Overview

Soil and Crop Sciences degree programs offer students the opportunity to develop new knowledge that addresses environmental and agricultural problems related to soils and crops, from fundamental to applied. All graduate degree programs in the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences are individualized to suit students' interests, backgrounds, and goals.

Each student has a Special Committee, which consists of the major advisor and representatives of the minor subjects. One minor subject is required for M.S. students, and two minor subjects are required for Ph.D. candidates. The committee provides advice about recommended courses and research activities and administers the required exams. Ph.D. candidates must pass the oral “A-exam,” usually taken after coursework is completed. Both M.S. and Ph.D. candidates must defend their theses at the “B-exam” and give a public seminar describing their work.

 

Requirement Details

Registration Units

A registration unit (RU) represents the satisfactory completion of one academic semester of full-time study or research. Registration units measure student progress by the length of time spent in pursuit of the degree.

Graduate School degrees require a certain number of registration units.

  • For the research master’s degree, two registration units are the minimum requirement. Exception: One registration unit is the exception for the M.Eng. degree.
  • For doctoral candidates, a minimum of six registration units is required with at least two coming after the A Exam. (See “Examinations”)
  • Special or terminal master’s degree programs (See “Exams required for the Ph.D.”) require at least four registration units.

For all research degrees, at least half of the registration units must be earned from full-time academic-year study on the Ithaca campus or satellite locations. (Part-time students are exempt from this requirement.)

M.P.S. degree programs do not require registration units.

M.S. Degree Requirements

  • Coursework and credits required for the M.S. degree are determined by the student’s Special Committee.
  • Candidates must maintain a 3.0 grade point average.
  • Attend at the PLSCS 6970: Seminar in Soil and Crop Sciences. The seminar requirement is firm and must be met by all students. Satisfactory seminar attendance involves attending at least seven presentations each semester.
  • Register for PLSCS 8900 (Master’s Level Thesis Research) after the first semester of study. Credit hours may vary and should be discussed with your chair
  • Student selects a Special Committee composed of one professor representing the major field/chair and at least one professor representing a minor field; more than one minor member is acceptable.
  • Committee members advise students in the selection and conduct of research problems for the thesis.
  • You must submit a complete thesis draft to all members of your Special Committee at least six (6) weeks before the final Master’s exam. (Your Special Committee may modify this requirement.) At least five (5) days before the exam, you must provide all members of your Special Committee with a complete, formatted, and editorially acceptable copy of the thesis or dissertation for final approval. (Your examining committee may still require modifications.) Final Examinations may not be scheduled until this requirement has been met. Code VI.G.4, Guide to Graduate Study. You must submit a Schedule of Masters Exam form to the Graduate School at least seven days prior to your oral exam. The form can be found on the Graduate School website.
  • The field requires that each M.S. and M.P.S. (Agriculture and Life Sciences) student present a half-hour seminar presentation on their research prior to degree completion. Exit seminar must be scheduled during one of the PLSCS 6970: Seminar in Soil and Crop Sciences.
  • Pass a final oral examination.
  • Fulfill a minimum of 2 registration units for at least two semesters (Code of Legislation, V.C.).
  • Students in a Master of Science degree program are expected, but not required, to obtain teaching experience, which can be satisfied by assisting a faculty member in teaching a course, working in extension, or taking a course in education.
  • Candidates must submit an acceptable thesis based on a research project.
  • M.S. degree candidates are expected to complete degree requirements within two years but, have up to 4 years to complete requirements.

