Grand Challenge Fellowships

The School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) is offering four two-year fellowships to graduate students for research tackling our Grand Challenges.

The program seeks to:

  • Recruit and support a diverse cohort of SIPS graduate students.
  • Catalyze engagement with the four SIPS Grand Challenges.
  • Stimulate new inter-sectional collaborations within SIPS.

Fellowships for August 2024 admission have been awarded.

Two-page proposals from faculty for fellowships for August 2025 admission are due by April 29, 2024.

View Request for Proposal.

Awards for August 2024 admission:

AI and evolution-guided genomic models for stress resilience

In the Graduate Field of Plant Biology and the Graduate Field of Plant Breeding, faculty are investigating AI and evolution-guided genomic models for improving stress resilience in crops.

This research aims to use big data to answer fundamental questions about how plants respond to abiotic stress and how these responses evolve over time. Using the Poaceae (grass) family as a model, the fellow will use phylogenomic, protein structure and AI approaches to identify genes and molecular networks involved in abiotic stress responses and validate predictions experimentally using available genetic resources.

This research will help in generating new genetic targets for breeding stress resilience into crops and contribute towards a vibrant computational plant biology community in SIPS.

Participating labs: 


Programmable DNA-sensing bacteria using wine grapes as a model system

In the Graduate Field of Horticulture and the Graduate Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, faculty are collaborating on a project aimed at developing a programmable DNA-sensing bacteria for application in the plant sciences, using wine grapes as a model system.

The fellow will be co-advised by both PIs and will have the opportunity to innovate and propose experimental approaches related to their interest areas within the project's research framework. Interest areas may include viticulture, directed evolution, synthetic biology, molecular ecology, vineyard trials, or disease forecast modeling. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work directly with farmers, and to become proficient in molecular biology, microbial ecology, and field and/or laboratory experiments.

Participating labs:


Optimizing growth standards for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)-grown teen-leaf lettuce

Faculty in the Graduate Field of Horticulture and the Graduate Field of Plant Biology are collaborating on a project to develop and optimize growth standards for CEA-grown teen-leaf lettuce, develop real-time methods for determining critical environment and growth standards (including sensing, imaging and artificial intelligence), and discover phenotypic predictors (including 3-D architecture and plant anatomical data) to be used as selectable traits in subsequent plant breeding efforts.

The position will also catalyze collaborations at the University of Maastricht and Nunhems with opportunities for research in the Netherlands. 

Participating labs:


Multiple herbicide-resistant common waterhemp population investigations

Faculty in the Graduate Field of Horticulture and the Graduate Field of Soil and Crop Sciences are collaborating on investigations into multiple herbicide-resistant common waterhemp populations from New York. Specifically, the fellow will conduct greenhouse, laboratory, and field studies to describe the resistance profiles among populations and to develop integrated strategies for the management of multiple herbicide-resistant common waterhemp.  

The fellow will have the opportunity to be exposed to diverse cropping systems (i.e., field crops and specialty crops) and training experiences and will also get opportunity to engage with their peer cohort during Cornell agroecology group discussions where weed-science focused graduate students solicit advice regarding research methodology, experimental design, and data analysis and provide updates on their respective projects. The student will be expected to participate and present the research findings at regional and national weed science meetings as well as at local extension events. 

Participating labs: