Program overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Plant Systems allows for maximum flexibility in curriculum design and project work. With nearly fifty MPS faculty advisors who offer diverse areas of expertise, you can customize a curriculum that is relevant to individual passions, interests, and career goals.

Explore facets of sustainable agriculture, food security issues, international agriculture, environmental information systems, climate change, biodiversity conservation, human-plant interactions, computational biology, garden-based learning, agricultural education and more. The options are limited only by your imagination. 

Focus Area details

With an MPS in Plant Systems, you will be exceptionally well qualified for plant scientist positions in the public, private and academic sectors.  Depending on how you configure  your major, you might find work or create your own job as:

  • Garden educator
  • Urban forester
  • Arborist
  • Landscape designer
  • Landscape technician
  • Plant ecologist
  • Extension educator
  • Crop consultant
  • Lab or field scientist
  • Specialty crop entrepreneur
  • Ecosystem analyst
  • Food system specialist
  • Non-profit agriculture organization leader
  • Orchard manager
  • Paleobotanist
  • Forensic botanist
  • Greenhouse/nursery specialist
  • Flower bulb specialist
  • Agricultural educator
  • Berry grower
  • Vegetable grower
  • Specialty crop grower/organic farmer
  • Golf and sports turf specialist
  • Urban grassland specialist
  • Computational biologist

Nina Bassuk   

  • Street trees
  • woody plant propagation
  • landscape management

Mark Bridgen

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

William Crepet

  • Plant systematics and phylogeny
  • Flowering plants
  • Paleobotany

Marcia Eames-Sheavly   

  • Art of horticulture
  • Garden-based learning Engaged learning and child and youth development

Michelle Heck    

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

Ashley Helmholdt    

  • Garden-based learning

Kathie Hodge

  • Mycology
  • Fungal systematics
  • Fungal pathogens of insects

Jian Hua

  • Environmental responses; Adaptation; temperature; immunity; plants

Yu Jiang

  • Agricultural robotics and artificial Intelligence
  • High throughput plant phenotyping
  • Image processing

Betsy Lamb

  • Ornamental and greenhouse integrated pest management

Jason Londo    

  • Grape stress physiology genetics and genomics

William Miller

  • Flower bulbs and floriculture
  • Greenhouse and nursery crops
  • Physiology and post-harvest management
  • CEA/Greenhouse hemp production

Teresa Pawlowska

  • Evolutionary and population genomics
  • Innate immunity in fungi and fungal-bacterial interactions
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizae

Greg Peck

  • Tree fruits
  • Hard cider
  • Organic production

Jeff Perry   

  • Extension Education
  • Teaching Methods
  • Youth Leadership Development

Marvin Pritts

  • Berry crops
  • Season extension
  • Sustainable production practices

Anu Rangarajan   

  • Fresh market vegetable production
  • Organic and reduced tillage vegetable production
  • Small farms and sustainable agriculture

Steve Reiners   

  • Organic gardening
  • Processing vegetables (peas, beans, sweet corn)
  • Vegetable production systems

Bruce Reisch   

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

Frank Rossi

  • Lawn, golf and sports turf,
  • Urban grasslands management

Sonja Skelly   

  • Plants and human well being
  • Public garden management School & youth gardening, adult education

Karen Snover-Clift

  • Plant disease diagnosis
  • Plant pathology training of Master Gardeners, Extension Educators, and green industry members

Peter Woodbury   

  • Agricultural and forest ecosystems
  • Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality
  • Greenhouse gas emissions


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:


  • 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


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

Plant Systems Courses (recommended):

  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLBIO 5430 Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • PLSCS 5210 Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
  • ENTOM 5440 Integrated Pest Management
  • PLBRG 6030 Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
  • PLHRT 6020 Principles of Plant Propagation
  • PLHRT 6170 Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems

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]

two students working with hemp in greenhouse

Faculty spotlight

Yu Jiang

Yu Jiang’s research focuses on systems engineering and data analytics for specialty crops and involves interdisciplinary innovation among engineering, computer science, and plant science. His interests include agricultural robotics and artificial intelligence, image processing and high throughput plant phenotyping.

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