PPPMB Graduate Student Association

The PPPMB Graduate Student Association (PPPMB-GSA) represents student concerns to the Field and University. It is also active in section and field social events, and provides valuable assistance in recruiting and welcoming new graduate students. The PPPMB-GSA also participates in the SIPS Graduate Student Council.


  • President – Jenny Wilson
  • Vice President – Andrea Lugo-Torres
  • Secretary – Juan Luis Gonzalez
  • Treasurer – Jess Choi
  • GPSA Field Representative – Chloe Siegel

Colloquium Committee

Zoe Dubrow (Chair), Chloe Siegel, Athena Yeh, Martha Sudermann

Prospective Student Committee

Jess Choi, Marina Mann, Maddie Flasco, Ali Cala (Co-chair), David Strickland (Co-chair), Anna Wallis (Co-chair)

Social Committee

Tristan Wang (Chair), Chloe Siegel, Martha Sudermann

Resources for current students

Bias Reporting

  • Bias Reporting: report a bias incident and learn what constitutes bias

Mental and Physical Health

Graduate School Programs and Resources

  • Cornell Graduate School: Academic Resources, Career Resources, Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion, and more
  • Travel Grants: apply for funding for travel to a professional conference at which you are presenting or for funding to travel as part of thesis/dissertation research [available to research degree students only]
  • Graduate and Professional Student Assembly: Cornell’s community of graduate and professional students to address non-academic issues of common concern

Meet us!

Current students in the Graduate Field of PPPMB

grad students examining hops plants in greenhouse

PPPMB Graduate Student Handbook

Perspectives and advice written by students for students


You are strongly encouraged to arrange housing before you arrive, as it will be difficult to find affordable housing right before the start of the fall semester. Housing is expensive in Ithaca! Even if you know your thesis lab is in Geneva, most first year (and even second year) students live in Ithaca because of the class requirements in the first two years. It is also nice to be near others in your cohort.

While there are some options for living on-campus, the vast majority of graduate students choose to live off-campus. The Housing Office (living.sas.cornell.edu) puts out a Guide to Graduate and Professional Student Living each year with information about on-campus housing and tips for finding off-campus housing. When choosing housing, look for options within the City of Ithaca with off-road parking. Otherwise, you will have to move your car everyday during the winter to make way for the plows (which many people do).


Some people choose to bike to campus, but remember, Ithaca has some steep hills and biking can get tricky in the winter with icy conditions. Car parking on campus for commuters is very expensive and the lots are on the edges of campus, so few students choose to drive to school. Check http://transportation.fs.cornell.edu for more information on commuting to school.

Bus access is provided for your first year at Cornell (starting when classes start in August) and your Cornell ID card serves as your bus pass. All Cornell students can ride for free after 6 pm on weekdays and anytime on weekends. An Omniride pass ($200) is available for purchase through the Cornell Transportation Office for students after their 1st year.

The bus system in Ithaca is very good! Many people use the buses to get to campus from near or far. Check out http://www.tcatbus.com as you pick where to live so you can see how close your housing is to a bus route. TCAT buses have bike racks on the front of them, so mixing biking and busing can be a great way to deal with hills and snow.

When to Arrive

Some students, such as those doing rotations or those in labs that do fieldwork, arrive during the summer to be able to get a field season in. However, many students choose to start around the beginning of the fall semester. Talk to your advisor or the PI of your first rotation to discuss when is best for you to arrive and funding for the summer. If you are arriving in the summer, you will want to register for summer sessions so that you are able to get a Cornell ID card and get credit for your work.

We recommend giving yourself a little time in Ithaca to get used to the area before starting school. Many leases start at the beginning of August, which gives you time to enjoy how beautiful Ithaca is in the summer, before orientation.

Keys, Passcodes, and Desks

Stop by the main PPPMB office to get a cheat sheet of passcodes for common rooms in Plant Science, and to be assigned a desk. All graduate students will receive a desk in Plant Science for the first year at least, which will probably be in a passcode-locked room. You should also receive a passcode to the Haustorium (lunch room by the elevator) and mail room (across the hall). You will have a “mail box” that will probably be shared with others and is typically used for intradepartmental papers, such as form copies and test returns.

Email list serves

As a graduate student it’s important to be receiving all the emails and notifications you should be receiving! The following is a list of the email list serves you should be subscribed to, followed by the person you should contact to place you on the list:

  • ppath-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Alicia Caswell, amd33 [at] cornell.edu)

Geneva based Plant Path students should be subscribed to:

  • nysaes-all-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Amy Anderson, ada10 [at] cornell.edu)
  • nysaes-pp-all-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Kate Keagle, kev35 [at] cornell.edu)

BTI based Plant Path students should be subscribed to:

  • bti-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Sam Nash, sln62 [at] cornell.edu)
  • Optional, if you would like to join the BTI’s society for grad students and post-docs: bti-pgs-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Sam Nash, sln62 [at] cornell.edu)
  • Optional, for emails about non-work related items: btirec-l [at] list.cornell.edu (Sam Nash, sln62 [at] cornell.edu)

Fun Office Events!

