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Suggested courses for graduate students in the Field of Plant Breeding

This listing is intended to assist in selection of suitable courses toward the plant breeding Ph.D. degree, not to provide rigid requirements. Students must also complete appropriate course work for their minor fields. Some of the courses listed below will contribute to specific minor requirements.

All students should have basic mastery of current knowledge in background areas that form a foundation for Plant Breeding, as listed in Table A. Many students will have done some relevant course work recently in their B.S. or M.S. studies. Those who have not should take the courses that fit their particular needs.

Table A: Important background knowledge for all Ph.D. candidates in the Field of Plant Breeding

Topic Suggested Cornell course work as needed
Strong course in modern genetics BIOMG 2800 (Lectures in Genetics and Genomics). NOTE: This is the same as BIOMG 2810 (Genetics) but without the lab. Fall, Spring, Summer, 3 credits
Biochemistry: 4 options BIOMG 3300 (Biochemistry, individualized instruction). Fall or Spring, 4 credits
BIOMG 3310 (Proteins & Metabolism), Fall, 3 credits PLUS BIOMG 3320 (Molecular Biology), Spring, 2 credits
BIOMG 3330 (Proteins, Metabolism, & Molecular Biology). Summer 8-week session, 4 credits
BIOPL 4620 (Plant Biochemistry). Spring, 3 credits
Soil science CSS 2600 (Soil Science). Fall, 4 credits, includes lab
Plant pathology PLPA 3010 (Biology & Management of Plant Diseases). Fall, 4 credits
Whole plant systems BIOPL 3420 (Plant Physiology). Spring, 3 credits

Table B lists recommended Cornell courses directly relevant to Plant Breeding. There is considerable flexibility in courses a student might choose, based upon the student’s interests.

Table C presents a third grouping of courses to consider. These enrich the student’s mastery of disciplines allied with Plant Breeding. Students might choose some of these courses from interest or to fulfill requirements of one of their minor fields.

Table D provides a fourth grouping of topics/areas of activity that provide Plant Breeding experience through course work, rotations, internships, or other methods.

Note: If courses are co-listed in Plant Breeding and another department (e.g. Plant Biology), students should sign up under the PLBR number.

Table B: Recommended Cornell courses directly relevant to plant breeding

These courses address the major areas that a plant breeding graduate should master. Emphasis on some topics may differ among students, depending on their thesis projects and career goals.

Topic Suggested course work
Overall current breeding information PLBR 6220 (Plant Breeding Seminar), Fall & Spring, 1 credit. Graduate students must sign up and attend each semester unless they are taking a course in another department scheduled at the same time or are working off campus
Basic plant breeding PLBR 4030 (Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants). Fall, 3 credits.
REQUIRED, unless student recently took an equivalent course at another institution.
Plant breeding methods

PLBR 4060 (Methods of Plant Breeding Laboratory) Fall, 2 credits.
REQUIRED, unless student recently took an equivalent course at another institution.

PLBR 6100 (Practicum in Plant Breeding) Fall, 1-3 credits. NOTE: This course is strongly recommended for students whose program does not have a field component

Advanced plant genetics PLBR 6060 (Advanced Plant Genetics). Spring, 3 credits.
Quantitative genetics PLBR 7170 (Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding). Spring, even years, 3 credits.
Basic statistics BTRY 6010 (Statistical Methods I), unless well covered in previous studies. Fall, 4 credits.
Research credits: students sign up for appropriate number of research credits each semester PLBR 8900 (Master’s-Level Thesis Research). Fall & Spring, variable credit.
PLBR 7900 (Graduate-Level Dissertation). Fall & Spring, variable credit. For Ph.D. candidates pre-A exam.
PLBR 9900 (Doctoral-Level Dissertation Research). Fall & Spring, variable credit. For Ph.D. candidates post-A exam.
Advanced plant breeding Several courses from the following list: Ph.D. candidates to take more courses than M.S. candidates. Course selection will vary according to student’s areas of work, background, minors, etc. PLBR 4070 (Nutritional Quality Improvement of Crop Plants). Fall, 1 credit.
PLBR 4091 (Molecular Basis of Phenotype in Plant Breeding and Genetics). Spring, 1 credit.
PLBR 4092 (Introduction to Scripting and Statistics for Genetics Data Management). Spring, 1 credit.
PLBR 4093 (QTL Analysis: Mapping Genotype to Phenotype in Practice). Spring, 1 credit.
PLBR 4826 (Genetically Engineered Crops: Products, Policies & People). Spring, alternate odd years, 1 credit.
PLBR 7160 (Perspectives in Plant Breeding Strategies). Spring, odd years, 3 credits.
NOTE: PLBR 7160 is strongly recommended for all students.

