SIPS MS/PhD - Financial Support

A range of financial support and internal grants are available to graduate students in the five graduate fields affiliated with Cornell's School of Integrative Plant Science.

PhD or MS students

Financial assistance is available to MS and PhD students on a competitive basis and includes tuition, stipend (~$31,000/12 months), and health insurance. Several types of section or university fellowships or assistantships may be available. If you are considering a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree be aware that the MPS is self-funded with MPS candidates responsible for all costs associated with the degree (i.e. tuition, insurance, living expenses).

Research support seed grant: Schmittau Novak

The Schmittau-Novak grants program is made possible by a one-time gift of $640,000 from the estate of Jen Schmittau in honor of Professor Joseph D. Novak and in support of research related to the integrative plant sciences. This is a current use gift made with the expectation that funds will be spent down over a defined period of several years. To leverage this gift in a manner that maximizes its impact, potentially reaching hundreds of people over time, it is being used to fund a small grants program for graduate students in the plant sciences.

The primary goal of the Schmittau-Novak grant program is to catalyze collaborative and innovative research in the Integrative Plant Sciences, and to provide graduate students with experience in proposal preparation and review. It is hoped that these projects will catalyze new collaborative relationships, provide a funding source for higher risk student-led research with the potential for novel discovery, and promote graduate student cohesion and community building within SIPS.

Learn more about the program, read about past awards, and review application information

Follow the tabs to learn more about:

  • Assistantships and Fellowships

  • NSF Research Traineeship

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) awards are based on each student's qualifications and interests. Recipients are expected to make a commitment to research programs in these respective sections. Students typically have considerable freedom to choose a research program within the section offering the GRA, although some constraints may apply at the discretion of the section chairs.

The faculty member in whose lab the student is conducting research may provide the funding in the form of a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA). This type of funding is usually from research grants awarded to the faculty member by a government agency or from private sources. Availability of this type of funding is sometimes difficult to predict in advance.

Students who serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) receive compensation in the form of stipend, health insurance, and tuition. A number of Teaching Assistantships (TA-ships) are available to graduate students affiliated with SIPS. If you are a continuing graduate student (M.S., M.S./Ph.D., or Ph.D.) in SIPS and you are looking for teaching experience, or if you are looking for financial support,  you can apply to serve as a TA in one of the many courses taught by SIPS.

Learn more about the SIPS TA Application Procedure. and the SIPS TA Management Plan.

SIPS students are also eligible to serve as TAs in the Undergraduate Biology Program. Biology TAs assist in the instruction of Core Introductory Courses in Biology. Teaching in the biology program satisfies the teaching requirement for those fields having a teaching requirement.

The Graduate School of Cornell University offers several fellowships specifically for recruiting outstanding graduate students. These include but are not limited to:

The School of Integrative Plant Science offers the Denison Graduate Fellowship for recruitment of outstanding graduate students.

  • Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa (CAHA) provides a doctoral assistantship in the Graduate Field of Horticulture to a student from Sub-Saharan Africa. Successful candidates must already have a Master’s degree, originate from a country in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, and be of native African ancestry.  Course work will be completed at Cornell University while dissertation research will be conducted primarily in Africa under the supervision of a local thesis advisor. Depending on the nature of the research and associated costs, it may be necessary for the student to secure additional outside funding.  The assistantship will require 15 – 20 hours per week of teaching and/or research responsibilities. Acceptance into the program is contingent on the student’s agreeing to return to Sub-Saharan Africa after completion of the doctoral degree. More information and application form.
  • William Frederick Dreer Scholarship provides a worthy undergraduate or graduate student, specializing in the Department of Horticulture or Landscape Architecture, with an opportunity to study or engage in directed practice related to the field of floriculture and ornamental horticulture abroad. Scholarship, character, maturity, seriousness of purpose and potential are considered. William F. Dreer was an innovative seeds man from Philadelphia. Read more about the Dreer Scholarship.
  • Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship.  Recipients of the Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship are selected by their respective fields based on demonstrated excellence in mentoring one or more undergraduate students. The Fellowship will be awarded to a student in a different SIPS graduate field for each of five years, with the first award to begin in August 2017 and supporting a student in the Field of Horticulture.  In subsequent years the awardee will be selected (in order) from the Fields of Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology, Plant Biology, Soil and Crop Sciences, and Plant Breeding and Genetics.

