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The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences degree offered through the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) 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. The MPS degree program prepares students for the 21st century workplace through knowledge development and career skill set refinement.

Program Description:

The program has two main components: specialized, course-based instruction led by world-class faculty and a capstone project aimed at solving a real-world problem:

  1. Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to map out their individualized course of study based on their area(s) of interest. While the majority of courses (20 credits) will be in CALS, students have the flexibility to take courses across Cornell.
  2. Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem.

The mix of coursework and capstone project equips students with the skill set and knowledge necessary for careers in industry, government, or non-profit agencies. Some students may decide to continue in research. As part of a cohort with other professional master’s students in SIPS, students are able to take courses aimed at developing career potential. Suggested courses include:

  • Statistical Methods I
  • Career Readiness for CALS Professional Master’s Students
  • Public Communication of Science and Technology
  • Leadership Skills for Graduate Students
  • Skills for Public Engagement

MPS Specializations:

While students have the opportunity to customize their own course of study with their faculty advisor, the School of Integrative Plant Science offers several areas of specialization for MPS degree candidates. With specializations focused on the latest advancements in plant and soil sciences, the MPS emphasizes useful plant improvements that progress human health and advance environmental sustainability. Specializations include:

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)one of the fastest growing areas of agriculture, is an advanced and intensive form of hydroponically-based agriculture. Plants are grown within a controlled environment so that horticultural practices can be optimized. This specialization emphasizes specific skills to understand lighting, hydroponic production, pest control, and horticultural aspects of production will be part of the program. Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Hydroponic Food Production and Management 
  • Production and Marketing of Greenhouse Crops
  • Renewable Energy Systems
  • Principles of Aquaculture
  • Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
  • Principles and Practices in Certified Organic Agriculture

Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes. This specialization emphasizes knowledge development and hands-on experience. With Cornell’s ideal location in the Finger Lakes region – home to nearly 10,000 acres of vineyards – students will be exposed to every aspect of grape growing and wine making. Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Principles and Practices of Growing Grapes and Making Wines
  • Growing Grapes and Making Wines Graduate Laboratory
  • Wines and Grapes: Composition and Analysis
  • Winemaking Theory and Practice II
  • Fall Vineyard Practicum
  • Advanced Viticulture Practicum

Public Garden Leadership is the management of public gardens and requires a mix of academic training and practical experience. This specialization emphasizes leadership, strategic decision making, and business management, preparing students for managerial and leadership roles in the public garden field. Learn more about Cornell's Botanic Gardens

Geospatial Applications is the use of modern tools to geographically map and analyze the Earth and human societies. This specialization provides education in the geospatial application, including GIS, to develop data management and decision-making skills for a wide range of geographical data. Students will also become licensed and experienced in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Applied Remote Sensing in Geospatial Resource Inventory and Analysis
  • Remote Sensing Fundamentals
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Applications
  • Spatial Modeling and Analysis
  • Global Navigation Satellite Systems
  • Digital Image Processing

Plant Biotechnology is a set of methods used to adapt plants for specific needs or opportunities. Gene editing is one of these technologies and is becoming widely used in agribusiness research and development. This specialization provides skills not only in plant gene editing, but also plant propagation, and molecular tools needed for jobs in this area. Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants Lab
  • Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems
  • Concepts and Techniques in Computational Biology

Hemp Science specialization is focused on the development of specific skills to understand plant breeding and genetics; hydroponic and field crop production; processing; food, fiber and medicinal applications; and product development. Students will also have a broad-based understanding of the industry from seed to sales, exploring the legal and regulatory environment and challenges facing the cannabis industry today and in the future. Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry
  • Medicinal Botany and Drug Discovery
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Additional courses and project opportunities will cover topics such as: Hemp Production Systems; Hemp Genetics, Breeding and Genomics; Laws, Regulations, Patenting and IP; and Hemp Processing Lecture, Lab and Group Discussion. 

Plant Protection encompasses strategies and tactics for managing the three major groups of plant pests: insects, weeds, and plant pathogens.  The framework for this broad scope of pests, disciplines and tactics is termed integrated pest management or IPM.  Students in the Plant Protection MPS specialization will take courses with IPM experts from each of the three types of pests.  In addition, students will master the application of applied concepts from allied fields such as economics, ecology, and toxicology. Suggested courses for this specialization include:

  • Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
  • Weed Biology and Management
  • Microbial Pathogens vs. Plants 
  • Integrated Pest Management

In addition, SIPS also offers the following specializations:

  • Breeding of Horticultural Crops
  • Horticultural Crop Management Systems
  • Physiology and Ecology of Horticultural Crops
  • Human-Plant Interactions
  • Agronomy
  • Field Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Environmental Information Systems
  • Environmental Management

and the potential to create your own curriculum.

Application Requirements

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for the importance of plants in securing a sustainable future for the world’s population, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Common undergraduate courses taken: Biology, Botany, Physics, Math, Chemistry, Ecology
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are not required but may be submitted to strengthen candidacy
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL for non-native English speakers

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