The Field of Plant Breeding at Cornell University offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the areas of Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics. These advanced degrees provide the credentials that are generally required to direct or lead plant breeding research at private companies or public institutions. Graduate student research is supervised by faculty located in Ithaca or at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, New York. Students interested in vegetable, fruit, or ornamental crops may also consider admission to the Field of Horticulture. Information regarding the graduate program in Plant Breeding can be accessed by contacting the director of graduate studies (details below).
Graduate students may choose either Plant Breeding or Plant Genetics as a concentration within the Field of Plant Breeding. One minor subject is required for the M.S. and two minor subjects are required for the Ph.D. Students are required to complete appropriate course work, conduct high quality research, and submit an M.S. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation presenting their research. Opportunities are available for doing research in another country while enrolled at Cornell. Each student has a Special Committee, which consists of the major advisor and representatives of the minor subjects. The committee provides advice about course requirements and research activities and administers the required exams. Ph.D. candidates must pass the oral “A-exam”, usually taken after coursework is completed. Both M.S. and Ph.D. candidate must defend their thesis at the “B-exam” and give a public seminar describing their work.
Students must earn a minimum of two residence units for the M.S. and six residence units for the Ph.D. A residence unit is awarded for each semester of instruction and/or research that is successfully completed.
Ph.D. candidates in the Field of Plant Breeding are required to participate in a teaching activity for one semester. This requirement may be fulfilled in a variety of ways: assisting in teaching or setting up laboratory sessions for courses, developing a new course, grading papers, developing computer software for a course, etc.
The Field of Plant Breeding welcomes applications from U.S. and international students with an interest in modern crop breeding and genetics. We provide training that links applied crop improvement with the latest discoveries in plant genomics and bioinformatics. Some of our students have entered immediately after earning a B.S. or M.S. degree, while others come after working for some time. A strong background in biology is preferable but we have sometimes admitted students with other types of experience.
Admission is competitive, and students with a grade point average less than 3.0 (B) are generally not considered. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required of U.S. applicants and recommended for all others. Applicants who wish to be considered for Cornell fellowships must take the GRE, preferably including the Biology subject test. Letters of reference, previous research experience and the quality of the Statement of Purpose are other important factors in evaluation of candidates. International students must have a sub-scores of at least 20 (reading), 20 (writing), 22 (speaking) and 15 (listening) on the internet-based TOEFL exam.
Applications for Fall admission are accepted until March 15; however, applicants interested in being considered for Cornell Fellowships must submit all their materials by January 5. Applications for Spring admission are accepted until July 15.
Applicants should apply on line at the Cornell Graduate School web site. Send supplementary materials (e.g. transcripts) to Mary Ellen Niederhofer at the mailing address below. Also arrange to have GRE scores and letters of recommendation (if not submitted on-line) sent directly to Ms. Niederhofer.
Mary Ellen Niederhofer, Graduate Field Secretary Plant Breeding & Genetics Cornell University 231 Emerson Hall Ithaca, NY 14853
Financial assistance for stipend (~$31,000/12 months), tuition, and health insurance is on a competitive basis. Several types of Departmental or University fellowships/assistantships may be available for incoming students. Most are limited to students applying to the Ph.D. or M.S./Ph.D programs.
To be considered for financial support, students must submit their complete applications to the Graduate School by January 5. Support after the first or second year is usually through graduate research assistantships from the student's major professor or from teaching assistantships.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have a history of overcoming disadvantage, are first-generation college students, or are a member of an underrepresented minority group can be considered for Cornell Diversity Fellowships. Students wishing to be considered for these fellowships must submit a supplemental essay explaining how the criteria apply.
Because we are not often able to provide financial assistance for non-U.S. citizens, international students are strongly encouraged to seek funding for the duration of their studies from a government agency within their own country or from international institutions.
For additional information
Contact the Director of Graduate Studies:
Prof. Walter De Jong