Application to the Field of Plant Biology


We are glad you are interested in the Field of Plant Biology. This is an exciting time in our many areas of research. An important deadline for MS/PhD application is December 1. Please note that consistent with our commitment to holistic evaluation of applications, GRE scores are not required.

Preparing your application

All applications for Graduate Studies at Cornell are online and accessible through the Cornell Graduate School. You will be asked for a Statement of Academic Purpose, transcripts, relevant research and work experience, and letters of reference. There is a fee to apply.  Applicants for whom the fee is a financial hardship or who participated in certain pipeline programs may request a fee waiver.

Applicants are encouraged to become familiar with the different research areas and concentrations within the Field of Plant Biology, and to communicate directly with prospective faculty with whom they may wish to work. Applicants must indicate a preference for one of these concentrations on the Graduate School application form; this selection does not commit you to a particular research area, but it is used as an indication of your present interests.

Admission is competitive. Should you make it through our first screen, you will be interviewed by phone or videoconference. A selection of those interviewed will participate in a longer recruitment event.

Applying to the Field of Plant Biology

  • TOEFL scores are a requirement by the Graduate School and the field for all international students. Scores must be sent electronically (e-delivery) to the Cornell University Graduate Admissions, Caldwell Hall e-download account. E-delivery may also be referred to as an e-TRF by your test center. More information: English Language Proficiency Requirements. 
  • GREs are not required
  • Application deadline is December 1
  • Applicants will be notified by email anytime between March 1 - April 15

Students may obtain support in several ways including teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships.

Fellowships in support of Diversity: Applicants from a variety of backgrounds or identities historically underrepresented within graduate education are eligible for consideration for a Fellowship in Support of Diversity. We encourage you to self-identify your eligibility. You may then write a Personal Statement to be used in the Diversity Fellowship nomination and selection process.

Contact us

Karin Jantz
Graduate Field Coordinator
233 Emerson Hall
Phone: 607-255-4075
Email: kpg2 [at] (kpg2[at]cornell[dot]edu)

Adrienne Roeder
Director of Graduate Studies
239 Weill Hall
Phone: 607-255-4467
Email: ahr75 [at] (ahr75[at]cornell[dot]edu)

SIPS Graduate Fields: Frequently Asked Questions

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree is a one-year, course-based master's degree, ideal for individuals who are interested in in-depth study of the issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences. Learn more about the program description and MPS specializations.

MS/PhD degrees typically take 2-5 years and involve a combination of coursework and original research. A written thesis based on original research is an important element of MS/PhD degree programs.

At Cornell, graduate study leading to an Masters or Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is organized using a field structure.  Fields are composed of faculty members from a number of departments or sections (in the case of SIPS) who come together around a shared intellectual interest, and may draw from different campuses or colleges.  Graduate students are admitted to fields of study.  Within each field, they select major and minor subjects, which are research interests or concentrations.

Fields span departments and even disciplines.  It’s possible for a student in the field of economics to include faculty on his or special committee from industrial labor and economics, civil and environmental engineering, and sociology along with the more traditional economics and management.

The concentrations listed under each field and topics of recent MS/PhD theses can help you decide which Field is a good fit for you.

Go to the complete list of SIPS faculty. The short profiles list the Graduate Fields of which they are a member.  Note that many faculty are members of more than one field.

Correspondence is welcomed from potential applicants who have a well-informed interest. Be sure to briefly describe your experience and your interests and how they relate to the research program of the faculty you contact. Inquire about the recruiting goals of those faculty for the coming year. Faculty input about individual applicants is extremely important to the decisions of our admissions committee.

No. Students without an MS are admitted to our doctoral program as MS-PhD. This arrangement provides greater flexibility and does not generally take longer.  Note that the Graduate Field of Plant Biology is PhD only with now MS option.

The Graduate School requires that all doctoral students have a full special committee no later than the end of the 3rd semester and all masters students no later than the end of the 2nd semester.

What Constitutes a Special Committee?

A minimum of three members of the graduate faculty for a doctoral student and a minimum of two members for a master's student constitute a special committee.

  1. One member, the chair of the committee (major advisor), represents the major field and concentration.
  2. One member must represent a minor outside the student's major field.
  3. The third member can either represent another minor outside of the field or be in the major field but represent a different concentration from the major one.

Please note that most faculty members are members of several fields. A student can add additional members and ad hoc members depending on the circumstances (an additional member would be another member of the Cornell Graduate Faculty; an ad hoc member is generally someone from another institution such as a collaborator on a project who is not a member of Cornell's faculty).

The Philosophy

The selection of the special committee is up to the student in consultation with his/her major advisor. Theoretically, minor/s can be in any field (Russian Literature, anyone?); however, in practical terms, students will want to select faculty who will, in some way, contribute to or support their research goals.

The Power of the Special Committee

The faculty member who represents a particular subject/concentration on the committee determines the specific requirements for that student (e.g. coursework needed). The committee, as a whole, evaluates the student at the time of exams and determines whether they have met the appropriate standards for original research contributing to the knowledge base of the field (approving the thesis or dissertation). Students are encouraged to meet with their full committee at least once a year to ascertain that everyone is in agreement regarding progress toward degree completion.

Acceptable Committee Formations

Chair, Minor, Minor
Chair, Minor, Additional Member
Chair, Minor, Field Appointed Minor Member
Chair, Co-Chair, Minor Member

Nomination Process

Committee members are nominated through student center (link in advisor box to 11Special Committee"). The GFA is the first approver so if the distribution among fields/concentrations is not correct, the GFA should not approve the committee nomination.