Academic Programs Catalog

College of Natural Science

Interdepartmental Degree Programs

Graduate Study
Molecular Plant Sciences - Dual Major

The interdepartmental dual major in molecular plant sciences is administered by the College of Natural Science.  The dual major is available only to those students who plan to complete a Ph.D. degree program that involves plant molecular biology and who have a graduate major at Michigan State University.  The student does not have the option of completing a dual major in plant molecular biology alone.

The educational objectives of the interdepartmental program are to prepare students to:

  1. function as independent scientists able to develop new knowledge and understanding about the molecular processes driving plant energy status, metabolism, growth, development, gene regulation, evolution, plant stress tolerance, and environmental interactions;
  2. devise and test informative hypotheses and apply key molecular and omics approaches to problems in these areas, and;
  3. engage in planning, performing, and management of independent and collaborative research and teaching.
In addition to meeting the requirements of the University and of the College of Natural Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.


In order to enroll in the dual major in plant molecular biology a student must also have been admitted to a major at Michigan State University. A minimum undergraduate grade-point average of 3.0 and a sufficient background in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and/or computer science is required for admission to the dual major. In special cases, an applicant who has deficiencies in background courses may be admitted to the dual major on a provisional basis.

The Molecular Plant Sciences Graduate Admissions Committee composed of members of the molecular plant sciences faculty and the primary department/program admissions committee reviews applications for admission and recommends acceptance of applicants for admission. The application process is composed of two parts: a standard MSU application to the primary department/program of the student’s choice and a one-page description of the student’s interest in the molecular plant sciences program. Applicants suitable will be forwarded to the Plant Science Recruitment director for onsite interviews. Offer letters will be co-signed by the molecular plant sciences program and the student’s primary department.

Guidance Committee

During the first year of enrollment in the dual major, the student and a member of the molecular plant sciences faculty who will serve as the student’s major professor will constitute a guidance committee that will assist in planning the student’s program of study.  At least two members of the molecular plant sciences faculty shall be members of the committee along with two faculty members from the student’s primary department.  The student’s program of study will involve molecular plant sciences and a major in the student's department.  The program shall be planned in accordance with the statement on Dual Major Doctoral Degrees in the Graduate Education section of this catalog.

Students in the dual major in molecular plant sciences are expected to do research rotations in three laboratories, attend seminars and engage in other programmatic activities.

Requirements for the Dual Major in Molecular Plant Sciences
  1. The course requirements will be specified in a graduate handbook in consultation with the student’s major professor and guidance committee.
  2. Three graduate seminar courses in subjects relevant to molecular plant sciences.
  3. Twenty-four credits in Doctoral Dissertation Research (course number 999) from the student's departmental major.
  4. Pass a comprehensive examination that will be defined by the requirements of the student's major department and that will include a written examination in which the student demonstrates a knowledge of molecular plant sciences as determined by the guidance committee.
  5. Submit and defend a dissertation that, in the judgment of the student’s guidance committee, shows original treatment of an important scientific question.