Program overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Plant Biotechnology centers on the application of scientific techniques to develop and improve plants for the benefit of society. It is a way to increase agricultural productivity and to enhance plant breeder’s abilities to make improvement in plants. Tools such as plant tissue culture, genetic engineering, molecular diagnostics, plant breeding, and other analytical systems are used to produce genetically modified plants that exhibit new or improved desirable characteristics. These new crops possess desirable characteristics in terms of flavor, flower color, growth rate, size of harvested products and resistance to diseases and pests.

Focus Area details

The Plant Biotechnology Focus Area features coursework and hands-on laboratory work that is individually designed to equip students for careers across corporate, governmental and non-governmental organization (NGOs) sectors. Graduates qualify for positions as scientists, laboratory technicians and managers, educators, extension specialists, consultants, and much more in:

  • Plant breeding
  • Seed science
  • Biotechnology
  • Plant tissue culture
  • Plant research
  • International development

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

Coursework is specifically designed to meet the needs of each student. A minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest is required to graduate.  The student and their faculty advisor decide on a plan of study. Here are some of the classes that are available; there are several more from which to choose:

Integrative Plant Science Core:

Required:

  • PLSCI 5500 Let Your Life Speak: Selfhood, Community, Change
  • ALS 5900 Master of Professional Studies Project Development
  • ALS 5910 Master of Professional Studies Project Completion

Recommended:

  • ALS 5211 Career Readiness: Engaged Learning for CALS Professional Master’s Students
  • LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students

Plant Biotechnology Courses (recommended):

  • PLBIO 5430 Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • PLBIO 5431 Laboratory in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLHRT 6020 Principles of Plant Propagation
  • PLBRG 6080 Methods of Plant Breeding Laboratory
  • PLHRT 6170 Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems
  • PLBIO 6410 Laboratory in Plant Molecular Biology
  • PLBIO 6831 Concepts and Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working with plants, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Online application through Cornell Graduate School
  • Bachelor’s degree in scientific field
  • For non-science background, at least 15 credit hours of introductory college-level science courses, including general chemistry, general biology, and corresponding labs
  • Current résumé or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL/IELTS for international applicants, per Graduate School guidelines

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 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 5000 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.

Next steps

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

plants in biotech experiment

Faculty spotlight

Mark Bridgen

Bridgen is an ornamental plant breeder, leader in the floriculture industry and director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center. His approach involves a balance of basic and applied research. He has expertise in new plant development and breeding, plant cell and tissue culture, and in vitro plant breeding, including somaclonal and gametoclonal variation, embryo culture, somatic embryogenesis, mutation breeding, meristem culture for the production of pathogen free plants, and micropropagation. 

mark bridgen

Meet some of our Plant Biotechnology faculty

Mark Bridgen
Mark Bridgen

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Director, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center

School of Integrative Plant Science

Mark Bridgen
Ornamental plant breeding
Cell and tissue culture
Greenhouse floriculture
William Crepet
William Crepet

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

William Crepet
Plant systematics and phylogeny
Flowering plants
Paleobotany
Michelle Heck
Michelle Heck

Adjunct Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

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