PhD or MS/PhD Degree Requirements

  • Students who desire a Ph.D., may enroll in a M.S./Ph.D. program or be directly admitted into a PhD program. Our M.S./Ph.D. students will be expected to take a master’s exam and submit a thesis. Once the thesis has been submitted and approved, the student can continue on in the Ph.D. program. To complete the Ph.D. program, students must pass an admission to Ph.D. candidacy oral exam (A exam), conduct research, write and submit a dissertation, and then defend the thesis in an oral exam (B exam). The Master’s and A exam can be combined; but a thesis will be required.
  • Candidates must maintain a 3.0 grade point average. Course guidelines have been developed to promote a minimum level of knowledge and experience in the major field and concentration (see Course Guidelines). Students are expected to adhere to these guidelines except under extenuating circumstances, in agreement with the special committee and the graduate field. Any course grade of C+ or lower, a grade of "incomplete", or an overall GPA below 3.0, does not constitute satisfactory course performance. Students whose overall GPA drops below 3.0 are considered to be "on probation" and will receive a notice from the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Research credits are assigned S/U grades only, and are excluded from the overall GPA. A student on probation has one semester to improve his or her course performance, or the field may elect to discontinue the student's field membership. Extenuating circumstances will be discussed in the annual review meeting (see below). The above  criteria are minimum performance criteria, and do not exclude special committees from setting more stringent criteria for individual students.
  • Student selects a Special Committee composed of one professor representing the major field/chair and at least two (2) other professors as minor members, representing fields other than Soil and Crop Sciences. This approach permits the student to work with faculty members who can best direct the student’s graduate study, regardless of college, Section, or field affiliation.
  • Coursework and credits required for the Ph.D. degree are determined by the student’s Special Committee.
  • Attend the PLSCS 6970: Seminar in Soil and Crop Sciences. The seminar requirement is firm and must be met by all students. Satisfactory seminar attendance involves attending at least seven presentations each semester.
  • Register for Ph,D, thesis/research credit each semester: PLSCS 8900 (Graduate Individual Study in Soil and Crop Sciences, prior to successfully passing A Exam.)PLSCS 9900 (Doctoral-Level Dissertation Research, after passing A Exam) Credit hours may vary and should be discussed with your chair.
  • Committee members advise the student in the selection and conduct of research problems for the dissertation.
  • Candidates must submit an acceptable dissertation based on a research project.
  • Pass the “A” exam; an oral exam reviewing the student’s mastery of subject matter related to his/her thesis topic and the course work taken.
  • After passing the A exam, candidates must earn two additional registration units (semesters) before taking the final “B” examination.
  • You must submit a complete draft to all members of your Special Committee at least six (6) weeks before the final masters or B exam. (Your Special Committee may modify this requirement.) At least five (5) days before the exam, you must provide all members of your Special Committee with a complete, formatted, and editorially acceptable copy of the thesis or dissertation for final approval. (Your examining committee may still require modifications.) Final Examinations may not be scheduled until this requirement has been met. Code VI.G.4, Guide to Graduate Study. You must submit a Schedule of Masters Exam form to the Graduate School at least seven days prior to your oral exam. The form can be found on the Graduate School website.
  • Ph.D. students are required to give a half-hour seminar presentation on their research proposal prior to the A exam, and one full-hour seminar presentation on findings of research prior to the B exam. Seminar presentations are expected to be given in the Section of Soil and Crop Sciences seminar series (PLSCS 6970: Seminar in Soil and Crop Sciences) during fall or spring semesters (other series will be considered upon request). Planning ahead for this is important.
  • Pass the “B” exam or final examination which covers the subject of the dissertation.
  • Teaching experience is required and can be satisfied by assisting a faculty member in teaching a course, working in extension,or taking an education course.
  • Fulfill a minimum of 6 registration units, 2 of these between the A and B exam. For students completing an M.S./Ph.D., registration units beyond the 2 units required for the M.S. may be put towards the 6 registration units required for the Ph.D.(Code of Legislation, V.C.).
  • Candidates must submit an acceptable dissertation based on a research project.
  • While it is possible to complete Ph.D. degree requirements in three years, the nature of your research may require longer, in which case, requirements must be completed within seven years.

PLSCS 6970: Seminar in Soil and Crop Sciences

Section seminars are held weekly for faculty, staff, and graduate students during the academic year. All graduate students are expected to attend at least 7 each semester unless they have a course conflict, and they should register for PLSCS 6970 to receive credit.

Master’s Degree (MS) in Soil and Crop Sciences

A candidate for a research master’s degree in Soil and Crop Sciences is expected to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skill in the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences. Recipients of the research master’s degree will demonstrate the ability to conduct original research in the field of soil and crop sciences. Candidates are expected to synthesize and create new knowledge, making a contribution to the Field in a timely fashion.

Proficiencies

  1. Demonstrate professional skills
    • Always maintain ethical standards in the discipline
    • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively
  2. Mastery of advanced research skills
    • Recognize and apply fundamental concepts from Soil and Crop Sciences
    • Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and applying appropriate resources and critically analyzing and evaluating one’s own findings and those of others
    • Recognize and apply existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
    • Communicate research findings through publishing in scholarly literature and oral presentations in professional settings
  3. Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship
    • Conversant of current advances within one’s field and related areas
    • Show commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes
    • Show a commitment to creating an environment that supports learning through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, or demonstration
  4. Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline

Doctoral Degree (PhD) in Soil and Crop Sciences

A candidate for a doctoral degree in Soil and Crop Sciences is expected to work independently and to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and leadership in the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences. Recipients of the doctoral degree will demonstrate the ability to initiate, lead and complete research in the field of soil and crop sciences. Candidates are expected to independently synthesize and create new knowledge, making an original and substantial contribution to the discipline in a timely fashion.

Proficiencies

  1. Demonstrate professional skills
    • Always maintain ethical standards in the discipline
    • Listen to, give, and receive feedback effectively
  2. Mastery of advanced research skills
    • Recognize and apply fundamental concepts from soil and crop sciences
    • Synthesize existing knowledge by identifying and applying appropriate resources and critically analyzing and evaluating one’s own findings and those of others
    • Master application of existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
    • Communicate research findings through publishing in scholarly literature and oral presentations in professional settings
  3. Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship
    • Show awareness of current scientific advances relevant to the field of Soil and Crop Sciences and show the ability to synthesize and discuss their implications to the Field and beyond
    • Show commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes
    • Show a commitment to support learning through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, or demonstration
  4. Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline
    • Think originally and independently to develop new concepts and methodologies
    • Identify new research opportunities
    • Apply research methodologies independently to generate new information and concepts of relevance to Soil and Crop Sciences

Aspirational Goals for All Degree Candidates in the Graduate School

Cornell University has expectations of Cornell graduates that may defy explicit measurement scales.  These aspirational goals (listed below) are intended to encourage students’ growth and development but do not necessarily lend themselves to assessment as readily as the learning proficiencies. In some fields of study, these aspirational goals may be measured; whereas, in other Fields may not have quantitative or qualitative assessment.

  1. Serve as an ambassador for research and scholarship
  2. Effectively engage in one’s broader community through various forms of outreach
  3. Explore interconnections
  • Recognize plural contexts and cultures
  • Respect research in other areas
  • Understand and articulate the impact of research on society

ϯ     Proficiencies are defined in detail in the preceding pages. Whole numbers in the table are meant to include all relevant dependent categories (ie: 3 = 3a, 3b, 3c).
ψ  Note that not all categories of assessment will apply to all students.

Olena Vatamaiuk
Director of Graduate Studies, Soil and Crop Sciences

Coursework

The Graduate School has no course requirements for obtaining a MS or PhD advanced degree. Your course program is developed with the advice and direction of your special committee. Specific courses may be required by members of the committee and are usually suggested as a means to obtain essential training to save students from having to spend more time and effort in mastering the subject independently. Students should use their own judgment, along with the advice of their committee, in deciding which courses will provide the best training for future needs.

Graduate students must; however, be enrolled in at least one course with a minimum of one credit hour per semester. An exception to this would be students in the Employee Degree program (see below).

The International Students and Scholar’s Office (ISSO) defers to the field or section regarding course requirements. As long as the student maintains adequate standing with his/her field or Section the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Department of State (DOS) do not impose additional requirements.

All students in the Employee Degree Program (EDP) are eligible to enroll in up to eight (8) credits per semester. While participating in the EDP, you are also eligible to enroll in more than eight (8) credits during any two semesters. During these two semesters, you may reduce your work status to no less than part time. EDP students have no anticipated graduation date, and they may take longer to fulfill their course requirements. For more information, please visit the Employee Degree Program website.

The following are course guidelines for graduate students majoring or minoring in one of the concentrations in the Field of Soil and Crop Sciences. These guidelines were developed to promote a minimum level of knowledge and experience in the major and minor field. They are not intended to restrict students' options in pursuing independent and diverse course programs, but students are expected to adhere to these guidelines except under extenuating circumstances. The course guidelines may be met by equivalent courses taken at other institutions as part of earlier degree programs. In some cases, courses may be substituted for those in closely-related subjects offered in SCS or other departments.

The seminar requirement is firm and must be met by all students. Satisfactory seminar attendance involves attending at least seven presentations for each semester and registering online.

Please note that in addition to the course requirements listed below, all Masters and Doctoral students should register each semester for 12 credits of Graduate Research Credits. Graduate students are expected to be engaged in graduate research full time and this effort is reported by registering for research credits. Students in absentia or on leave of absence do not register for research credits. Note, students can register for a maximum of 22 total credits per semester (including research credits and course credits). Course codes for masters/doctoral level research credits are: 8200/9200, 8600/9600, 8800/9800 for crop sciences, environmental information sciences, and soil sciences and respectively.

Concentration of SOIL SCIENCE Major Degrees MS and MPS (Agriculture and Life Sciences) degrees: 12 credits of soil science courses, of which at least 8 credits are at the 4000 level or above, and 3 are at the 6000 or 7000 level (research credits are excluded). Two semesters of a seminar course of which at least one is PLSCS 6970, and one graduate course in Statistical Methods. Ph.D. degree. Same as for MS plus 12 additional credits from major or minor fields, of which 6 are at the 6000 or 7000 level (research credits are excluded), and two additional semesters of a seminar course, of which at least one is PLSCS 6970. Minor Degrees. All degrees: 6 credits of courses in soil science

Concentration of CROP SCIENCE Major Degrees MS and MPS (Agriculture and Life Sciences) degrees: 4 credits of plant physiology, 8 credits of crop science of which at least 3 credits are at the 6000 or 7000-level (research credits are excluded), two semesters of a seminar course of which at least one is PLSCS 6970, and one graduate course in Statistical Methods. Ph.D. Degree: same as for MS plus 12 additional credits from major or minor fields, of which 6 are at the 6000 or 7000 level (research credits are excluded), and two additional semesters of a seminar course, of which at least one is PLSCS 6970. Minor Degrees: all degrees: 6 credits of courses in crop science.

Concentration of AGRONOMY Major Degrees MS and MPS (Agriculture and Life Sciences) degrees: 4 credits of crop science, 4 credits of soil science, 3 credits of 6000- or 7000-level crop or soil science (research credits are excluded), two semesters of a seminar course of which at least one is PLSCS 6970, and one graduate course in Statistical Methods. Ph.D. degree: 6 credits of applied crop science, 6 credits of soil science, plus 9 credits of 6000 or 7000-level courses from the major or minor fields (research credits are excluded), and two additional semesters of a seminar course, of which at least one is PLSCS 6970. Minor degrees: all degrees: 6 credits of courses in crop science or soil science.

Concentration of ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION SCIENCE (EIS) Major Degrees MS and MPS (Agriculture and Life Sciences) degrees: 15 credits of EIS and related courses (as listed below), of which at least 3 are at 6000 or 7000 level (research credits are excluded). Two semesters of a seminar course of which at least one is PLSCS 6970, and one graduate course in Statistical Methods. Ph.D. degree. Same as above plus 12 additional credits from major or minor fields, of which 6 are at the 6000 or 7000 level (research credits are excluded), and two additional semesters of a seminar course, of which at least one is PLSCS 6970. Minor degrees: all degrees: 6 credits of courses in EIS. EIS Courses (not exhaustive): Geographic Information Systems and Technology including: Geographic Information Systems; Spatial Modeling and Analysis Statistical/Mathematical Modeling including: Statistical Methods; Spatial Statistics; Quantitative Statistics; Space-Time Statistics; and Data Mining Earth Measurement including: Resource Inventory Methods; Remote Sensing and Digital Image Processing; Environmental Biophysics; Global Positioning System Environment including: Soil and Water Sciences; Ecology; Natural Resources; Biological and Environmental Engineering; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Environmental and 6 Resource Economics. Computing including:Programming; Modeling; Database Management; and Computational Methodologies.

SCS Assessment Forms

Students ill need to bring these forms to their oral exams (A exam, B exam, and thesis exam). This form will be completed by the student's committee immediately following the exam, signed by all parties, and then submitted to the GFA or DGS.

Performance Guidelines and Requirements

Course Performance

Course guidelines have been developed to promote a minimum level of knowledge and experience in the major field and concentration (see Course Guidelines). Students are expected to adhere to these guidelines except under extenuating circumstances, in agreement with the special committee and the graduate field. Any course grade of C+ or lower, a grade of "incomplete", or an overall GPA below 3.0, does not constitute satisfactory course performance. Students whose overall GPA drops below 3.0 are considered to be "on probation" and will receive a notice from the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Research credits are assigned S/U grades only, and are excluded from the overall GPA. A student on probation has one semester to improve his or her course performance, or the field may elect to discontinue the student's field membership. Extenuating circumstances will be discussed in the annual review meeting (see below). The above criteria are minimum performance criteria, and do not exclude special committees from setting more stringent criteria for individual students.

Research Performance

Research performance is evaluated by the special committee. The field expects the research to be original and substantive, and meet the requirements of the special committee. Students are required to develop research proposals that are presented to the special committee and are filed with the Graduate Field Assistant (GFA) (see Review Process below).

Teaching Experience

For the Ph.D. degree, the field requires that all students gain experience in teaching. This requirement can be satisfied by assisting in the teaching of an entire course (as a TA), or by assisting a faculty member in other projects associated with teaching that meet the approval of the special committee chair and the DGS. Examples of such teaching experience are the development and offering of lab exercises, a module of several lectures to improve a course, or by assisting in the development of an extension workshop or teleconference. Exceptions to this requirement may be granted to students who have extensive prior university-level teaching experience.

Seminar

The field requires that each M.S. and M.P.S. (Agriculture and Life Sciences) student present a half-hour seminar presentation on their research prior to degree completion. Ph.D. students are required to give a half-hour seminar presentation on their research proposal prior to the A exam, and one full-hour seminar presentation on findings of research prior to the B exam. Seminar presentations are expected to be given in the Section of Crop and Soil Sciences seminar series during fall or spring semesters (other series will be considered upon request.)

Student Progress Report

The Student Progress Review (SPR) requirement was implemented in 2017 at the request of students and faculty to support the regular exchange of constructive, written feedback between advisees and advisors. It codifies a process for research degree students and their special committees to have at least one formal conversation per year about academic progress and future plans. Using the SPR form, students are asked to reflect on their recent accomplishments, identify challenges, and set goals. Committee chairs then review their students' SPR forms and enter constructive feedback. Chairs indicate whether progress has been excellent, satisfactory, needs improvement, or is unsatisfactory. Feedback that is documented on the SPR will be made available to the student, all members of the student's special committee, and the DSG/GFA of the student's field.

Examinations

All members of the graduate faculty are notified of examinations and all are welcome to attend. However, only rarely does a faculty member outside the student’s special committee attend. Students are responsible for notifying the GFA at least two weeks in advance to reserve a room and send a notice to graduate faculty. Students must submit a Schedule of Exam form for all exams to the Graduate School website at least one week in advance otherwise the exam results are not valid. Extensive information on Exams, Doctoral Dissertation and Master’s Thesis production can and should be obtained from the Graduate School. After each examination, a Results of Examination form must be filled out and submitted to the Graduate School within three business days and a copy to the GFA. (Find forms here.)

A Exam

Exam for Admission to Doctoral Candidacy for Ph.D. students

The A Exam is a comprehensive exam given by the student’s committee to test his/her general knowledge in the areas of plant sciences and related fields relevant to the student’s Ph.D. program in Plant Breeding. It is designed to determine the student’s ability to begin research. It is not to discuss the student’s specific research topic or research results, although it may enter the discussion. Although questions of specific factual nature are common, emphasis is also placed on the student’s ability to utilize and synthesize their knowledge to address more complex problems. A minimum of 3-hours should be scheduled; although there is no time limit, some have gone more than 4-hours. It is typically an oral exam but some written questions are allowed if a faculty member so chooses. It is appropriate and useful to discuss examination expectations with your committee members, either at a meeting of the Special Committee or in individual meetings or both, well in advance of the exam. Other faculty members in the Field are invited to participate, though the rarely do, and are allowed to ask questions, typically do not ask many questions. Each exam is unique. Therefore others’ experiences only represent what can happen, not what will happen.

The student generally provides a list of courses s/he has taken as a graduate student. Questions relating to these classes as well as background information relating to the student’s current research are fair game.

By Graduate School rules, this exam must be taken a minimum of 1 year before the thesis defense exam.

B Exam

Final Defense for Ph.D. or Thesis Defense Exam for M.S. Ph.D. students must have earned at least 2 registration units (RU) between the passing of the A exam and the scheduling of the B exam.

The Doctoral Dissertation, Master’s Thesis, and Advanced Degree Requirements guide has the detailed instructions and procedures. The Graduate School also maintains a resource list of typists, editors, and couriers.

This oral exam will discuss the student’s research and dissertation or thesis manuscript. It is expected that at the start of the exam the student will prepare and give a brief 10-15 minutes oral presentation of the main methods and results of the project to set the stage for the discussion and to demonstrate the ability to present their work. Questions may address the scientific background of the research and hypotheses, the general approaches and specific methods used, the results, and the interpretation of the results. At least 3-hours should be scheduled for the Ph.D. and 2-hours for the M.S. thesis defense. Normally, there are some changes required in the dissertation or thesis after the exam and may require from a few days to a few weeks to complete.

Thesis - Dissertation

Thesis or Dissertation Deadlines (Code VI.G.4) Guide to Graduate Study:

Student’s must submit a complete draft to all members of their Special committee at least six (6) weeks before the final masters or B exam; however, your Special Committee may modify this requirement. At least five (5) days before the exam, the student must provide all members of their Special committee with a complete, formatted, and editorially acceptable copy of the thesis or dissertation for final approval but keep in mind, your examining committee may still require modifications. Final Examinations may not be scheduled until this requirement has been met.

A suggestion: It can be extremely difficult to re-write thesis chapters for journal publications after a student has left to assume new duties elsewhere. It is strongly recommended that the thesis be written in the “manuscript” format where the publishable chapters are in the complete form of a manuscript for submission to a scientific journal. The publisher will then require only minor editorial revisions and it can be submitted quickly.

When you have a finished an approved manuscript:

The Grad School encourages all students to submit their final, approved thesis on-line using ProQuest. This requires you to convert your document to PDF format. The approved digital document is automatically forwarded to a local printer. Any charges, including printing, will appear on your bursar bill.

M.S. and Ph.D. – Submit the thesis electronically through the Graduate School website, ProQuest. Complete details for thesis and dissertation submission requirements can be found in the Thesis and Dissertation Guide.

Publishing Your Research Work

Students are encouraged to publish their research results in professional journals so their work can be widely disseminated. This is easily accomplished if the thesis is organized and written with this intent. Professional journal articles are a source of pride for the student, enhances career opportunities, and reflects well on the reputation of the Section. Few academicians read theses from other institutions, so the only practical way of sharing scientific contributions is through professional journals. If you expect to publish part, or all, of your thesis, you will be required to sign a License to Use Copyrighted Material form with the Graduate School.

Commencement

Information on degree conferral dates, commencement and diploma distribution can be obtained from the Graduate School, 350 Caldwell Hall, 255-5810, or the commencement website.

Graduate TA Policy

The faculty in the graduate Field of Soil and Crop Sciences believe that it is important for graduate students to participate in activities that support the section, while simultaneously gaining experiences that will be useful in a career. Graduate students are expected to contribute to the section/field in meaningful ways, particularly if support is coming from a section assistantship. A major way that graduate students contribute is by serving as a teaching assistant. Nearly all graduates will eventually be in a position where they have to teach others. In order to have a well-rounded education, we expect all students to have substantive and meaningful experience teaching. Serving as a teaching assistant (TA) or, in exceptional circumstances, playing a major teaching role in extension/outreach programs, can satisfy this expectation.

All graduate students are expected to contribute to Section teaching, research and outreach efforts, in accordance with their interests and abilities, and the needs of the Field and Section. In turn, the Field and Section will strive to allocate TA responsibilities and other Section assignments equitably and fairly among all graduate students.

