Plant pathology is the study of plants and their pathogens, the process of disease, and how plant health and disease are influenced by factors such as the weather, nonpathogenic microorganisms, and plant nutrition. It encompasses fundamental biology as well as applied agricultural sciences.

Plant pathology involves the study of plants and pathogens at the genetic, biochemical, physiological, cellular, population, and community levels, and how the knowledge derived is integrated and put into agricultural practice. Prerequisite to effective research, teaching, and extension in plant pathology is a breadth of interdisciplinary interest and knowledge, in a department and in its individual members, reaching from ecology to microbiology, from meteorology to applied mathematics, and from molecular biology to communication skills.

Learn through real-world, hands on experiences

Plant Pathology students learn in many field and lab courses, including classes that focus on economics of plant disease, interactions between plants and people, fungi, organic agriculture, and global food security. They can also take part in a summer field course, numerous internships, and research opportunities.

Build community and networks

Plant pathology is a field that thrives in, and makes its greatest contribution to, comprehensive institutions like the University of Wisconsin–Madison where the proximity and complementarity of basic sciences and the other applied agricultural sciences are exceptionally strong. Please visit the department's Extension and Outreach overview page for additional details on the departments outreach activities, public education programs, and student organizations.

Customize a path of study

Undergraduates in plant pathology can choose between two tracks. The plant–microbe biology track has courses in basic math and sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics, along with upper-level courses in plant pathology, biochemistry, and microbiology. This track is geared toward students who have an interest in receiving a broad education in the basic sciences or plan to pursue a graduate or professional degree.

The plant health and industry track includes some courses in basic math and sciences, as well as additional courses in agriculture and economics/management and upper-level courses in plant pathology, entomology, and other agricultural sciences. This track is designed for students who intend to work in industry after receiving their undergraduate degree.

Students are also able to explore double majors and a multitude of undergraduate certificates based on their unique educational and professional interests. More information about careers in plant pathology is available from the department.

Make a strong start

Freshman who are interested in plant pathology are encouraged to participate in a First-Year Interest Group (FIG) program. Topics of interest to Plant Pathology students include global food security, plants and human well-being, and many other fascinating options. See the latest Choose Your FIG catalog for details.

Gain global perspective

The plant pathology program is a great choice for students who wish to participate in a study abroad experience. Students can choose from a multitude of destinations world-wide, and can travel abroad during Summer, Spring, or Fall terms. Students can explore studying abroad as a Plant Pathology major by utilizing the Plant Pathology Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs.

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Box for the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Courses may not double count within the major (unless specifically noted otherwise), but courses counted toward the major requirements may also be used to satisfy a university requirement and/or a college requirement. A minimum of 15 credits must be completed in the major that are not used elsewhere.

Core Mathematics
Select one of the following (or may be satisfied by placement exam):5-6
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
Core Chemistry
Select one of the following:5-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Introductory Biology
Select one of the following options:10
Option 1 (preferred):
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology
Option 2:
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
and General Botany
Option 3:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
and Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Core Physics
Select one of the following:4-5
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
Plant Pathology Core
PL PATH 300 Introduction to Plant Pathology4
Another Pl Path course above 300 13
PL PATH 590 Capstone in Plant Pathology3
Select one of the following:29-39
Plant-Microbe Biology Track
Plant Health and Industry Track
Total Credits67-83

Not including PL PATH 375 Special Topics or independent study credits—PL PATH 299 Independent Study, PL PATH 399 Coordinative Internship/Cooperative Education, PL PATH 590 Capstone in Plant Pathology, PL PATH 681 Senior Honors Thesis, PL PATH 682 Senior Honors Thesis, or PL PATH 699 Special Problems.


Plant–Microbe Biology Track

Additional Mathematics and Statistics
Select one of the following:5
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II 1
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Select one of the following:3-4
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2 2
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Additional Chemistry
Select one of the following options:4-8
Organic Chemistry I
and Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory
and Organic Chemistry II
Elementary Organic Chemistry
and Elementary Organic Chemistry Laboratory
Select one of the following options:5-8
Option 1:
Biology of Microorganisms
and Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory
Principles of Genetics
Option 2:
Select two of the following:
Principles of Physiology
Principles of Physiology Laboratory
Biological Interactions
Additional Physics
Select one of the following:4-5
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
Plant Physiology
BOTANY 500 Plant Physiology3-4
Plant-Microbe Electives
Select 5 credits from the following:5
Introduction to Biochemistry
Plant Anatomy
Plant Systematics
Vascular Flora of Wisconsin
General Ecology
Introduction to Entomology
Any PL PATH course above 300
Total Credits29-39

MATH 171 is a prerequisite for MATH 217.


MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1/MATH 217 Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II is a prerequisite for MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2

Plant Health and Industry Track

GENETICS 466 Principles of Genetics3
PL PATH 559 Diseases of Economic Plants3-4
or BOTANY 500 Plant Physiology
Plant Health and Industry Electives
Select 24 credits from at least two different departments from the following:24
Principles and Practices in Crop Production
Cropping Systems
Forage Management and Utilization
Introductory Ecology
Plant Anatomy
General Ecology
Plant Physiology
Introduction to Biochemistry
Introduction to Community and Environmental Sociology
Food, Culture, and Society
C&E SOC 230
Poverty and Place
Sociology of Agriculture
Insects and Human Culture-a Survey Course in Entomology
Introduction to Entomology
Forests of the World
Human/Animal Relationships: Biological and Philosophical Issues
Extinction of Species
The Vegetation of Wisconsin
General Ecology
Forest Ecology
Survey of Horticulture
Sustainable Turfgrass Use and Management
Landscape Plants I
Environment of Horticultural Plants
Fruit Crop Production
General Microbiology
General Microbiology Laboratory
Biology of Microorganisms
Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory
Nutrition Today
Comparative Animal Nutrition
Human Nutritional Needs
World Hunger and Malnutrition
Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism
Community Nutrition and Health Equity
PL PATH any course above 300 not already taken for another category
Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use
Soil: Ecosystem and Resource
General Soil Science
Physical Principles of Soil and Water Management
Soils and Environmental Quality
Soils and Landscapes
Plant Nutrition Management
Select 6 credits from the following:6
Introductory Financial Accounting
Introductory Managerial Accounting
Accounting Principles
Financial Reporting I
Financial Reporting II
Taxation: Concepts for Business and Personal Planning
Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics
Agricultural Systems Management
Commodity Markets
Cooperatives and Alternative Forms of Enterprise Ownership
Agricultural Finance
Economic Decision Analysis
Economic Problems of Developing Areas
Principles of Microeconomics
Principles of Macroeconomics
Marketing Communication for the Sciences
Managing Organizations
Human Resource Management
Total Credits36-37

University Degree Requirements  

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Define and explain major concepts in the biological sciences including Plant Pathology.
  2. Appropriately use biological instrumentation and laboratory techniques.
  3. Explain and apply the scientific method including designing and conducting experiments and testing hypotheses.
  4. Recognize the relationship between structure and function at all levels: molecular, cellular, organismal, and ecological.
  5. Demonstrate a style appropriate for communicating scientific results in written and oral form.
  6. Integrate math, physical sciences, and technology to answer biological questions using the scientific method.

Four-year plan

Sample Plant Pathology Four-Year Plan—Plant-Microbe Biology Track

MATH 112, 113, or 1143MATH 113, 114, or 2213-5
CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
First Year Seminar1Gen Ed10-7
Gen Ed10-11 
 8-20 8-17
Total Credits 16-37
CHEM 3433CHEM 3442
Select one of the following:5CHEM 3453
Gen Ed12-5
Gen Ed10-5 
 13-18 12-15
Total Credits 25-33
PL PATH 3004PHYSICS 104, 202, or 2084
PHYSICS 103, 201, or 2074PL PATH/​BOTANY  3324
MATH 222 or STAT 3714GENETICS 4663
Gen Ed10-6Gen Ed12-5
 12-18 13-16
Total Credits 25-34
MICROBIO 3042Capstone Experience3
Core or Breadth Electives3-8Core or Breadth Electives3-8
Gen Ed10-10Gen Ed10-15
 8-23 9-30
Total Credits 17-53

Gen-Ed requirements include communications, ethnic studies, humanities, social science, or international studies. See Requirements tab for more details.


Note: Possible places where students may cut down on courses: COMM-A placement test, COMM-B taken as ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152, QR-A placement test, AP/IB credits (biology, social sciences, humanities, language, chemistry, physics, math, statistics)


Students in plant pathology are assigned to both a professional staff advisor and one of our faculty advisors. Current faculty advisors include:

Caitilyn Allen
Jeri Barak (lead faculty advisor)
Amanda Gevens
Mehdi Kabbage
Paul Koch
Richard Lankau

Details can be found on our faculty webpage. Undergraduates in plant pathology are strongly encouraged to consult with an advisor before enrollment for the upcoming term. 

