Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration Major Guide for 2011-2012

What is Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

The bioenergy concentration is intended for students who are interested in pursuing careers in the quickly-expanding biofuels and bioenergy fields. Bioenergy is a dynamic and emerging field that seeks to convert energy from the sun into fuels via plants and bioprocessing and conversion. The industry is primarily concerned with converting plant feedstocks into liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The great resurgence of industry and public support for research and development in this field will require a modern and multidisciplinary workforce.  Bioenergy is booming in Tennessee and the US as we seek to displace foreign petroleum products with homegrown energy sources that also have a more favorable carbon and environmental footprint.  In addition, the need for scholars and scientists with advanced degrees (MS and PhD) will also grow exponentially in bioenergy as billions of dollars of federal funds is channeled towards new bioenergy solutions. The BS degree will also prepare students for entrance into graduate programs. The student will have the opportunity to explore branch disciplines of bioenergy such as agronomy, biotechnology, business and economics, chemistry, engineering or microbiology. The graduate will have the background and internship experience to enter directly into the bioenergy workforce.

Career Opportunities in Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

Graduates of the Bioenergy concentration are well suited to directly enter the biofuels industry in any number of different careers. Work could be at biofuel processing plants, as a crop consultant, in a biotechnology laboratory, or in sales. Alternatively, the student could enter graduate school towards terminal masters or PhD degrees.  As the industry grows, training new students in bioenergy will be in high demand, and so faculty members at universities, colleges, and community colleges should be in demand in this area.  Tennessee is one of the leaders with regards to cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel research and forming new bioeconomies.  A new and novel university research cellulosic ethanol biorefinery will be a huge asset to the bioenergy student and the Tennessee economy.

Salary Trends in Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

Salaries earned by plant bioenergy technologists are dependent upon degree earned. Entry level salaries for plant sciences graduates can range from $35,500 to $57,000 in, with an average of $46,250.

High School Preparation

A student’s high school preparation can have a great impact on pace and success in completing a BS degree in Plant Sciences. Obtain a strong foundation in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Enroll in horticulture and plant agriculture courses, if your high school offers them. Select classes that are ranked as college preparatory or advanced placement (AP).Basic courses in computing (word processing, spreadsheet management, and database management), communications, analytical thinking, and introductory statistics are desirable.

How to Major in Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

Bioenergy is one of six concentrations in the Plant Sciences Department. Our faculty and students enjoy talking with prospective students. A faculty member (or a student, if you prefer) will be happy to guide you through our agronomic farm and labs and answer your questions about the department. It is important to declare the Bioenergy concentration early (preferably at or before enrollment), to avoid having to make up specific required courses. There are provisions for elective courses to be taken in specific subject areas at various stages of your degree program. Students consult with their faculty advisor each semester about their interests and the appropriate classes to meet their needs.

Requirements for Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

Bioenergy is multidisciplinary in nature. The Bioenergy student will have a core curriculum of plant science and allied biology and other sciences. Each student will have to opportunity to learn and specialize in crop science, biotechnology, microbiology, chemistry, engineering principles, enzyme biochemistry or agricultural economics; all of which are important in bioenergy production. The bioenergy concentration might be among the most flexible majors in the university.  Each student performs either independent, original research in a professor’s laboratory, many of which have international recognition, or an internship in the emerging bioenergy industry in Tennessee. Laboratory research and coursework are designed to foster critical thinking in the context of cutting-edge science and technology.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

An Internship or supervised undergraduate research participation is required of all students. Full-time summer internships are available at selected local, regional, and national companies or institutions. Part-time summer or semester internships and research experiences are available from the Department of Plant Sciences, other university departments and laboratories, and local commercial firms. After it opens in 2009, the research biorefinery will also require student employees.

Highlights of Plant Sciences – Bioenergy Concentration

The Bioenergy Concentration offer students opportunities to obtain both classroom and hands-on learning experiences with faculty members who are dedicated teachers and accomplished scientists. The faculty of the Department of Plant Sciences are nationally and internationally recognized scholars whose expertise span a wide range of disciplines in bioenergy, including molecular biology, functional genomics, plant breeding, and tissue culture. One hallmark of the degree is a requirement for students to participate in research directly in an affiliated faculty member’s lab. This hands-on experience is reported by students to be a highlight of their degree program. Bioenergy is a dynamic field and it is frankly hard to predict all the skills that the industry will need.  However, the US goals are to offset 20% of petroleum by biofuels by 2020, and 30% by 2030, therefore a quickly growing industry will be required to meet these goals.  The synergy provided by research at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory combined with the new Tennessee research biorefinery that is being constructed nearby will provide world-class opportunities for students to excel and pioneer in the frontier of bioenergy.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

Students are encouraged to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs sponsored by CASNR, which include Thailand and Jamaica. Other UT faculty-led and semester abroad programs are offered through the Center for International Education. CASNR does offer some scholarships for CASNR students participating in study abroad programs. Students, faculty and staff participate in the annual Unity through Diversity Dinner held each fall. Some students select a minor in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Agriculture and Natural Resources 100 1
Biology 111*, 112* 8
Chemistry 120* and 130* 4 8
English 101*, 102* 6
Plant Sciences 250 3
1,4 Quantitative Reasoning Electives* 6
 Critical Courses: BIOL 111-112; ENGL 101-102  
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Agriculture and Natural Resources 290 3
1 Arts and Humanities Electives* 6
Communication Studies 210* or 240* 3
1 Cultures and Civilizations Electives 3
2 Economics  201* 4
Environmental and Soil Sciences 210 4
1,2 Social Sciences Elective* 3
Technical Electives 3
Critical Courses: CHEM 120-130; CMST 210 or 140; PLSC 250  
Junior Year Credit Hours
Agricultural Economics 212 3
Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 321 4
1 Cultures and Civilizations Elective* 3
Agricultural and Extension Education 440* or English 295* or 360* or Journalism and Electronic Media 201* 3
Physics 221* 4
Plant Sciences 353, 435 5
Technical Electives 9
(Summer) Plant Sciences 492 3
Critical Courses: AGNR 290; ESS 210  
Senior Year Credit Hours
4 Specialty Area 9-11
Environmental and Soil Sciences 334 3
Plant Sciences 331, 465, 475, 497 9
Technical Electives 3
Unrestricted Electives 4-6

* Meets University General Education Requirement.
1 Choose from the University General Education lists. Selection should be made in conference with academic advisor.
2 ECONOMICS 201 (4) Principles of Economics satisfies the University General Education-Social Science requirement and the major requirement for economics. If the student transfers ECON LD for 3 credits, it will satisfy the major requirement for economics but will not satisfy the General Education-Social Science requirement. In these cases, the student should take two courses from the approved General Education-Social Sciences list.
3 Meets the University General Education Requirement for Communicating through W riting (WC).
4 Choose one Specialty Area. Select Chemistry and Quantitative Reasoning Electives General Education courses based on prerequisites for courses in your Specialty Area.

Students must meet the University General Education Requirement for Communicating through Writing by selecting a course with a (WC) designation. This course may be in the major or from another discipline.

Specialty Areas
Specialty electives are grouped into specialty areas. Students must complete one specialty area, consisting of three courses (9-11credit hours). Students wishing to expand on a specialty or complete more than one specialty area are welcome to do so, using Technical Electives for this purpose. For more detail on specialty areas check the university catalog or contact the department.

For More Information

Department of Plant Sciences
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4561
Phone: (865) 974-7324



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.