In addition, when a student’s limited proficiency in English prevents them from serving as a TA in the classroom, or a suitable TA experience cannot be found, the student may be required to take a course aimed at developing his or her English proficiency and teaching skills in order to teach in the future; or they may be asked to help out with section activities such as web site development, curriculum or outreach program development and delivery, to satisfy the obligations of accepting section assistantship support.

  • All MS and PhD students regardless of funding source are required to serve as TAs, or provide some equivalent service in curricular activities during their time at Cornell.
  • MS and PhD students funded on an assistantship or endowment from the section may be required to TA during each semester. Such expectations will be spelled out in their acceptance letter. Faculty members shall accommodate the need for their graduate students to TA, and alter research and coursework expectations accordingly. Every effort will be made to ensure that teaching or section curriculum assignments are distributed fairly and that any special circumstances of individual graduate students are considered. Students with previous coursework and expertise in a particular area may be required to TA courses in that area, and that expectation may be stipulated as a condition of their financial support by the section when they are accepted into the graduate program. Faculty will advise students if they need to take or audit a course in order to gain more expertise in an area where they will be TA-ing. For multiple semesters of funding, students are encouraged to apply for BIO TAships.
  • Students supported by a Graduate School Fellowship shall not be required to serve as a TA during their fellowship year.
  • If an extension/outreach teaching experience is substituted for classroom TA-ing, the student’s major professor, DGS, and committee will have to approve the substitution. This should include a plan that helps the student achieve the equivalent educational goals of classroom teaching.
  • No extra section funding is allocated for students who TA.
  • Students will keep the Graduate Field Assistant, informed of their TA or equivalent experiences so accurate records can be kept.
  • All instructors should meet with and discuss what is expected of the TA prior to the beginning of class. Students should also discuss what they want to gain during the TA experience with the instructor.
  • Any dispute regarding the assignment of TA’s may be addressed to the student’s major advisor in consultation with the DGS.

Assistantships

Most graduate students in the Field of Plant Breeding are assigned on a half-time basis as Graduate Research Assistance (GRA), Teaching Assistants (TA), Graduate Assistants (GA), Research Assistants (RA), or Extension Assistants (EA). Their assignment time may be distributed throughout the year in various ways, depending on the requirements of the project. Graduate Research Assistants generally work more than half time (15 -20 hours a week) during the growing season and have more than enough time for their studies during the academic year.

There is likely to be an occasional demand on the student’s time. Assistantship assignments should not be so engrossing that graduate work is neglected, nor should the opposite occur. Time management is extremely important and will reflect recommendations for future Section positions and after graduation.

Fellowships & Other Funding Sources

Fellowship information is available from the Graduate School, 143 Caldwell Hall, or visit the Graduate School website. Additional information is usually forwarded via e-mail to the graduate student list in the Section when it becomes available.

The Graduate School will award a limited number of grants to graduate students for research-related travel. It is requested that you submit the Conference Grant Application as soon as possible (more than 30 days ahead of travel), however it can now be accepted up to 30 days after the START date of the conference.  Visit the graduate school website for the research travel grant application. Students will be notified via email that the conference award has been transacted and reflected on  your student center around the 15th of the month. 

In awarding research travel grants, the Graduate School gives priority to Ph.D. students who have or will have passed the A Exam prior to initiating their research travel. Applicants should plan on travel that will be at least several weeks in duration. Prior awardees are given low priority. Field trips related to academic classes are not funded. Because the Graduate School seeks to award a maximum number of grants from limited funds, awards are no more than $2,000. Research travel grants are not intended to act as full semester fellowships. Students are encouraged to submit requests that reflect careful budgeting. For example, applicants should use public transportation when practical, plan on preparing their own meals whenever possible, and secure modest accommodations.

SCS Conference Travel Grant Application Guidelines

Please note that research travel grants are for travel that is directly related to dissertation research, not conference travel. Conference grant applications are available separately.

Forms for Committees and Advisors, Courses, Changes to a Degree Program, Funding and Financial Aid, and more can be found on the Cornell Graduate School site