Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Integrative Plant Science

Learn about plant- and soil-based solutions for a changing world

Offered through the graduate field of Integrative Plant Science, the Master of Professional Studies in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree program is a specialized, one-year, course-based master's degree program. Areas of study cover a wide range of issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences, including: controlled environment agriculture, geospatial applications, soil health, hemp science, public garden leadership, and more. Students also have the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary approach that combines distinct areas of study.

A hallmark of the MPS program is the balanced portfolio of technical knowledge, analytical skills and professional development built into the curriculum. The mix of coursework and capstone project equips students with the skill set and knowledge necessary for careers in industry, government, or non-profit agencies.

Specialization Areas:

Learn about the latest issues and technological advancements in plant and soil sciences with customized curriculum offered in a wide range of areas. 

Student workiing with forceps and petri dish under hood

The Biotechnology Applications specialzation features coursework and hands-on laboratory work focused on the practice of plant biotechnology, designed to equip students for careers across corporate, governmental and non-governmental organization (NGOs) sectors.

man stnading in a greenhouse lit with LED lighting

CEA is an advanced and intensive form agriculture where plants are grown in a controlled environment with optimized horticultural practices. This specialization emphasizes skills related to lighting, hydroponic production, pest control, and horticultural aspects of production.

man in field with drone

Geospatial Applications is the use of modern tools to geographically map and analyze the Earth and human societies. This specialization provides education in the geospatial application, including GIS, to develop data management and decision-making skills for a wide range of geographical data. Students will also become licensed and experienced in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Examining flats of small industrial hemp plants

Hemp Science specialization is focused on the development of specific skills to understand plant breeding and genetics; hydroponic and field crop production; processing; food, fiber and medicinal applications; and product development. Students will also have a broad-based understanding of the industry from seed to sales, exploring the legal and regulatory environment and challenges facing the cannabis industry today and in the future.

Graduate student working with diseased plants in growth chamber

Plant Protection encompasses strategies and tactics for managing insect pests, weeds, and plant pathogens. Students take courses with Integrated Pest Managment experts and master the application of applied concepts from allied fields such as economics, ecology, and toxicology. 

student interns examine rhododendron

Public Garden Leadership is the management of public gardens and requires a mix of academic training and practical experience. This specialization emphasizes leadership, strategic decision making, and business management. Because of the importance of hands-on learning, students regularly interact with Cornell Botanic Gardens staff and participate in study tours to public gardens in North America to learn from and network with field professionals.

woman in vineyard

This specialization emphasizes knowledge development and hands-on experience in the science, production and study of grapes. With Cornell’s ideal location in the Finger Lakes region – home to nearly 10,000 acres of vineyards – students will be exposed to every aspect of grape growing and wine making.

In addition to the specialization areas, students have the flexibility to design a customized curriculum in areas such as:

Plants and Soil

• Agronomy
• Field Crop Science
• Soil Science
• Environmental Information Systems
• Environmental Management

Specialty Crops

• Breeding of Horticultural Crops
• Horticultural Crop Management Systems
• Physiology and Ecology of Horticultural Crops
• Human-Plant Interactions

Marvin Pritts with berries

Our world-class faculty will help guide you through your MPS experience. They are recognized leaders in their fields and are ready to be your mentor as you develop new skills and competencies needed to thrive in the workplace.

Faculty Spotlight

Learn more about our world-class faculty.

Faculty spotlight

Larry Smart, hemp breeder

Dr. Larry Smart is a Professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and is Associate Director of Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY. Larry is a plant geneticist and breeder whose lab uses genomic tools in breeding shrub willow bioenergy crops and to better understand hybrid vigor and pest and disease resistance. More recently, he has been leading Cornell’s hemp research and extension team and has initiated a long-term breeding program to develop new hemp cultivars for New York State. 

Faculty spotlight

Neil Mattson, CEA expert

One of the nation’s leaders in CEA, Neil's research focuses on how environmental factors and cultural practices affect physiology, development, and biochemical characteristics of greenhouse crops, lighting systems, and energy efficiency. He is particularly interested in how water quality, nutrient availability, temperature, light, and abiotic stress conditions affect crop physiology. This fits well with Neil’s goal of providing producers with relevant, research-based information for the production of high quality CEA crops.

Faculty spotlight

Justine Vanden Heuvel, aka @thegrapeprof

One of the nation’s leaders in viticulture, Justine's research focuses on optimizing wine grape production using computational tools, determining how ecophysiological factors affect grape flavors and aromas, and enhancing economic and environmental sustainability of winegrape production. Her holistic approach to viticulture provides students with a hands-on, immersive experience.

Faculty spotlight

Ying Sun, geospatial applications expert

Ying's research focuses on understanding fundamental processes governing interactions between agroecosystems and climate at various scales. She is working with a team of researchers using NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) to more accurately measure photosynthesis – with implications for creating more reliable estimation of crop productivity and global carbon uptake in the face of increasing climate change. “Our population and food demand growing. But we only have limited land and water resources. My goal is to provide sustainable solutions to increase food productivity while reducing negative impacts on the environment. Using this novel data set and state-of-the-art modeling tools, I feel confident about being able to help solve these systemic agricultural problems.”

Faculty spotlight

Michael Scanlon, plant morphology expert

Scanlon's research focuses on mechanisms of plant development and evolution of plant morphology. He uses comparative developmental genetics and functional genomics to investigate how meristems make leaves and embryos make meristems. See also: Plant biologist to use NSF grant for maize development study

Faculty spotlight

Don Rakow, wrote the book on public gardens

A global authority in public garden leadership, Don literally wrote the books on the subject, including Public Garden Management. A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta and Public Gardens and Livable Cities Partnerships Connecting People, Plants, and Place. He also directs the Nature Rx@Cornell program and the nationwide Campus Nature Rx Network, and is the author of Nature Rx: Improving College-Student Mental Health.

