Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food & Environment

Plant Pathology - Graduate



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The Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Kentucky offers graduate study toward the Master of Science or the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Plant Pathology is the study, diagnosis, and management of plant disease. Plant diseases threaten worldwide food security, and cost billions in lost productivity annually. Plant Pathology encompasses a wide array of related disciplines including botany, microbiology, crop science, ecology, biochemistry, biotechnology, and genetics. 

Program Description

The department's philosophy is to provide each student with the training and credentials to maximize employment prospects in the student's area of interest. Even in times of limited employment prospects, this department has consistently placed its graduates in highly desirable professional and academic positions.

The M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are based primarily on independent research. Regular courses provide the underpinnings of Plant Pathology at both a holistic level (such as in epiphytology and plant protection strategies) and a reductionistic level (such as molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis or resistance). Required courses are PPA 400G (for those students without a prior course in Plant Pathology); PPA 500; PPA 600; PPA 640, PPA 641; and the seminar course, PPA 770. The student's Major Professor and Advisory Committee recommend what other courses in various programs will enhance prospects for the student's research and intended career. The M.S. degree requires 24 credit hours of graduate coursework and a successfully defended research thesis. The Ph.D. program requires four terms of residency before the Qualifying Examination, two semesters of post-qualifying residency, and a successfully defended research dissertation.

A student is assigned to a Major Professor either before admission or during the first few months of residence. This assignment is principally based on the student's chosen area of specialization. Under the guidance of the Major Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies, the student chooses an Advisory Committee and begins thesis/dissertation research.
Students gain experience in plant pathology through participation in a variety of activities. All students are required to present formal seminars to the department and are encouraged to present the results of their research at regional and national scientific meetings. Practical experience with plant diseases is gained in Plant Disease Diagnosis (PPA 640), which includes field trips throughout the crop season.

Master's (MS) or Doctoral (PhD) Degree - Application Requirements

  1. CV
    • Standard academic CV
  2. Personal Statement
    • ​The personal statement should describe the applicant's background and interests in Plant Pathology. It should address how the graduate program can help the applicant to meet their specific career goals.
  3. The GRE is not required for admission into this program.
  4. Three letters of recommendation
  5. All of the instructions for applying to our program can also be found on our website at:

Applicants must meet the Graduate School admission requirements.

Application Deadlines

Spring: August 15

Summer: April 15

Fall: March 15

Our Students' Work...

To better understand the interests and areas of study available within the Plant Pathology Department, browse these recent dissertations and theses from our graduates:   

The Roles of Actin Network and Co-Opted Host Factors in TBSV Replication
Melissa Gabriela Molno Medina. 2021

Virus-Induced Changes in Nuclear Proteins and Membranes in Nicotiana Benthamiana Cells 
Caleb Mathias. 2020

Pathogenicity Toxigenic Potential, and Genomics of Fusarium Graminearum and F. Meridionale Causing Ear and Stalk Rot of Maize
Franklin Jackson Machado. 2020

Clubs and Organizations

  • The Association of Plant Pathology Scholars: APPS is the UK Department of Plant Pathology's organization of graduate students, postdocs, and other scholars. This group was established in 2003 to voice graduate student opinions and to keep students informed of new departmental policies; membership has since expanded to include postdocs and visiting scholars. 


Our Research Areas

Plant-microbe interactions and related disciplines may include biochemistry, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and symbiology of plants, microorganisms, and viruses. Basic research focuses on four major areas: 

  • Physiology and Biochemistry of Plant Disease
  • Plant Virology 
  • Molecular Biology; Genetics and Genomics
  • Biology and Ecology of Plant Parasitic Fungi 

Within these major research areas are a broad range of interests and approaches. 

Highlighted Courses

  • PPA 400G Principles of Plant Pathology: To present students with the principles of plant pathology. The causes, effects, control, and nature of plant diseases will be studied; the laboratory will expose students to common diseases and pathogens discussed in lecture. Emphasis will be given to diseases important in Kentucky. Lecture, two hours; laboratory, two hours. 
  • PPA 500 Physiological Plant Health Disease: Physiological and molecular aspects of plant biology underlying interactions with microbial pathogens and symbionts. 
  • PPA 600 Critical Method Plant-Microbe Interactions: The course will provide instruction on experimental methods commonly used in Plant-Microbe Interaction and will train students in critical thinking, grant writing, scientific ethics, and seminar presentation.  
  • PPA 700 Plant Pathology Lab Visits: Semester-long rotations in Plant Pathology laboratories other than the students' "home lab". An opportunity will be provided to apply new approaches that are utilized in those labs to the students' research problems. May be repeated to a maximum of six credit hours.