  • Coffee break - held every Friday morning (10am in Ithaca (during academic year), 9:45am in Geneva), coffee break is an opportunity to scavenge free food and catch up with your peers and faculty. This is a relaxed atmosphere, with ample amounts of good laughs. And cheese. All the cheese.
  • Cheers with your Peers - This is an event co-hosted between all SIPS sections that invites all faculty, grad students, and of-age undergrads to come share a cold brew together. Held every so often on a Thursday afternoon, these also have a relaxed atmosphere. Small donations are suggested (read: required) if you partake, so as to keep Cheers with your Peers self sustaining.
  • Muggings - these are more infrequent events, occurring only when a senior student is graduating. During a mugging, everyone gathers, bringing their own coffee mug to share a coffee and slice of cake to wish the new grad congratulations.
  • The Barn & TGIF - The Big Red Barn is a graduate and professional student only cafe on the Ithaca campus. On Friday afternoons from 4:30 to 7pm, the Barn holds an event called “Tell Grads It’s Friday” in which they have free snacks and sell beer and hard cider. This is always a great time to hang out with your friends after a long week, and has by far the cheapest drinks in town. The BRB also serves beer most other weeknights, and is a great place to study or meet up with friends is always a great time to hang out with your friends after a long week, and has by far the cheapest drinks in town. The BRB also serves beer most other weeknights, and is a great place to study or meet up with friends.
  • Coffee - there is free coffee in the Haustorium every morning. Feel free to bring your own mug and take some. If you take the last cup, set another pot to brew.
  • Manndible - near Mann Library is Manndible Cafe, which serves coffee, baked goods, snacks, and lunch. The food and coffee are good, but be forewarned that they often get very busy at class changes!

Your Program of Study - Rotations, Thesis, and Special Committee

Student who come in on a fellowship offer are typically allowed to do rotations; your acceptance offer should detail whether you have been accepted into a spot in a specific lab or will be rotating and any parameters required of your rotations.

Rotations give students the chance to try out a research program before they sign their soul away to a particular lab. Rotating students will identify two or three labs they have an interest in and spend anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks in each working on a small project the student and faculty member agree upon. For example, some students are interested in molecular aspects of plant pathology, but aren’t sure if they would rather work with fungi, bacteria, viruses, or nematodes. Thus, a rotation is a good way to get a feel for the pros and cons of working with each type of pathogen. Rotations are also a great way to get to know some of the people and faculty members in the department and who you may like working with. Even if you already know which professor you want to work with, you may do a rotation in another lab to broaden your research experience.

Students have up to a year (two semesters) to complete rotations, but should try and choose a lab as soon as possible, due to the new student visits and offers every February. Remember that rotations are largely the students responsibility, so do not be afraid to assert yourself if you felt you have done what you need to do for the rotation. Oftentimes the project is not finished when the time is up, but it is not required for you to stay in the lab longer to complete the project. You do not have to choose one of the professors with whom you did a rotation with as your major professor! Consult with the DGS if you need help finding a lab/program complementary to your interests.

Thesis Project

To complete your graduate degree, you will work on a thesis project. If you have a specific project in mind when you arrive, chances are good that you will have the opportunity to work on that project or a similar one. Most faculty are very interested in what interests you. If your goals are unclear now, your advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS, a faculty member in the Section that liaisons between the section and the Graduate School) may help guide you into a project, but the choice is ultimately yours. On the other hands, many faculty members recruit students with a particular project in mind and will bring you on as a student with the expectation that you work on that project.

Special Committees

The Special Committee is a panel of faculty members who will advise and guide your thesis research and graduate career. It consists of your major advisor (known as the committee chairperson) and at least one additional minor committee member for masters degrees and two additional members for PhD degrees. At least one of the additional special committee members must be outside the Section of PPPMB (ex. Horticulture, Plant Biology, Entomology, Microbiology, Plant Breeding, and Genetics are some common selections). Minor committee members may also be outside of Cornell; these are called ad hoc committee member and they may be special collaborators at other institutions. Adding an ad hoc member to your committee requires special paperwork; the DGS will assist you in completing this paperwork.

Since the Special Committee plays such an important role in your graduate career at Cornell, keep in mind some of the following pointers:

  • Take your time in selecting a committee. You have until the end of your first year to do so, and seek out the advice of other students who work with or have worked with professors that you are considering for your committee. You will want to be sure that potential committee members are willing and able to provide ideas, time, money (for equipment and travel), supplies, and greenhouse/growth chamber space. Ensure that all faculty members on your committee will be able to work together – talk to your advisor and other graduate students to determine if certain personalities will mix well in a committee. Finally, make sure you know what the committee members’ expectations of you will be – good rapport, with both your advisor and research group is a must!
  • Faculty from other universities (or, more rarely, industry) may also serve as members of your special committee. To add an ad hoc member you must submit a petition to the graduate school (contact the DGS for more info). This can take a month or more to approve, so submit the paperwork as soon as possible.
  • Until you form a Special Committee, or at least a chairperson, the DGS will serve as your chairperson and will sign all require forms in the mean time. The DGS will also be happy to talk with you about possible research programs and committee members.


