
  • Microtechnique
  • Principles of Light Microscopy for Biologists
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Genetics of Fungi
  • Advanced Plant Genetics
  • Physiology of the Plant Cell
  • Biology of the Fungi
  • Plant Growth and Development
Faculty and Area of Expertise
David Barrington Systematics of ferns, hybridization and species concepts, biogeography
Ph.D. Harvard University
Brian Beckage Forest ecology, theoretical ecology, statistics
Ph.D. Duke University
Marta Ceroni Ecological database design, biodiversity, forest ecology
Ph.D. University of Parma
Terrence Delaney Arabidopsis molecular genetics, pathogenesis, induced resist ance
Ph.D. University of Washington
Jeanne Harris Plant microbe interactionsgenetics, cell biology, development
Ph.D. University of California, San Francisco
James Hoffmann Ecology, ecological modeling, evolutionary computation
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Jeffrey Hughes Population, community and ecosystem dynamics following disturbance
Ph.D. Cornell University
Philip Lintilhac Plant development biology and morphogenesis
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
Jane Molofsky Plant community ecology
Ph.D. Duke University
Gary Olivetti Plant physiology, mineral nutrition
Ph.D. University of Vermont
Cathy Paris Systematics and evolutionary biology of ferns, biogeograph
Ph.D. University of Vermont
Timothy Perkins Physiological ecology of north-temperate conifers
Ph.D. University of Vermont
Don Stratton Evolutionary biology and ecological genetics
Ph.D. SUNY Stony Brook
Mary Tierney Plant molecular biology, plant development
Ph.D. Michigan State University
Ferdinando Villa Ecological database design, biodiversity, forest ecology
Ph.D. University of Parma
Thomas Vogelmann Biophysics, ecophysiology, photosynthesis
Ph.D. Syracuse University
Chunfang Wei Water relations and biophysics
Ph.D. University of Vermont

Last modified September 10 2007 04:11 PM

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