Faculty spotlight

Antonio DiTommaso, weed scientist

Toni's research focuses on gaining a more in-depth understanding of the basic biological/ecological principles governing agricultural and environmental weed population dynamics that ultimately lead to the development and implementation of safe, effective, sustainable and economically viable weed management strategies.  He is also Section Chair and Director of Graduate Studies in Soil and Crop Sciences.

larry smart with hemp seedlings in greenhouse
neil mattson in greenhouse with specialized lighting and hyrdoponic system
Justine Vanden Heuvel holding drone in vinyard
portrait of ying sun
Mike Scanlon with students in lab viewing meristem anatomy on monitor
don rakow with rhododendrons in the background
Antonio DiTommaso in front of bradfield hall

Alumni Spotlight

Learn more about the exciting directions our graduates take.

Meet recent alumni

Bailee Hopkins | MPS '19 | Public Garden Leadership

Bailee took her love of gardening to Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Upperville, VA as a Horticulturist in the Biocultural Conservation Farm onsite.

Meet recent alumni

Ryan Ronzoni | MPS '20 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I enjoyed the ability to craft a program based on my interests and needs.”

Meet recent alumni

Charles Gagne | MPS '19 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I think controlled environmental agriculture is amazing because it has the ability to create small oases in otherwise inhospitable areas. My goal is to use my MPS degree to make farming more sustainable and to shift our perception of how food can be grown to feed our changing world."

Meet recent alumni

Taylor Mattus | MPS '16 | Viticulture

"The CALS MPS program allowed me to customize a program to meet my unique goals."

Meet recent Alumni

Carson Letot | MPS '17 | Horticulture

"I am passionate about education first and foremost because I believe it leads to a society that is more informed and more responsible to the environment and fellow humans."

Meet recent alumni

John Wellhofer | MPS '20 | Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

“I have been able to tune my project and schedule to courses that will help me in my career goals, and I value that flexibility."

Bailee Hopkins
Ryan Ronzoni
Charles Gagne
Taylor Mattus
Carson Letot
John Wellhofer

CALS MPS program details

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) master of professional studies (MPS) program is an accredited, course-based, one-year master’s degree program that emphasizes professional development and intellectual investigation in the areas of agriculture, life sciences and global development.

Though similar to a master of science (M.S.) degree in its academic rigor, the MPS degree differs from a traditional M.S. degree in its structure and focus. An M.S. is research based, with students building a thesis over the course of two or three years. In contrast, the MPS degree is a one-year, course-based program where students study the intricacies and in-depth questions of their field of study. Instead of a thesis or research project, MPS students complete a capstone project during their final semester. To understand this difference in greater detail, please visit our FAQ page.

MPS students are part of a community of diverse students and faculty who share common goals, connecting research and practice to solve complex problems. 

 

The master of professional studies yearlong program has two main components:

  • Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to map out their individualized course of study based on their areas of interest. The majority of courses (20 credits) will be within CALS; however, students have the opportunity to take courses across Cornell.
  • Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem.
  • Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest, as agreed upon with the faculty advisor.
    (a)   Twenty credit hours must be taken within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and at least 24 credits must be in courses numbered 4000 or higher.
    (b)   A maximum of 6 of the required 30 credit hours may be earned through the student's problem-solving project (see third bullet).
    (c)   A maximum of 6 credit hours earned outside the program, at Cornell University or elsewhere, may be counted toward these requirements at the discretion of the student's faculty advisor. These credits must be appropriate to the subject of study and completed not more than five years before admission.
  • Completion of a minimum of two semesters. One semester must be earned by carrying a minimum of 12 credit hours. In certain circumstances, the second semester credit may be earned by accumulating the remaining credit hours in the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions at Cornell University or through transfer of credit (see item c above).
  • Satisfactory completion of a problem-solving project under the supervision of the faculty advisor. This project may be an action program, the development of a plan to address a pertinent problem, the development of materials or methodology suited to the student's situation, or the development and execution of research appropriate to the profession. A formal project report must be submitted to and approved by the candidate's faculty advisor. 
  • A minimum grade point average of 2.5 (minimum of 18 credit hours with letter grades at Cornell).
  • Completion of the degree within four years of admission. Some fields of study may have special requirements, so students should check with the field's director of graduate studies for specific details.

Students work with top-ranked faculty who are leaders in their field on an experiential project that fosters professional skill development through the creation of solutions to real-world problems.

Browse recent projects.

Compare an MPS to an M.S. degree

MPS and M.S. programs both lead to graduate-level master’s degrees. Which is right for you? Here's how they compare: 

  MPS M.S.
Format Course-based Research-based
Final Project Capstone project Thesis
Length Typically one year Typically 2-3 years
Funding Self-funded, usually with federal and/or private loans Funded by the department with  stipends and teaching  assistantships
Ideal for Individuals who want to pursue careers in industry, government or nonprofit agencies; some continue in research Individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in research or academia

Questions about Plant Science MPS? Contact us:

Tara Reed
Plant Science MPS Program Coordinator
Phone: (607) 255-2131
Email: tln2 [at] cornell.edu

Marvin Pritts
Plant Science MPS Program Director
Phone: (607) 255-1778
Email: mpp3 [at] cornell.edu