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Washington State University Factsheets

Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Plant Sciences

Program URL: http://mps.wsu.edu/
Faculty working with Students: 42
Students: 50
Students receiving assistantships or scholarships: 100%
Priority deadline:
  • Fall January 10
Campus:
  • Pullman: Yes
Tests required:
  • 550 TOEFL Minimum score
  • 80 TOEFLI Minimum score
  • GRE

Degree Description:

Graduate study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree is offered as an interdepartmental curriculum by graduate faculty from the Departments of Crop and Soil Science, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Molecular Biosciences, Plant Pathology, Biological Sciences, and the Institute of Biological Chemistry. The objectives of the program are to provide the graduate student with a broad knowledge in molecular plant sciences and with research experience in a chosen area within this discipline. Specialization includes cellular and subcellular physiology, the molecular biology and biochemistry of plant-related processes, photosynthesis and photorespiration, nitrogen fixation, phytochemistry, the physiology of vascular plants, metabolism, plant pathogen interactions, hormonal interactions and regulation of growth, crop production physiology, and physiological ecology as well as related areas in agriculture and biology.

Students entering the program must have completed their baccalaureate degree with training in one year each of elementary biology or botany, and physics, chemistry through one semester of organic chemistry and biochemistry, one semester each of molecular plant sciences and genetics, and mathematics (through calculus). Limited undergraduate deficiencies may be remedied by taking the appropriate courses upon enrollment in the graduate program on a provisional basis.

Degree requirements include courses in molecular biology, advanced molecular plant sciences, plant morphology and anatomy, and metabolism. To meet the minimum requirements of core course credit in the Graduate School, elective courses are chosen as approved by the student’s advisor and the supervising committee of graduate faculty. There is no foreign language requirement. Course requirements are drawn from existing courses offered by MPS and cooperating departments and programs. In addition, a seminar is held weekly during each semester.

Policies and procedures of the Graduate School apply to all admissions. Interested students may direct their inquiries to Molecular Plant Sciences or to any participating faculty member. Should the latter route be followed, preference for the Program in Molecular Plant Sciences must be indicated and, if possible, the research area of interest identified.

The program offers flexibility for students with varied backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry, molecular plant sciences, molecular biology, botany, genetics, biology, and the agricultural sciences to pursue advanced training in molecular plant sciences, with independent study and original research in areas of the student’s own interests as the single most important component. The interdisciplinary nature of the program assures the student of interaction with molecular plant scientists representing a wide range of research interests and provides the student with a broad choice of specialized facilities which are available in the cooperating academic units.

Students are typically supported by the program during the first academic year. Financial support during subsequent years will be managed by the administering academic unit. Participating faculty may provide support through individual grants and contracts. Every effort will be made to inform applicants of these opportunities.

Student Learning Outcome:

All graduates will be able to:

  1.  Trainees will gain research expertise that is interdisciplinary, spanning the areas of cellular, molecular and structural biology, and receive focused training in biochemistry, cell  biology, genetics or microbiology. This outcome will be demonstrated by their ability to:
    •  Develop the skills to critically read and evaluate molecular biosciences literature and place new findings in the context of the previous and current research in their  general discipline and specific field of expertise.
    •  Develop testable hypotheses based on an in-depth understanding of previous and current research, and design experimental approaches to successfully test the  hypothesis. Evaluate experimental results critically, including quantitative analyses, and formulate a defensible conclusion. Demonstrate technical competency in  appropriate methodologies from the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics and microbiology.
  2.  Trainees will have opportunities to master various professional skills, particularly in the areas of communication, mentoring and leadership. Success in this outcome will be  demonstrated by students’ ability to:
    •  Communicate their research results and its importance to experts in their field as well as general lay audiences, effectively in both written and oral form.
    •  Understand and follow norms of scientific ethics, including concepts of publication ethics and responsible conduct in research.
    •  Exhibit proficiency in mentoring and teaching, including development of leadership skills.
  3.  SMB will enhance the quality and the number of its graduate student cadre by demonstrating the value of the SMB graduate training experience. Achievement of this outcome will be  demonstrated by:
    • Maintaining and improving the quality of applicants who are recruited into the SMB graduate program, including successful recruiting of underrepresented minority  students and participating in Research Assistantship for Diversity Scholar program (RADS) through the Graduate School and recruiting to NIH-funded pre-doctoral  training grants in Protein Biotechnology. Additionally, being proactive in increasing the success of the STARS program.
    • Providing effective technical and professional training that allows students to complete their participating in Research Assistantship for Diversity Scholar program  (RADS) through the Graduate School and recruiting to NIH-funded pre-doctoral training grants in Protein Biotechnology. Additionally, being proactive in increasing  the success of the STARS program.
    • Sustaining a research infrastructure built around accomplished, innovative faculty dedicated to research and training in an interdisciplinary environment.