Table C:  Additional important areas. Courses chosen will depend on student's background, interests, minor fields, etc.

Topic Suggested course work
Other advanced courses about plants BIOPL 4220 (Plant Development). Fall, 2 credits.
BIOPL 4620 (Plant Biochemistry). Spring, 3 credits
More statistics BTRY 4140 (Statistical Methods IV: Applied Design). Spring (alt. years?), 4 credits
BTRY 6020 (Statistical Methods II). Spring, 4 credits.
BTRY 6030 (Statistical Methods III). Spring, 4 credits.
BTRY 6700 (Applied Bioinformatics & Systems Biology). Fall, 4 credits.
BTRY 6820 (Statistical Genomics). Spring, 4 credits.
BTRY 6830 (Quantitative Genomics & Genetics). Fall, 4 credits.
BTRY 6840 (Computational Genomics). Fall alternate years, 4 credits.
More genetics, evolution, etc. PLBR 4831 (Concepts/Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology). Fall, 3 credits
BIOEE 1780 (Evolutionary Biology & Diversity). Fall, Spring, 4-5 credits.
BIO EE 3690 (Chemical Ecology). Spring, 3 credits.
BIOPL 4470 (Molecular Systematics). Fall, 3 credits.
BIOMG 4810 (Population Genetics). Fall, 4 credits.
PLBR 4831 (Concepts/Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology) Fall, 3 credits

Table D: Areas in which plant breeding students should gain experience, either by course work, rotations, internships or other methods 

Area Suggested course work
Field & greenhouse experience with plants PLBR 6100 (Practicum in Plant Breeding). (see Table B)
Lab experience Rotations or internships for experience with lab-based evaluations of genotypes or phenotypes for students doing field-based theses
International experience: Particularly important for students interested in working internationally IARD 2020 (Perspectives on International Agriculture & Rural Development). Fall, 3 credits.
IARD 4020 (Agriculture in Developing Nations I). Fall, 2 credits.
IARD 6020 (Int. Agriculture in Developing Nations). Spring, 3 credits. Research-related travel.
Ethics Beneficial for both applied and basic graduate students.
Management, business, etc. Students considering work in the seed industry would benefit from some management or business exposure. Some choose to minor in Business.
Teaching experience

Requirement already in place: see [web site] for details
Students interested in careers in academia are strongly urged to

  1. pursue TA opportunities that will provide experience and build their teaching resumes
  2. take ALS 6015 (The Practice of Teaching in Higher Education). Fall or Spring, 2 credits

M.S. students:

The length of a M.S. degree program is much shorter than that for the Ph. D, so fewer courses are expected. Selection of courses will be influenced by the background of the student and the student’s thesis project. The courses recommended are:

  • PLBR 4030 & PLBR 4060: REQUIRED unless student recently took an equivalent course elsewhere.
  • A modern genetics course and a statistics course are also required, if the student has not had one recently.
  • One other course selected from PLBR 6060, PLBR 6180, PLBR 7160, and PLBR 7170.
  • PLBR 6220 (Plant Breeding Seminar) should be taken every semester, unless the student is taking a course in another department scheduled at the same time or are working off campus during a semester.
  • PLBR 6100 is highly recommended to broaden applied experience
  • PLBR 4831 is highly recommended to provide an overview of plant molecular techniques being utilized in modern breeding programs
  • Other courses from the remaining list based on the suggestions of the major professor and the student’s committee.

Graduate Students In Other Fields With a Minor in Plant Breeding:

The courses recommended for a Ph.D. candidate with a minor in plant breeding are very similar to those for Plant Breeding M.S. students:

  • PLBR 4030 & PLBR 4060: REQUIRED unless student recently took equivalent courses elsewhere
  • One other course selected from PLBR 6060, PLBR 6180, PLBR 7160, and PLBR 7170.
  • A modern genetics course and a statistics course are also required, if the student has not had one recently. (Most students have either already taken these courses or are taking them for their major).
  • Two semesters of PLBR 6220 (Plant Breeding Seminar)
  • PLBR 6100 is highly recommended to broaden applied experience.