Department of Crop Sciences

Plant Molecular Biology and Physiology


Faculty in plant molecular biology and physiology are exploring the genetic and molecular basis of important plant traits such as seed composition, disease resistance, stress tolerance, and mineral nutrition. In studying the cellular processes that control these traits, we seek to generate both basic scientific knowledge and new strategies for crop improvement.

The diverse interests of the faculty allow students to gain a broad perspective of modern plant biology and biotechnology research. An active weekly seminar series provides a focal point for participants in this program. In addition to plant molecular biology and plant physiology, core disciplines covered by this group include molecular genetics, cytogenetics, microbial genetics and physiology, plant biochemistry, plant transformation/tissue culture, plant genomics, and genetic engineering.

Research is supported by federal granting agencies, state and regional consortia, producer and consumer groups, and a variety of industrial sponsors. Opportunities frequently arise to interact with colleagues from other academic, governmental, and industrial institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Research in plant molecular biology is attracting increasing attention within the scientific community, in no small part because biotechnology research is now at the center of product development for many agricultural, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies. Through application of molecular biology techniques, new plant varieties are being developed with altered nutritional characteristics and other improved traits. Knowledge is being generated that will help enhance the efficiency and adaptability of crop production, and minimize the effects of environmental and biological stress on plant productivity.

Opportunities for Study

Course work and thesis research for the M.S. and Ph.D. are designed to meet the needs of the student. A specialization in genetics is available for students interested in a broad background in molecular, population, and development genetics.

Career Opportunities

Master's, Ph.D., and postdoctoral researchers from our department find employment in academic, governmental, and industrial settings. Many successful scientific careers have been launched directly from the faculty laboratories listed. Close ties are maintained in particular with a number of seed and biotechnology companies, and scientists educated at the University of Illinois can be found throughout the commercial biotechnology community.