Student Opportunities:

NIH Biotechnology Training Program, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS)

Career Opportunities:

Post-doctoral researcher, research institute scientist, industry scientist, assistant professor (academic track)

Faculty Members:

Browse, John A, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Lipid and membrane biochemistry, pathways and regulation of lipid synthesis and membrane formation in higher plants, chilling and freezing tolerance in plants.

Burke, Ian, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Basic aspects of weed biology and ecology with the goal of integrating such information into practical and economical methods of managing weeds in the environment.

Busch, Jeremiah W, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Plant Evolutionary Genetics

Campbell, Kimberly, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member on graduate committee

Research Interests

Wheat breeding for winter survival and frost tolerance, characterization of stress resistance genes and mechanisms, & improvement and genotyping of wheat and barley germplasm for the Western U.S.

Chen, Weidong, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member on graduate committee

Research Interests

Fungal diseases of grain legumes, ecology and epidemiology of grain legume diseases, genetics of host-pathogen interactions

Cousins, Asaph B, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

The ability to monitor and predict how plants both influence and are influenced by future climatic conditions is critical for the health of our planet and for future food production. My research couples molecular biology techniques with plant physiology and mathematical modeling of photosynthesis to understand the mechanistic processes dictating plant-environment interactions.

Dhingra, Amit, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Horticultural genomics, plastid transformation, organelle genomics, photobiology and photosynthesis.

Edwards, Gerald E, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Photosynthesis, including effects of environmental stress and potential global climate change; mechanism and evolution of carbon assimilation

Fellman, John K, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Post-harvest plant physiology and biochemistry of perishable commodities and their products (wine grapes, apples, onions, raspberries, cranberries, asparagus, cassava), studies of perishable shelf life extension, fundamental investigations of how signaling molecules interact with active oxygen species in controlling plant responses.

Ficklin, Stephen, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

System genetics

Gang, David Roger, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Plant specialized metabolism

Gill, Kulvinder, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Understanding the molecular basis of chromosome pairing control in polyploids, genome organization of grass species including localizing and demarcating gene-containing regions, molecular characterization of agronomically important genes including disease resistance genes, and extent and distribution of recombination in crop plants.

Gleason, Cynthia, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Plant parasitic nematodes, root-know nematodes, interactions with host plants.

Hadwiger, Lee A, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Genetic engineering of disease resistance in plants, gene activation in fungi and plants, signaling in host- parasite interactions

Hellmann, Hanjo Alfred, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Plant Physiology/Stress Response

Hulbert, Scot Howard, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Management of diseases and pests through genetics and modifications of cropping systems. Genetic and molecular basis of race specific and nonspecific resistance in cereal crops. Methods for the development of cultivars with resistance that remains effective. Molecular mechanisms used by fungal pathogens to attack cereal crops. Development of cropping systems that are profitable but conservation oriented.

Kahn, Michael L, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Biochemistry, genetics and physiology of metabolism in the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between rhizobia and legume plants.

Kalyanaraman, Anantharaman, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Computational biology and bioinformatics; high-performance computing; combinatorial pattern matching.

Kang, Chulhee, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

SR Calcium Regulation in Cardiac Muscle
Biochemical approaches for cancer-associated proteins and UV-damaged DNA to develop anticancer drugs. Enzyme and Plant engineering for effective generation for biofuel.

