Program overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Plant Breeding emphasizes the genetic improvement of plants for the benefit of society by using scientific procedures such as genetics, statistics, genomic selection, and cultivar development. Tools such as applied breeding and genetics, molecular mapping, molecular mapping, genetic engineering, quantitative genetics, gene isolation, molecular genomics and biology, plant tissue culture, and other analytical systems are used to produce new or improved genetically modified plants.  These new crops possess desirable characteristics in flower color, growth rate, size of harvested products, flavor, and resistance to diseases and pests.

 

 

Focus Area details

Knowledge and skills gained in this focus area provide a foundation for a variety of career opportunities including:

  • Variety trials manager 
  • Plant breeding research associate 
  • Germplasm collection manager 
  • Bioinformatics associate 
  • Breeding software developer 
  • Plant genetics technician 
  • Biotechnology specialist 
  • Plant improvement specialist 
  • Phenomics breeding associate 

Mark Bridgen

  • Cell and tissue culture
  • Greenhouse floriculture
  • Ornamental plant breeding

Susheng Gan

  • Dimensional control of gene expression
  • Plant senescence

Mike Gore

  • Quantitative genetics and genomics
  • High-throughput phenotyping tools
  • Nutritional genomics

Michelle Heck 

  • Molecular interactions among plant pathogens, insect vectors, and plant hosts

Jason Londo  

  • Grape stress physiology genetics and genomics

Rebecca Nelson 

  • Genetics of quantitative disease resistance in plants
  • International agriculture and rural development
  • Mycotoxin management

Bruce Reisch  

  • Grape breeding and genomics
  • Marker-assisted selection
  • Molecular genetic mapping

Larry Smart   

  • Breeding and genomics
  • Industrial hemp
  • Willow bioenergy crops

Justine Vanden Heuvel 

  • Computational tools for vineyard management
  • Ecophysiological factors and their impact on fruit and wine composition
  • Sustainable viticulture production

 

View all Integrative Plant Science MPS faculty | Explore all faculty interests and focus area careers

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 Breeding Courses (recommended):

  • PLBRG 6030 Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
  • PLBRG 6070 Nutritional Quality Improvement of Food Crops
  • LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students
  • PLBRG 7170 Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding
  • PLBRG 6080 Methods of Plant Breeding Laboratory
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLHRT 6020 Principles of Plant Propagation
  • PLSCI 5940 Skills for Public Engagement

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working in Soil Science, 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
  • Two 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 30 credits must be in graduate-level courses (5000-level and 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 graduate-level 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 semester 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

Deadline to apply: February 15*

*For regular Fall Semester start. Late applications may be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  Contact Tara Reed for more information: tln2 [at] cornell.edu.

plant breeder examining hemp plants in greenhouse

Faculty spotlight

Bruce Reisch

Bruce develops new wine and table grape varieties, as well as new grape breeding techniques. Since joining the Cornell faculty in 1980, his program has released 14 new varieties. His breeding efforts integrate traditional and novel techniques, and.emphasize combining wine quality with disease resistance and cold tolerance and developing table grapes tat are flavorful and attractive. For more than 10 years, he served as chair of the Grape Crop Germplasm Committee, a national committee overseeing U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts to preserve wild and cultivate grapevines. 

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. 

bruce reisch looking at a bunch of grapes on the vine
mark bridgen with flowering plant in greenhouse

Meet some of our Plant Breeding 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
Susheng Gan
Susheng Gan

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Biology Section

Susheng Gan
Plant senescence
Dimensional control of gene expression
Mike Gore
Michael Gore

Professor and Chair

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Michael Gore
Quantitative genetics and genomics
High-throughput phenotyping tools
Nutritional genomics
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
jason londo
Jason Londo

Adjunct associate professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Cornell AgriTech

Jason Londo
Grape stress physiology, genetics and genomics
Rebecca Nelson
Rebecca Nelson

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Professor

Department of Global Development

Rebecca Nelson
Genetics of quantitative disease resistance in plants
International agriculture and rural development
Mycotoxin management
Bruce Reisch
Bruce Reisch

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Cornell AgriTech

Bruce Reisch
Grape breeding and genomics
Molecular genetic mapping
Marker-assisted selection
Lawrence Smart
Larry Smart

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Larry Smart
Breeding and genomics
Industrial hemp
Willow bioenergy crops
Justine Vanden Heuvel
Justine Vanden Heuvel

Professor and Chair

Horticulture Section

School of Integrative Plant Science

Justine Vanden Heuvel
  • justine [at] cornell.edu
Sustainable viticulture production
Ecophysiological factors and their impact on fruit and wine composition
Computational tools for vineyard management