About the Department

Penn State’s home for knowledge on microbial organisms in agricultural and natural ecosystems.

The Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology engages in quality research, education, and outreach in plant pathology, mushroom science, and environmental microbiology. We study the microbiology of plants, soil, mushrooms, bats, turtles, insects, and more habitats and strive to understand the relationships between microbes, and microbes’ relationships with their hosts and the environment. We apply our fundamental research to managing diseases and solving other problems that impact food safety, crop productivity, human health, and agricultural and ecosystem sustainability.

We have a long and prestigious history of research, extension, and training in plant pathology. Trainees are attracted to our department because of our transdisciplinary approaches solving a wide array of global problems. Postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates benefit from faculty who are involved in interdisciplinary work through Penn State’s institutes and centers. We prepare our trainees for diverse careers in academia, industry, and government through a variety of training opportunities.

Our faculty play vital roles in teaching and advising for the undergraduate Plant Sciences major, with options in Agroecology, Horticulture, and Plant Science, and advise undergraduate minor degree programs in Mushroom Science and Plant Pathology. The general education courses offered by our faculty give hundreds of students their first hands-on experience in biology and teach them to think critically, like a scientist. Seize the opportunity to make a difference as an undergraduate by working elbow to elbow with our scientific teams through our research opportunities.

Our Ph.D. program in Plant Pathology was highly ranked nationally among plant science programs by the National Research Council in 2010 and is one of the top graduate plant pathology programs in the country. We invest in individuals to help them develop into unique scientists with outstanding technical, communication, and professional skills. We provide our students with unprecedented travel, funding, and professional development experiences. 

Of our many departmental strengths, none are more valuable than our culture. Students, faculty, and staff collaborate to create top-ranked educational, research, and extension opportunities in a collegial and friendly atmosphere of mutual respect.

Diversity Equity and Inclusion

We declare the commitment of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology to diversity, equity and inclusion and assure a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for those seeking to join our department. Our department upholds Penn State's Values, which have been reflected in this statement (refer to the Penn State's Values Statement for their definitions and examples).

As a department that strives for excellence in research, education and outreach, we cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion among our students, faculty, and staff. We embrace the responsibility to practice and develop these values as we interact among ourselves and the communities with which we engage. We believe that the inclusion of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and identities (as listed in the Penn State Nondiscrimination Statement) in our discovery, education and service efforts will enhance our growth on both individual and community levels and enable us to better serve all our stakeholders. To maintain integrity, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to work to identify and respond to bias, harassment, discrimination, and racism against individuals from diverse identities and backgrounds, following Penn State's existing policy and procedures (AD85 and AD91). We will continuously promote and sustain an environment where diverse identities, perspectives, and backgrounds are always welcomed and respected.

Latest News

April 22, 2024

College of Ag Sciences faculty, extension leader engage in leadership program

Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences faculty members and an assistant director with Penn State Extension recently furthered their knowledge of leadership principles by completing the LEAD21 leadership development program, a national yearlong program to develop leaders in land-grant institutions and their strategic partners who link research, academics and extension and can navigate an increasingly complex environment to lead more effectively in their current or future leadership positions. 

Read More

April 11, 2024

Yellow-eyed grasses may have more insect visitors than previously thought

A team led by Penn State researchers published the first documentation of arthropods that visited yellow-eyed grasses in Guyana, a South American country where species of the plant are most diverse.

Read More

January 29, 2024

Fungi into the Future

Mushrooms, and specifically the common white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, are big business in Pennsylvania. The state grows almost two-thirds of all Agaricus produced in the United States. Penn State’s leadership in research and education has shaped and supported the industry since its beginnings. In recent years, however, mushroom-related research at Penn State has expanded, fungus-like, across departments and even colleges into new and surprising areas, from food science to environmental clean-up to architecture and design.

Read More

November 21, 2023

College of Ag Sciences recognizes faculty, staff for research achievements

Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences lauded outstanding accomplishments in research during the 2023 Research Awards Ceremony, held Nov. 1 at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on the University Park campus.

Read More