Claremont Graduate University's Department of Botany
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is home to the Claremont Graduate University (CGU) Department of Botany.
The graduate program in botany emphasizes systematics and the evolution of higher plants. Sub-disciplines include monographic and revisionary studies, population and conservation genetics, molecular systematics, phylogenetics, plant anatomy, floristics, comparative morphology, biogeography and reproductive biology. Thesis work leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree may be carried out in any of these fields. The program is research intensive with a strong fieldwork component. Considerable interaction takes place between students and faculty.
Additionally, a seminar series addressing topics of systematic and evolutionary botany is offered routinely during each semester. This series draws attendees not only from our student body, but also from plant science researchers, faculty and students at nearby colleges and universities.
The CGU Department of Botany is unique in that it is located within one of Southern California's premier gardens—Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden—86 acres dedicated to the conservation of the state's flora, to the display of native plants for visitors and to research and graduate education. Graduate classes and laboratories, faculty and student offices, and all research facilities used by students are located at RSABG, in close proximity to the CGU campus. The program benefits from the Claremont University Consortium (CUC), through which botany graduate students may take courses at any of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges or from any of the other graduate programs that are part of CGU.
The CGU Department of Botany at RSABG prepares its graduates to compete with top-caliber graduates in the field. The graduate student population is small, usually 10–15, and competition for existing positions is keen. Requirements for admission are rigorous and prospective students must have a strong academic record, excellent references and demonstrate a commitment to botanical research. Prospective students are encouraged to study admission requirements and to contact faculty whose research interests parallel their own.
All students in the Claremont Graduate University Botany Department at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden may be reached by calling (909) 625-8767. Their individual extensions are listed below
Dylan Cohen, Doctoral Student, ext. 201
Fernando Cuellar, Doctoral Student, ext. 201
Joy England, Master’s Student, ext. 242
Nick Jensen, Doctoral Candidate, ext. 201
Manuel Lujan, Doctoral Candidate ext. 217
Nicolas Medina, Doctoral Student, ext. 223
Sandra Namoff, Doctoral Candidate, ext. 217
Jennifer Rodriquez, Doctoral Student, ext. 201
Andrew Siekkinen, Master's Student, ext. 201
Sophia Winitsky, Master's Student, ext. 234
Inquiries may be directed to individual faculty members or to Frances Lehman (firstname.lastname@example.org), botany program coordinator.
For application and admission information, please refer to Prospective Student on the CGU website.
For degree requirements and other institutional policies, see the Degree Regulations section of the CGU Bulletin CGU Bulletin.
CGU Botany Program Admissions Guidelines
The botany program cultivates a collegial, interactive atmosphere in which graduate students participate as colleagues with faculty in the common pursuit of excellence in scholarship and research. Graduate students are expected to be independent, self-motivated, and enthusiastic about learning and about undertaking and completing original research. Because of these expectations and our commitment to maintaining an atmosphere that promotes research productivity, prospective graduate students are carefully screened to ensure high academic standards and compatibility with the ethos of the botany program. Therefore, the objective guidelines below may be less important in individual cases than demonstrated research ability or intellectual independence.
General guidelines for admission to the CGU Botany Program
GRE® General Test (tests taken on or after August 1, 2011)
Combined score (Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning) of at least 312;
Analytical writing score of at least 4.50;
GRE® Biology subject exam strongly recommended but not required
For international students: to be considered for admission, applicants are required to achieve a miinimum score of 85 (iBT), with section scores of no less than: Writing 22, Speaking 17, Reading 20, Listening 17. Official scores of 6.5 or higher from the University of Cambridge's International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be considred in lieu of a TOEFL score.
An undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4-point scale (or equivalent);
A demonstrated ability to perform independent research.
Application Deadlines for Fall 2017 Admission:
Priority Application Deadline: December 31, 2016
Final Application Deadline: January 15, 2017
To apply online, visit:
It is strongly recommended that prospective students communicate directly with prospective faculty advisors whose research best fits their own interests. Owing to the small size of our program, "fit" is a key component of admission.
For more information about applying to Claremont Graduate University, part of the seven-college Claremont consortium, visit the CGU webpage designed for prospective students. Applications should be sent directly to the CGU Admissions Office. The CGU Botany faculty at RSABG evaluate all applications and make decisions regarding admission and financial aid.
Students in the Botany Program receive tuition waivers from CGU except under unusual circumstances. Full-time students are also eligible to apply for additional financial aid in the form of research and teaching assistantships. Research assistants work with RSABG faculty on a specific project over the course of a semester. Teaching assistants are apprenticed to one of the graduate courses and usually have responsibility for laboratory exercises. Students in good standing are also eligible for research support in the form of small grants. These are intended to enable students to launch their research projects and to collect the preliminary data required to successfully compete for funding from outside sources.
Programs of study and research leading to both master's and doctoral degrees are offered. Masters students normally have 2.5 years (5 semesters) to complete and defend the thesis; Ph.D. students are expected to complete their degrees within five years.
Graduate Program History
From the beginning, scientific research has been an integral component of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s activities. Willis Lynn Jepson, of the University of California at Berkeley and one of Susanna Bixby Bryant’s principal advisors, strongly recommended a scientific director for the Garden. This recommendation became a reality with the appointment of Dr. Philip A. Munz as director of the Garden in 1946.
The Graduate Program
Under Munz’s leadership, the Garden was moved from its Orange County site to Claremont in 1951, and shortly thereafter a Ph.D. program in botany was added at the Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University). The research botanists at RSABG are the teaching faculty for this graduate program and hold faculty appointments at CGU. Masters degrees in botany have been offered since 1927 through CGU. Prior to the arrival of RSABG in Claremont, professors at Pomona College were the teaching faculty for this program, which was later augmented with RSABG scientists. Until a decade ago, Pomona College shared teaching responsibilities, but with the retirement of Dr. Sherwin Carlquist of RSABG and the departure of a Pomona botany faculty member, the entire responsibility for all graduate studies currently rests with RSABG.
Our graduate program is a unique partnership with CGU, which is accredited to grant degrees, and RSABG, a private institution, which provides the teaching faculty, curriculum, offices, facilities and financial support for graduate students.
Our graduate students pursue M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in systematic botany, evolutionary botany, and floristics. Systematic botany, sometimes called plant taxonomy, is the study of the relationships between plants and how plants may be grouped or classified. In essence, it is the “genealogy” of plants which botanists call phylogeny. Evolutionary botany is the study of how plants have changed or adapted over a period of time. These changes can be reflected in the genetic makeup of the plant (DNA), in morphological or anatomical differences (changes in shape, internal structure), in physiology (how the plant “works” inside), and in its responses to external environmental changes. Floristics is the collection and inventory of plant species for a given area. Thesis research leading to degrees may be carried out in the fields of anatomy (study of structure), conservation biology, floristics, molecular evolution, morphology (study of form), phylogenetics, population genetics and reproductive biology.