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Program Overview

The CALS Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program specialization in Plant Biotechnology features coursework and hands-on laboratory work focused on the practice of plant biotechnology, designed to equip students with knowledge and tools to adapt and use plants for specific needs or opportunities.

Additional coursework in communications and leadership, combined with a capstone project, provide students with practical problem-solving skills. The skills developed can be applied to numerous emerging applications and careers across corporate, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in fields such as:

  • Agrotechnology
  • Plant-based food and health products
  • Computational Biology and Systems Biology
  • Genetic Engineering and Research
  • Pharma and biotechnology
  • Plant Protection
  • Scientific Communication and Public Relations
  • Regulation, Compliance and Intellectual Properties of Plants, Plant-based applications & products

Plant biotechnology student in the lab working with plants

Plant Biotechnology employs a set of methods and tools to adapt plants and plant-based products, protecting plants from viruses and pests, improving yield and quality, harnessing plant metabolic diversity for health, and safeguarding the environment and food supply. Gene editing and metabolomics are some of these technologies and are becoming widely used in agribusiness research and development.  Students in the MPS program will learn the many aspects of Plant Biotechnology, including: 

  • Recombinant DNA technology and plant transformation
  • Plant genotyping and phenotyping
  • Plant tissue culture and regeneration
  • Evaluating claims related to the GMO debate
  • Implementing popular bioinformatics tools using UNIX, Python and R.
  • Plant biochemistry and metabolism
  • Medicinal plants and plant-based drug discovery
  • Experimental design and data analysis

The MPS is a NY state accredited, one-year, course-based master’s degree program that prepares individuals for the 21st-century workplace through knowledge development and career skillset refinement. The specialized, course-based instruction led by world-class faculty broadens expertise and expands versatility.

The CALS MPS degree program has two main components:

  1. Coursework: The suggested curriculum includes a balance of courses to build both professional and disciplinary competencies. Students work with a faculty advisor to customize their course of study based on their area(s) of interest.  While the majority of the courses (20 of the required 30 credits) will be in CALS, students have the flexibility to take electives across Cornell.
  2. MPS team project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem, building project management and team leadership skills sought by employers.

MPS students are part of a cohort of CALS professional master’s students specializing in diverse fields of study. The program is fast-paced and rigorous. Professional master’s students have a dedicated support organization, offering career guidance and professional skill development.

Sample Curriculum


PLBIO 5431 Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants (Lab – 2 credits)
PLBIO 7400 Plant Biology Seminar (1 credit)
PLBIO 5831 Concepts and Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology (3 credits) *
PLBIO 7420 Current Papers in Plant Biology (1 credit)
BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I (4 credits)
ALS 5211 Career Readiness CALS Professional Master's Students (1 credit)
PLSCI 5900 MPS Team Project (3 credits)

* Alternative: Plant PLBIO 5100 Medicinal Botany & Drug Discovery (2 credits; Fall)


course title
PLBIO 6000 Concepts and Techniques in Computational Biology (3 credits)
PLBIO 5430 Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering of Plants (2 credits) *
PLHRT 6170 Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems (Lab - 2 credits)
PLBIO 7400 Plant Biology Seminar (1 credit)
LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students (2 credits)
COMM 4660 Public Communication of Science and Technology (3 credit)
PLSCI 5900 MPS Team Project (3 credits)

*Alternative: PLBIO 5620 Plant Biochemistry (3 credits; Fall)

Admissions Requirements

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for plant biology and/or plant-related applications and products.  The candidate will enjoy gathering and analyzing data to make science-based and strategic decisions, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences or related field, with strong analytical skills and undergraduate coursework in (Plant) biology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and/or agronomy   
  • Optional: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL for non-native English speakers

Connect with us to discuss the admissions process

Learn more about the Plant Biotechnology MPS and other Masters of Professional Studies specializations in the School of Integrative Plant Science