The Graduate Program

In 1981, the College of Agriculture at Michigan State University created the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) Interdepartmental Graduate Program. The participating departments are, Crop and Soil Sciences, Forestry, Horticulture, Plant Biology, and Plant Pathology. The unique feature of the program is the interdisiplinary manner in which graduate students carry out their educational curriculum, teaching assistance and research experiences with faculty and fellow students. The PBGB Program and the professional opportunities that are available for students are briefly described below.

Since its beginning, more than 100 M.S. and Ph.D. degrees have been conferred to graduating students. Students who have earned graduate degrees in the PBG Program at Michigan State University have gone on to assume positions with major universities, private industry and governmental agencies. International graduates have completed their programs and returned to their homeland to foster agriculture.

The PBGB Program has made significant contributions to U.S. agriculture as well. Many cultivars, and inbred lines of agronomic, horticultural and forest commodities have been developed by faculty, staff, students and post-doctoral researchers in various programs. These advances have been made through the collection and utilization of genetic diversity, conventional breeding approaches, and cellular and molecular techniques. The PBG Program provides students with an approach that integrates contemporary biotechnologies with traditional breeding for crop plant improvement.

The principle feature of the PBGB Program is a set of core courses integrated with a flexible graduate curriculum. The core courses include: (1) Statistical Methods, (2) Advanced Plant Breeding, (3) Cell and Molecular Techniques or Plant Molecular Biology. Students also participate in PBG seminar courses that deal with particular subjects of relevance to plant biotechnology and breeding and genetics. In addition, students select other courses in consultation with the major professor and guidance committee members. These other subjects include plant evolution, quantitative genetics, cytogenetics, genetic engineering of plants, and biometry. Students may also take graduate courses in related disciplines including biochemistry, botany and plant pathology, crop and soil sciences, entomology, forestry, genetics, horticulture and zoology.

Research Programs

Currently, 30 faculty members from four departments within the University make up the PBGB faculty. Students usually conduct their research project in the department of their major professor. Thus, an extensive range of scientific investigations is possible from traditional breeding, selection, and inheritance studies for simple and quantitative traits to tissue culture, plant transformation, and molecular genetic analysis. Studies on yield, stress, disease resistance, and quality components are ongoing as well as ecological ones in field-oriented programs. Most programs combine the breeding-selection for cultivar development with cellular and molecular technologies such as gene mapping or transformation.

Research Facilities

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 as the first agricultural college in the United States and was the protype of the land-grant universities. MSU is regarded as an outstanding educational institution. The student population of about 40,000, which includes post-graduates, experiences a stimulating and challenging academic environment on a scenic and park-like campus with easy access to the recreational and cultural activities of the mid-Michigan area.

The MSU commitment to research and graduate programs allows students access to major research facilities. All members of the PBGB faculty have well equipped laboratories with state-of-the-art facilities. Additional specialized facilitates include the Electron Microscope Center, Laser Scanning Microscope Laboratory, Macromolecular Structure Facility, and Mass Spectrometry Laboratory.

Extensive greenhouse space is located on the East Lansing campus, and several experimental farms also are located on campus. PBGB students also conduct studies at one or more of the 15 Agricultural Research Stations located throughout Michigan.

Close cooperation between the PBGB Program and adjunct faculty in USDA programs in sugarbeets, edible legumes, entomology, and fruit and vegetable mechanization provides students with additional opportunities for research.