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

January 17, 2023

Penn State assists Cameroonian refugees with specialty mushroom ventures

Specialty mushrooms such as oyster are relatively easy to grow on a small scale, making them attractive to those looking to diversify a farm, engage in a hobby or launch a small business. Research-based information from Penn State Extension about producing specialty mushrooms also may benefit people from a war-torn region of Africa.  

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January 11, 2023

Center for Socially Responsible AI awards seed funding to 6 projects

The Penn State Center for Socially Responsible Artificial Intelligence recently announced the results of its third seed funding competition. The center awarded $145,000 to advance six interdisciplinary research projects that feature researchers from eight colleges and institutes.

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December 19, 2022

Indigo Ag creates fellowship to further efforts of Penn State Microbiome Center

In support of the Penn State Microbiome Center, Indigo Agriculture created the Indigo Agriculture Graduate Fellowship in the College of Agricultural Sciences through a $200,000 gift, matched 1:1 by the University through the now-concluded Graduate Scholarship Matching Program.

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December 14, 2022

Corn-colonizing fungus may help the crop repel disease, grow larger

A fungus that can colonize, or grow within, corn plants doesn’t just leave the plant unharmed — it also can help the plant stave off harmful bugs and other fungi, according to a new study by Penn State researchers.

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