Advances in our knowledge of plants and human health have led to increased interest in identifying and understanding plant compounds that affect health. One of the many areas plant scientists can specialize in is focused on improving the healthful benefits of the plant products we eat or use everyday. Plant scientists use analytical techniques to investigate the composition of plant products and test their safety. They use molecular techniques as well as breeding methods to identify and manipulate genetic components related to desirable plant traits. Plant scientists work to develop production practices that directly affect human health by providing high quality, nutritious food or that indirectly enhance health by ensuring a safe environment. Questions related to plants and human-health are addressed by plant scientists working with industries, universities and government agencies.
Students who wish to be plant scientists should be interested in learning how plants are manipulated and grown to produce useful and healthy products. They should be inquisitive and enjoy problem-solving. Organizational skills are very important. Plant scientists who conduct research need skills in data management and statistical analysis.
There is a need to understand how to produce and process plant compounds for use in foods, medicines, cosmetics, and animal-feeds. Plant scientists equipped with technical skills and research experience can play an important role in these areas. Alarming trends in human health, such as obesity and heart disease, are related to consumption of highly processed plant materials. Plant scientists are needed to work with health professionals and food processors to identify and develop alternative, healthy food choices. Guarding our food supply against the threat of bioterrorism will require plant scientists who can work with food scientists and regulatory agencies to ensure that foods are safe.
The Applied Plant Science major is an interdisciplinary program offered through the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences/Natural Resources. Located on the beautiful St. Paul campus, we offer a small-college environment within a Big Ten university. Hallmarks of the Applied Plant Science major include a flexible curriculum that easily allows students to minor or double major, small class sizes, one-on-one interactions with faculty, and many opportunities for hands-on experiences (internships, research projects, study abroad). For more information, please visit our website.