Program overview

The Biotechnology Applications specialization features coursework and hands-on laboratory work focused on the practice of plant biotechnology, designed to equip students with knowledge and tools to adapt and use plants for specific needs or opportunities.

Students learn about methods and tools, such as gene editing and metabolomics, used to adapt plants and plant-based products, protecting plants from viruses and pests, improving yield and quality, harnessing plant metabolic diversity for health, and safeguarding the environment and food supply. Areas of study include:

  • Recombinant DNA technology and plant transformation
  • Plant genotyping and phenotyping
  • Plant tissue culture and regeneration
  • Evaluating claims related to the GMO debate
  • Implementing popular bioinformatics tools using UNIX, Python and R.
  • Plant biochemistry and metabolism
  • Medicinal plants and plant-based drug discovery
  • Experimental design and data analysis

Additional coursework in communications and leadership, combined with a capstone project, provide students with practical problem-solving skills.

Specialization details

The skills developed can be applied to numerous emerging applications and careers across corporate, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in fields such as:

  • Agrotechnology
  • Plant-based food and health products
  • Computational Biology and Systems Biology
  • Genetic Engineering and Research
  • Pharma and biotechnology
  • Plant Protection
  • Scientific Communication and Public Relations
  • Regulation, Compliance and Intellectual Properties of Plants, Plant-based applications & products

To learn more about these courses,  visit the Courses of Study website.


  • PLBIO 7400: Plant Biology Seminar (1 credit)
  • PLBIO 5831: Concepts and Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology (3 credits) *
  • PLBIO 7420: Current Papers in Plant Biology (1 credit)
  • BTRY 6010: Statistical Methods I (4 credits)
  • ALS 5211: Career Readiness CALS Professional Master's Students (1 credit)
  • PLSCI 5900: MPS Team Project (3 credits)

* Alternative: Plant PLBIO 5100 Medicinal Botany & Drug Discovery (2 credits; Fall)


  • PLBIO 5430 - Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants (Lecture – 2 credits)
  • PLBIO 5431: Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants (Lab – 2 credits)
  • PLBIO 6000: Concepts and Techniques in Computational Biology (3 credits)
  • PLBIO 5430: Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants (2 credits) *
  • PLBIO 7400: Plant Biology Seminar (1 credit)
  • LEAD 5100: Leadership Skills for Graduate Students (2 credits)
  • COMM 4660: Public Communication of Science and Technology (3 credit)
  • PLSCI 5900: MPS Team Project (3 credits)

*Alternative: PLBIO 5620 Plant Biochemistry (3 credits; Spring)

Coming soon.

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.

Next steps

Fall 2021 application deadlines: February 1 (priority), March 15 (general)

plants in biotech experiment

Faculty spotlight

Michael Scanlon

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

Mike Scanlon with students in lab viewing meristem anatomy on monitor

Meet our Biotechnology Applications faculty

William Crepet
William Crepet


School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

William Crepet
Plant systematics and phylogeny
Flowering plants
Klaas van Wijk
Klaas van Wijk


School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

Klaas van Wijk
Molecular genetics and protein biochemistry
Mass-spectrometry-driven proteomics and metabolomics
Chloroplast biogenesis and protein homeostasis in Arabidopsis and differentiation in maize
Michael Scanlon
Michael Scanlon


School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

Michael Scanlon
Mechanisms of meristem and leaf development
Evolution of plant morphology
Arabidopsis, tomato, Selaginella, and Physcomitrella
Michelle Heck
Michelle Heck

Adjunct Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

Michelle Heck
  • mlc68 [at]
Molecular interactions among plant pathogens, insect vectors, and plant hosts