Academic Programs Catalog

College of Natural Science

MSU/DOE Plant Research Laboratory

Christoph Benning, Director

A center for modern plant biology, the MSU/DOE Plant Research Laboratory was established in 1964. The Laboratory is administered by the College of Natural Science under a core research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Laboratory conducts a broad range of energy-related research at the molecular, subcellular, cellular, tissue, organ and organismal levels and draws on plant physiology, biochemistry, structural biology, cell and molecular biology, genetics and other disciplines. Areas of research under investigation emphasize topics related to energy capture, conversion, and deposition in energy-rich molecules. These topics include dynamic regulation of photosynthesis and growth, identification of energy-sensing and response pathways, mechanisms and regulation of carbon fixation, transduction of environmental information by the plant, effects of stress conditions upon growth and productivity, genetic analysis of physiological traits, and molecular mechanisms regulating plant gene expression.

The Laboratory provides facilities and support for students intending to proceed toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree and for postdoctoral research associates. The doctoral degree programs are administered through academic units, with which the Laboratory faculty have joint appointments, particularly the departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Plant Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. The interdepartmental doctoral programs in Genetics and in Cellular and Molecular Biology that are administered by the College of Natural Science are also available. The student’s admission and program of study are subject to the regulations and approval of the appropriate department, as well as the College of Natural Science.

The aim of graduate work in the Laboratory is to give students training in independent research and to provide them with sufficient strength, both in biology and in the basic sciences, to enable them to stay in the forefront of their continuously changing and developing field. Doctoral programs consist of course work in advanced subjects and research, leading to a dissertation.

To be accepted for graduate work in the Laboratory, the student is generally expected to have at least the Bachelor of Science degree and to have had courses in organic chemistry, mathematics through calculus, physics and general botany or biology. Courses in plant physiology, physical chemistry and biochemistry are desirable. In the case of highly qualified students, part of the course requirements may be completed after admission to graduate work, but admission will, in such cases, be on a provisional basis until these requirements have been completed satisfactorily.

Graduate students are given freedom of choice in selecting, within the Laboratory, the areas of their research and their major advisors. These selections must be compatible with the Laboratory’s objectives. Students are expected to spend the first two semesters following admission familiarizing themselves with the research programs of the Laboratory’s staff and related research in other departments, including participation in several research projects, and to make their selection on this basis.

Because of the intensity of the program, the student is expected to work on a year-round basis.