All students are strongly encouraged to apply for external fellowships. The Graduate School maintains a comprehensive fellowship database available to Cornell students. Included among these are:

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship: all students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are urged to apply in their first and second years of graduate school.
  • Fulbright Program
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Governmental scholarships from the native countries of international students

Note that many deadlines for applications are in the autumn, so early inquiries and applications are necessary.  Additional information on funding and taxes can be found through the Cornell Graduate School. To be considered for financial support, students must submit their completed applications to the Graduate School by December 1. 

Whatever the funding source, continuance of graduate scholarships is contingent upon satisfactory performance and progress in each student’s academic coursework, research, and thesis or dissertation completion. Most scholarships also require that graduate students be engaged full time in their research projects during the summer months and inter-semester recess.

University housing for single graduate students is available in residence halls and apartments.  For students accompanied by another adult and/or children, unfurnished or furnished apartments maintained by the university are available.

Private, off-campus housing is also available.  The quality and cost vary widely.  The university maintains a list of vacancies, but it is not practical to negotiate for off-campus accommodations until you arrive in Ithaca.

Interdisciplinary (plant science, computer science and engineering) Ph.D. research team training in digital plant science to predict genotype-to-phenotype relationships across multiple scales


The last several years have witnessed an unprecedented explosion of Big Data in the plant sciences, whereas advances in bioengineering promise to see the previously un-seeable, and measure the previously immeasurable. Interdisciplinary research in Digital Plant Science (DPS) couples computational science with plant science and systems engineering to understand plant structure and function in response to agricultural and ecological challenges. 

Accordingly, this next generation of graduate students must receive cross-disciplinary training in plant science, bioengineering, and computational biology to provide the foundational skills required to sense, capture, and measure information about plant processes in real time and at multiple scales, from microscopic single cells to entire ecosystems.

This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to Cornell University will create a transformative experience that integrates interdisciplinary team learning and professional development to equip future plant scientists with the tools needed to investigate, comprehend, and engineer plant processes to improve plant productivity and sustainability in the 21st century. The project anticipates training approximately 120 graduate students, including 18 funded trainees from the graduate fields of Plant Biology, Plant Breeding, Plant Pathology, Soil and Crop Sciences, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Science. 

This project will create an interactive and innovative core curriculum that integrates plant science, computational science, and bioengineering, while disseminating this curriculum throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Graduate trainee learning through co-instruction will reinforce this core training. Novel, Team Research Rotation experiences will be instigated, wherein teams of three graduate students, mentored by cross-disciplinary faculty comprising computational scientists, bioengineers, and plant scientists, will collaborate to generate and analyze original “Big Data” in a group environment that simulates the team-based research approaches that typify industrial research and development settings.

Graduate student training will be broadened to include the systematic development of communication and team-working skills that are essential for successful careers in multiple endeavors, both within and outside of academia. Partnerships between Cornell and the private sector will be exploited and extended, to facilitate trainee internships and continuing-education experiences in an industry setting.  Ultimately, this graduate training program will develop new tools and strategies to investigate plant genotypes, phenotypes, and processes in real time and at multiple scales.

Program details

Interactive and innovative Digital Plant Science (DPS) graduate coursework

Fall semester of Year 1: Three 5-week course modules.

  • Module 1:  Advanced Statistics and Experimental Design
  • Module 2: Hands-On Plant Computational & Machine Learning Programming
  • Module 2: Engineering Novel Strategies for Plant Science Measurement and Sensing

Novel DPS Team Research Rotation Project

Spring  semester of Year 1: Faculty-mentored Interdisciplinary teams of NRT trainees (plant scientist, computer scientist, engineer). Some possible faculty-mentored, student-driven team research projects:

  • Quantitative analysis and modeling of cell growth in living plants.
  • Communication with plants and the environment.
  • Microfluidic leaf-on-a-chip platform for studies of plant-pathogen interactions at the single-cell level.

Soft skills and T-training

Courses and workshops:

  • Business as a second language
  • Telling your research story
  • Leadership development for life scientists
  • Intergroup dialogue project

Professional internship opportunities

  • Bayer, BASF, Corteva, Microsoft, Oracle and others

Apply for Graduate admission into one of these eight Graduate Fields

School of Integrative Plant Science:

College of Engineering

College of Arts and Sciences

More information

Contact Mike Scanlonmjs298 [at]