The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), also known as the Geneva Experiment Station or Cornell AgriTech, is located in quaint town of Geneva, NY, about an hour drive north of Ithaca. The Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology Section in Geneva is the same section as the Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology Section in Ithaca, however, each location has separate administrative and support personnel. The Station houses the department of Entomology and section of Horticulture in addition to Plant Pathology. Nearly 800 faculty, staff, students, and support personnel work at the Station. Officially there are no classes taught at the Station, with all course work taking place in Ithaca. However, special seminars and select classes are frequently Zoomed between the two campuses.

Students with advisors at the Station will be doing most of their thesis research in Geneva. The research facilities are well equipped with extensive lab space, greenhouses, and growth chambers. Another feature of the Station is the abundant field research sites within just a few miles of the Geneva campus. The Station has numerous vineyards, orchards, and vegetable fields, as well has close collaborative ties with nearby commercial growers for additional on-farm research sites. The library system at the Station is readily accessible and library materials may be easily ordered from the main campus via interlibrary loan.

At the Station, greenhouse space is assigned by request to a professor’s program. It is possible to negotiate additional space to meet experimental needs. Growth chambers are assigned by request. Requests for greenhouse space and growth chamber space should be made to the Geneva facilities coordinator. Sharing equipment between labs is common and routine at the Station.

Doing research in Geneva is a unique situation. Because you will spend your first one to two years taking classes in Ithaca,
completing research may be difficult. (But then, heavy class loads give Ithaca-based students the same challenge.) Geneva students often load up on classes the first two years of their program, completing all necessary course work while doing research in the summer, before being able to do research full time at the Station.

Ithaca laboratory and greenhouse facilities may be made available for Geneva based students to conduct research during the first few semesters while the student is taking classes and/or in Ithaca; discuss your research plans with your advisor to determine if this is feasible.

Ithaca to Geneva Commute

For Geneva based students, commuting between the Geneva and Ithaca campuses is a fact of life. PPPMB has arranged a contract with a commercial charter bus service (Fitzgerald Brothers LLC.) to provide a shuttle that goes back and forth between each campus. “The Shuttle” makes two round trips daily, one in the morning (leaving Ithaca campus at 7:00am and Cass Park at 7:15) and one in the afternoon/evening (leaving Geneva at 5pm, 4pm on Fridays). See below for details of where the Shuttle picks up and drops off in and around Ithaca. Keep in mind that the drive from Ithaca to Geneva is 50 miles and takes 1 hour. Heads up, State Troopers are frequently seen patrolling the route.

Office Space

Most graduate student offices at the Station are located on the first floor of Barton Lab. Desks, office chairs, Internet, and adequate shelving and filing space is supplied. One thing students working in Barton Lab quickly find out is that cell phone reception in the building is very spotty - you will frequently need to go to the lobby or outside to place a call or send a text message.


Station-owned housing is available for graduate students to rent and is located just down the street from laboratory buildings. There is a waiting list for station housing, so it is suggested that interested students sign up early with the coordinator. There are other housing options in Geneva, and the prices tend to be significantly less expensive than in Ithaca, however, options for housing are not as numerous as in Ithaca.

Summer Scholars Program

Another program unique to the Station is the Cornell Summer Scholars Program. This is a nine week summer research internship for undergraduates. The Summer Scholars Program is held only at the Station, however the department of Entomology and the sections of Plant Pathology and Horticulture participate. Undergraduates from schools across the United States and the world apply to the program, and if accepted, are matched to work in a particular faculty member’s program to conduct a research project. As a graduate student in Geneva, your faculty advisor may ask you to work closely with and mentor an intern. This is a fun time and a great opportunity to build your mentoring and organizational skills!

The Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) is an independent, non-profit institution affiliated with Cornell and located on the main campus in Ithaca. It was founded by William Boyce Thompson in 1924 as a location for basic plant research. Over 100 researchers work at BTI, with a wide variety of types of research; BTI is unique in that several departments are represented, including PPPMB, Plant Biology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Chemical Biology. Many graduate students also call BTI home.

Facilities and Summer Programs

BTI has well equiped laboratories and facilities, including the BTI Mass Spectrometry Facility, the Plant Cell Imaging Center, and greenhouse space. BTI also facilititates a 10 week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) each summer that pairs undergraduates from schools around the country with faculty and labs to conduct summer research. Graduate students based at BTI will often have the chance to mentor an REU student.