Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Science (PhD)
Plant Science graduate program offers advanced study in applied plant biology, with a commitment to development of sustainable managed agroecosystems. Our graduate program offers opportunities for advanced studies in basic and applied research, leading to M.Sc. or Ph.D. degrees, in plant production, plant protection, plant biotechnology, plant physiology and biochemistry, and plant-environment interaction.
The program is enriched through collaborations with colleagues in graduate programs such as Food Science, Soil Science, Botany, Zoology. Collaborations include on-campus research centres such as the Biodiversity Research Centre, the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, the Wine Research Centre, and off-campus research agencies/institutions such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Canadian Light Source, and other Canadian universities.
What makes the program unique?
Our graduate program offers students the opportunity to develop their graduate studies uniquely tailored to their professional goals and research interests in consultation with their research supervisor. The diversity of plant agriculture in British Columbia provides excellent opportunities for students to select a cropping system most suitable for their thesis research. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to develop their research programs through an interdisciplinary approach involving other departments on the campus.
Excellent facilities for thesis research are available on the UBC campus in the MacMillan Building, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm, Totem Field Laboratory, UBC Wine Research Centre, the Michael Smith Laboratories, and the Horticulture Glasshouse. Some Plant Science graduate students also work with our Adjunct Professors, spread throughout the province of British Columbia.
Contact the program
Admission Information & Requirements
Before you apply, please make sure you meet/exceed the admission requirements and most importantly have a supervisor confirmed.
Please review the list of faculty members in the program and contact the ones with the same research interests as you direclty to check their availability/interest in accepting you.
1) Check Eligibility
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based
Overall score requirement: 90
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 6.5
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
The GRE is not required.
Prior degree, course and other requirements
Prior Degree Requirements
Students admitted to the Ph.D. degree program normally possess a M.Sc. degree in plant science or a related area, with clear evidence of research ability, and a strive for research excellence. Transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program is permitted under Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies regulations.
2) Meet Deadlines
September 2023 Intake
Application Open Date15 September 2022
3) Prepare Application
All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Science (PhD)
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
4) Apply Online
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
Research topics focus on plant-environment interactions, plant-pathogen interaction, pollination ecology, agro-ecology, crop production and breeding, irrigation management, disease protection, and plant physiology, biotechnology, biochemistry and imaging.
Specific areas of specialization include:
- pollination biology; insect physiology; insect ecology and behaviour; natural insecticides
- weed biology, ecology, and control; invasive species biology
- fruit physiology and metabolism; plant nutrition; plant-plant interaction; biotic and abiotic stressor resistance
- crop stress physiology; plant anatomy; structure-function relation; water relations; irrigation management
- horticulture; vegetable culture; ornamental horticulture; post-harvest physiology
- plant biochemistry; tissue culture; genetic engineering; plant, fungal, and viral molecular genetics
- plant-microbe interaction; bacterial and fungal diseases; plant virology; biological control of pests and diseases
- cereal and pathogen genomics; host-pathogen interactions; genetics of disease resistance
- plant breeding; phenotyping; plant imaging; trait selection
- rangeland ecology and wildlife habitat studies
Appropriate coursework may be selected in consultation with the student's supervisory committee. All doctoral students are required to successfully complete a comprehensive examination. The major requirement for the Ph.D. is completion of a research dissertation meeting the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requirements.
Plant Science teaching and research facilities are located in the H.R. MacMillan Building, in Food Nutrition and Health Building, and in the UBC Biotech Laboratory. Research facilities include: the UBC Farm, the UBC Botanical Garden, greenhouses and the Totem Field Plant Science Field Station (UBC Plant Care Services), a controlled environment-facility (walk-in and reach-in growth chambers), and modern analytical laboratories.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,767.18||$3,104.64|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$1,057.05 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,366.20 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
All newly admitted graduate students in the research-based PhD program will be supported by a minimum funding package of $22,000/year for 4 years provided they maintain good academic standing.
The funding package may consist of internal or external award, scholarship, teaching or research assistantship, or any combination of the above. Students are expected to be proactive in applying for awards and scholarships.
- 3 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 3 students was $3,182.
- 4 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 4 students was $4,666.
- 4 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 4 students was $20,698.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching Assistantships (GTA)
Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.
Research Assistantships (GRA)
Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
16 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 13 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):
RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher EducationUniversity of Massachusetts - Amherst
University of Massachusetts
Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University
Montana State University
Council of International Schools
University of British Columbia
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationBio-Act Technology Ltd.
Government of Canada
Ecoation Innovative Solutions Inc.
Best Buy Canada
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationPresident
Biologist - Evaluation Officer
Research Scientist/Business Owner
Chief Executive Officer
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Science (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.
