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Homa Hajarian

About Homa

  • Area of study: Controlled Environment Agriculture
  • Hometown: Ellicott City, MD
  • Fun fact: I speak 4 languages: Lori (my native dialect), Persian, English, and Spanish. I am also learning German.
  • View Homa's LinkedIn profile

What were you doing prior to the MPS program? 

I was working as a grower in the horticultural industry. I was working in a commercial floriculture production, and I managed between 5-12 acres depending on the day. 

What are your short-term and long-term career goals?

Short term, I hope to finish my degree and get a job in horticultural production. Long term, I hope to launch my short-term company, growing both hemp and food in Baltimore City, MD. 

Why did you choose to pursue the CALS MPS degree?

I knew I didn’t want to pursue an M.S. or Ph.D. because I want to work in the field, as opposed to research or academia. Since I want to go back into the industry, I thought a professional master's would be more appropriate for me. 

What are the strengths of the CALS MPS degree program?

I really like that we have the opportunity to take a multidisciplinary course load. 

What words would you use to describe the CALS MPS degree program?

Innovative, challenging, structured

What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your program?

The most rewarding moments are working in the greenhouse and seeing my plants flourish. 

What courses were your favorite? Why?

So far, my favorite course has been Post Harvest Technology, which was taught by Dr. Chris Watkins because I felt we learned a lot of applicable information. 

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

Keep your head up! You belong in every room, even if you’re the only person who looks like you in that room. 

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

I have worked on identifying and fleshing out my long term goals. I’ve also made a lot of colleague and friendship collections. 

What do you enjoy most about Ithaca?

The gorges!

How did you prepare for the MPS program?

I spent a lot of time figuring out what classes were available, what I wanted to take, and what would be best for my future career. 

What’s a typical day like for you as a SIPS MPS student?

Most days, I get up around 6 am and head to the Noyes gym. I then usually have class or meetings from 9 am to 3 pm. In the evenings, I spend time at the library and with my friends studying. 

Why are you interested in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)?

I have always been interested in horticultural as well as leisure gardening. During my time studying horticulture as an undergraduate, I really enjoyed my greenhouse classes. 

How has pursuing an MPS helped your understanding of CEA? The future of CEA?

I have learned about a lot of innovation and technology in CEA. What are the biggest challenges you want to tackle in the world? Hunger! So many people in our country and all around the world suffer from hunger. I hope to help feed my community back in Baltimore. 

What has been the most memorable or impactful part of being in the SIPS MPS program?

For me, my amazing experience with my advisor has been most memorable. 

Describe your education / career path and how that led you to pursue a Cornell SIPS MPS degree program?

I graduated from the University of Maryland in December 2019. I was awarded a BS in Environmental Horticulture and a BA in Ecological Anthropology. I spent two years working in the industry at a drug type hemp operation and at a commercial floriculture greenhouse.  I knew I wanted to learn more specialized information about CEA, and that brought me to Cornell. 

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about feeding people and helping lift up my community. I have seen so much inequality and inaccessibility in food, and I know I want to make a change.  

How has the program helped you pursue what you’re passionate about?

The flexibility of the program has allowed me to study many different subjects that I will need to achieve my goals, from plant science to business classes. 

What Cornell / SIPS MPS resources have been most helpful?

Honestly, Tara is an angel, and I frequent her office. 

How has learning from faculty experts changed your perspective on CEA?

I have realized now that there is so much more opportunity and room for technological advancement in CEA. This has specifically been learned under my advisor Neil Mattson. Seeing my colleagues' presentations about their research has really opened my eyes on how much CEA can encompass and how much room for improvement there is. 

Share about your capstone project. What are you focused on?

For my capstone project, I am making a diagnostic guide for nutritional deficiencies in hemp. I am doing this in the greenhouse by purposefully depleting hemp plants from necessary nutrients in deep water hydroponic systems. I keep a control group, and eventually this guide will be visual.