For more information about the Plant Pathology major or the department in general, please see the Contact Information on this page. Students with questions regarding Plant Pathology lab positions - both paid and unpaid - should contact Professor Jeri Barak.

Career OPportunties

Please visit our Internship & Job Resources page for information on career opportunities available to plant pathology students. For more information on other academic, co-curricular, financial aid, and career services available to plant pathology students, please visit the CALS Career Services page. Students in the major are welcome to make an individual appointment with an advisor to discuss career related topics such as career exploration, search strategies, graduate school, and review of application materials (resume, CV, letters, etc.).

Plant Pathologists, from all educational levels, are able to seek employment in a variety of areas. Some examples include:

  • colleges and universities
  • biotechnology companies
  • state and federal agencies
  • international agricultural research centers
  • nurseries, greenhouses and garden centers
  • non-governmental organizations
  • golf courses, public parks and landscape maintenance companies
  • diagnostic laboratories
  • seed, plant production and tissue culture companies
  • a variety of private consulting firms

If you would like to know more about what is Plant Pathology and how an undergraduate education in Plant Pathology can help you make an impact on the world around you, please check out the “Plant Pathology: taking you further than you ever imagined” video from the American Phytopathological Society.


Ahlquist, Paul
Allen, Caitilyn
Barak-Cunningham, Jeri
Bent, Andrew
Gevens, Amanda (chair)
Gluck-Thaler, Emile
Holland, Leslie
Handelsman, Jo
Kabbage, Mehdi
Koch, Paul
Lankau, Richard
Rakotondrafara, Aurelie
Silva, Erin
Solís-Lemus, Claudia
Smith, Damon

Affiliated Faculty

Ane', Jean-Michel (Bacteriology)
Groves, Russell (Entomology)
Havey, Michael (Horticulture)
Keller, Nancy (Medical Microbiology & Immunology)
Pringle, Ann (Botany)
Whitman, Thea (Soil Science)
Yu, Jae-Hyuk (Bacteriology)

Faculty Associate

Hudelson, Brian

Wisconsin Experience

Undergraduates majoring in plant pathology at UW–Madison will find an inclusive, welcoming community where professors know their students and are able to provide guidance based on students’ specific academic and career goals. There are numerous opportunities to conduct research with internationally prominent faculty and to take part in the Wisconsin Idea, whereby faculty and students extend the knowledge developed at the university to stakeholders in Wisconsin and beyond for the betterment of society.


Plant pathology offers paid research internships during summer term, as well as paid or credit-earning research opportunities year-round. Undergraduates get a firsthand view of how research is conducted and what it means to be a professional scientist. For more information on internship opportunities available to plant pathology students please visit our Internship & Job Resources page.


Nearly all Plant Pathology undergraduates participate in field- or lab- based research with a professor. Research in the department has a long tradition of supporting grower needs. Many faculty are using the plethora of research tools available, including molecular biology and systematics, to answer questions that are directly applicable to grower groups. Please visit the department's Research page for additional details on research activities in Plant Pathology.


By joining the Plant Pathology Undergraduate Club, majors get to know their fellow students outside the classroom. The department provides resources for students to meet experts who lead discussions on a range of topics including cutting-edge research and technology, career options, and how to apply and compete for jobs.

Undergraduate students are also welcome to join What's Eating My Plants (WEMP). This organization, founded in 2010 by Plant Pathology graduate students, is dedicated to bridging the gap between the University and the greater Madison community. The students visit Family Science Nights at schools, community centers, and Saturday Science at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) throughout the year.


Plant Pathology students interested in studying issues on a global scale are encouraged to enroll in Plant Path 311: Global Food Security, which explores drivers of food insecurity: barriers to food production (pests, land availability, climate), barriers to food availability (politics, price, biofuels), and a greater need due to population growth. The Plant Pathology program is an excellent choice for students wishing to participate in a study abroad experience. Students can find more information about study abroad on the CALS study abroad advising page.


The UW-Madison Division of Extension provides statewide access to the resources and research of the University of Wisconsin, other universities and the United States Department of Agriculture, so that people of Wisconsin can learn, grown and succeed at all stages of life.  The UW-Madison Division of Extension carries out the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea – extending the boundaries of the university to the boundaries of the state. UW-Madison Extension and outreach activities support educational programs for farmers, businesses, communities, families and youth. More details can be found on the department Extension & Outreach page.

On campus, the Morgridge Center for Public Service provides resources to help students connect with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and goals.

Department scholarships are available to Plant Pathology students and fellowships are available to support research work with a professor. Students across the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about college scholarships here.