Brar, Gurcharn (Plant biology; Cereal pathology (wheat and barley in particular); Functional pathogenomics; Fungal biology; Genetics of host-pathogen interactions - disease resistance in crop plants; Plant imaging; Population genetics and genomics; Resistance breeding)
Carrillo, Juli (Plant-insect interactions; Agroecology; Invasive species; evolution; Ecology; community ecology; Environmental Change; Plant evolution; Population Ecology)
Castellarin, Simone (viticulture and grapevine physiology; physiological and molecular aspects that underlay fruit ripening and the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, and how they are modulated by the environment and viticultural practices; molecular viticulture)
Jovel, Eduardo (Ethnobotany, mycology, natural product chemistry and Aboriginal health)
Kronstad, James (Bioinformatics; Immunology; Microbiology; Plant biology; Fungal diseases of plants; Genomics and Proteomics; Medical Mycology; Molecular Genetics; Pathogenesis of infectious diseases; Plant-Microbe Interactions)
Riseman, Andrew (plant breeding; plant genetics; horticulture; roots; stress physiology, Plant breeding, intercrop interactions, nutrient use efficiency, root physiology, biotic/abtioic stressor)
Sargent, Risa (Plant biology; Biological control; community ecology; evolutionary ecology; Floral trait evolution; Flowering plants; Herbivory; Pollinator-mediated interactions)
|2017||Dr. Biswas studied the molecular mechanisms by which virus particles escape infected cells. Utilizing insect viruses, he discovered novel methods by which virus particles interact with host proteins to enable the rapid escape from infected cells. This information is critical for understanding virus pathology and disease spread.|
|2017||Dr. Alam studied the infection process of plant viruses. She examined and clarified the mechanism underlying two essential aspects of the viral infection cycle - virion assembly and disassembly. Her work furthers our understanding of how plant viruses establish infection, how new viruses form, and virus disease control.|
|2017||Dr. Ma investigated eco-physiology of effects of red/far-red light ratio on tomato and common weeds. Her research improves our understanding of how red/far-red ratio modifies plant growth, which affects plant-plant interactions. This understanding will help in management of agro-ecosystems to minimize crop losses due to weeds.|
|2015||Dr. Tak studied plant-based insecticides, especially plant essential oils. He found that a synergy between the essential oil components was produced by increased penetration of the compounds through the insect's skin, which is called a cuticle layer. These studies may guide us to develop more efficient botanical insecticides for pest control.|
|2014||Dr. Chapagain compared two food production systems: growing one crop alone versus growing multiple crops together. He demonstrated that together, multiple crops improve land and ecosystem productivity and water use efficiency. These studies will assist farmers in transitioning from chemical intensive production to eco-friendly production systems.|
|2011||Dr. Foroud studied a fungal disease of wheat known as Fusarium Head Blight. She contributed to the understanding of mechanisms of disease resistance by oserving that different molecular mechanisms of resistance are conferred in different genetic backgrounds. This knowledge will help breeders to select better resistance for wheat farmers.|
|2010||Dr. Machial investigated the comparative toxicity of selected plant essential oils to four agricultural insect pests, and assessed the effects of the most toxic oil, patchouli oil, on the detoxicative abilities of these insects. Development of reduced risk plant essential oil-based pesticides is warranted despite technical and practical challenges.|
|2010||Dr. Moreau explored manipulation of insect behaviour as an alternative to pesticides for management of greenhouse whiteflies on sweet pepper crops. She found that whiteflies can be diverted away from the crop using combinations of traps and reduced risk sprays. Her work provides greenhouse growers with whitefly management options that have lower environmental impacts and greater compatibility with biological control programs.|
|2010||Dr. Nie investigated protein-protein interactions of the major regulatory proteins, IE0 and IE1, of the baculovirus AcMNPV. She identified a domain required for binding viral proteins that were shown to play a critical role in the production of virus particles by enabling the rapid start of viral gene expression.|
|2009||Dr. Hui showed that specific regions of a plant virus coat protein are essential for virus transmission to its host. The protein was also found to be localized at specific sites within plant cells, suggesting a possible role in virus particle disassembly. These findings will aid in the development of new strategies for plant virus disease control.|
Plant Science covers topics related to plant production, plant protection, biotechnology, plant physiology and biochemistry, and plant-environment interactions. Specific areas of specialization include:
- plant-microbe interaction, bacterial and fungal diseases, plant virology, biological control of pests and diseases, insect physiology, natural insecticides, insect ecology and behaviour, and weed biology, ecology, and control, invasive species biology pollination biology
- plant nutrition, plant growth analysis, plant-plant interaction, biotic and abiotic stressor resistance, and environmental plant physiology
- vegetable culture, ornamental horticulture, plant breeding, and post-harvest physiology
- plant biochemistry, tissue culture, genetic engineering, and plant, fungal, and viral molecular genetics
- rangeland ecology and wildlife habitat studies
- cereal pathology, host-pathogen interactions, genetics of disease resistance, plant imaging, cereal and pathogen genomics, resistance breeding.