Kirchhoff, Helmut, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Photosynthesis, Molecular Architecture and Dynamics of Photosynthetic Membranes

Knoblauch, Michael, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Plant Cell Biology and the physiology of plant tissues, especially the phloem

Knowles, Norman R, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Crop growth and development, postharvest physiology and biochemistry of vegetable crops, with a current major emphasis on potatoes

Kunz, Hans Henning, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Investigate chloroplast ion transport and homeostasis, discover and characterize new chloroplast ion transporters, design of organelle specific gene family targeting amiRNA library

Lange, Bernd M, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Characterizing the interface between primary and secondary metabolic pathways, with particular emphasis on the biosynthesis of terpenoids.

Lewis, Norman G, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Bichemistry of natural and medicinal products in plants, biochemistry of plant cell-wall synthesis and unique plant constituents, effects of gravity on metabolic pathways in plants.

McCubbin, Andrew, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

The research in our lab is centered on the developmental processes and signaling events associated plant reproduction. Presently we have 2 main foci, first signaling events involved in pollen tube growth, in particular to role of calcium dependent protein kinases (CDPK’s) in signal transduction in this process. Pollen tubes extend by tip-growth and it is well established that there is a steep tip focused calcium gradient and there is evidence that CDPK isoforms may by involved in downstream signaling events. We are investigating this using negative dominance and catalytically modified CDPK constructs as well as searching for CDPK substrates using the yeast 2-hyrid system.

Neff, Michael, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular, genetic and biochemical approaches to uncover and describe the interactions between various signaling pathways that modulate plant development.

Okita, Thomas W, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Biochemistry of starch synthesis and protein localization; metabolic genetic engineering of plants for increased productivity; mRNA localization and the role of the cytoskeleton and endoplasmic reticulum

Okubara, Patricia, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member on graduate committee

Research Interests

Host genes governing plant-microbe interactions, molecular basis of disease resistance and biological control of cereal root pathogens

Pappu, Hanu, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Virus genomics and proteomics, plant-virus interactions, molecular epidemiology, crop biotechnology/virus resistant transgenic plants

Peever, Tobin, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular, population and evolutionary genetics of plant pathogenic fungi, fungal mating systems, molecular systematics of fungi, fungal ecology and epidemiology, legume diseases

Poovaiah, B W, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Calcium/calmodulinmediated signaling in plants, particularly the functional significance of genes involved in this signal network.

Roalson, Eric, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular phylogenetics, genomics, and evolutionary origins of characters of interest, notably photosynthetic pathway novelties

Roje, Sanja, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Metabolism of tetrahydrofolate-bound one-carbon units in plastids; biosynthesis of riboflavin in plants

Sanguinet, Karen, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Research focus on factors that modulate growth and development. Study of root architecture of the Pooideae subfamily of temperate grasses using developmental, genetic and genomics approaches.

Smertenko, Andrei, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Our work combines a variety of complex investigative procedures including biochemical techniques, molecular biology, genetics, live cell imaging, and cell biology. The findings of our projects will be harnessed for the development of new technologies aiming at improving traits of crops and industrially important plant species.

Steber, Camille M, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member on graduate committee

Research Interests

Characterization of stress resistance genes and mechanisms, & improvement and genotyping of wheat and barley germplasm for the Western U.S.

Tanaka, Kiwamu, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular plant-microbe interactions and plant innate immunity

Tegeder, Mechthild, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular and physiological mechanisms of nitrogen transport; regulation of transport; flower/seed development; plant productivity

Thomashow, Linda S, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member on graduate committee

Research Interests

Molecular genetics of bacterial-plant and bacterial-fungal interactions.

Wyrick, John Jason, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Regulation of eukaryotic genome expression, histone acetylation, and the development of new functional genomic and bioinformatic tools.

Zhang, Zhiwu, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair on graduate committee

Research Interests

Research focusing on developing statistical methods and computing tools to advance biomedical researches toward improved healthcare management and sustainable food production.

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