Plant Sciences – Biotechnology Concentration Major Guide for 2011-2012

What is Plant Sciences – Biotechnology Concentration

The biotechnology concentration is designed for students wishing to pursue advanced degrees in plant molecular biology and biotechnology and/or careers in the plant biotechnology industry. For example, the curriculum will prepare students to be competitive for entrance into MS and PhD degree programs, which in turn, prepare students for life as professional scientists.

The biotechnology revolution has drastically changed plant science and agriculture by the introduction of recombinant DNA methods, for example, the rapid adoption of genetically engineered crops in the US. Over 80% of the soybean and half of the corn crops are now genetically engineered. This revolution has altered how plant science is done and how students prepare for their professions. The biotechnology concentration offers challenging lecture and laboratory courses in plant science and biotechnology. In addition, each student works with a professor in a research lab to gain practical experience in research.

Career Opportunities in Plant Sciences – Biotechnology Concentration

Graduates of Biotechnology move into entry level research positions in the agricultural biotechnology industry, in areas such as tissue culture and transformation, recombinant DNA and molecular biology, protein and nucleic acid biochemistry, genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. Biotechnology is a global industry, and most of the companies in the world have significant research laboratories within a days’ drive of Knoxville. Students may continue their education in graduate school earning the MS or PhD to enable them to pursue careers in research and/or higher education. Increasingly, professions such as law, technical sales, and business have found students with education in biotechnology to be strategic hires.

Salary Trends in Plant Sciences – Biotechnology Concentration

Salaries earned by plant biotechnologists are dependent upon degree earned. Entry level salaries for plant sciences graduates ranged 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 – Biotechnology Concentration

Biotechnology 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 labs and answer your questions about the department. It is important to declare the Biotechnology 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 – Biotechnology Concentration

The Biotechnology curriculum builds upon the university-wide general education requirements with critical courses in botany, soils, and business, and adds a set of required departmental courses. Students are able to customize their program by selecting electives. Students in all concentrations are trained to work knowledgeably in general plant culture. Students are encouraged to earn a minor degree in a supportive field, such as soil science or business, to further enhance their academic training and professional competitiveness. While firmly grounding students in the knowledge and skills of the plant sciences, the curriculum emphasizes critical thinking and creative activity.

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.

Highlights of Plant Sciences – Biotechnology Concentration

The Biotechnology Concentration offers 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 biotechnology, including molecular biology, functional genomics, 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.

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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 or First Year Studies 101 1
1 Arts and Humanities Elective* 3
Biology 111*, 112* 8
Chemistry 120* and 130* 8
English 101*, 102* 6
1 Quantitative Reasoning Electives* 6
 Critical Courses: BIOL 111-112; ENGL 101-102  
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Agriculture and Natural Resources 290 3
Agricultural Economics 212 3
1 Arts and Humanities Elective* 3
Communication Studies 210* or 240* 3
1 Cultures and Civilizations Elective* 3
Environmental and Soil Sciences 210 4
2 Economics Elective* 3-4
Plant Sciences 210 3
1,2 Social Sciences Elective* 3
Unrestricted Electives 2-3
Critical Courses: CHEM 120; CMST 210 or 240; PLSC 210; AGNR 290  
Junior Year Credit Hours
Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 321 4
1 Cultures and Civilizations Elective* 3
Chemistry 350 3
Entomology and Plant Pathology 313 or 321 or 410 3
Environmental and Soil Sciences 334 3
3 Plant Sciences Electives 9
Plant Sciences 457-458 or 457-459 3
Technical Electives 3
Critical Courses: ESS 210; Quantitiative Reasoning elective  
Senior Year Credit Hours
Physics 221* 4
Plant Sciences 353, 454, 461 and 470 9
Plant Sciences 454 or Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 404 3-4
Plant Sciences 492 or 497 3
Technical Electives 10-11

* 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 Select any Plant Sciences courses beyond those that are required.
Students must meet the University General Education Requirement Communicating through Writing by selecting a course with a (WC) designation. This course may be in the major or from another discipline. Plant Sciences 448 satisfies the Communicating through Writing requirement.

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.