Graduate Degree Programs and Funding Opportunities

Graduate Student Doing Lab Work


The graduate programs in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences are an important and integral part of the department's total activities in teaching, extension, research and international programs. The department places a high priority on graduate education and attempts to create an intellectual environment conducive to effective learning. In order to facilitate maximum personal development, the department's program is flexible and permits substantial freedom by both students and faculty. This is intended to permit and encourage individual initiative by students in developing their educational programs and to provide the maximum basis for originality and creativity.

Though certain minimum requirements must be satisfied, a wide range of programs can be developed to fit the unique interests and needs of individual students. Programs can be developed to emphasize training in crop science or soil science with various fields of specialization in each area. Since the student, under the direction of his/her major professor and guidance committee, is given wide range and latitude in developing programs, it is important that the student accept the responsibility for making early and thoughtful decisions with regard to total program content. Though program changes may be required at a later date, it is important that the overall direction of the student's program, including research, be developed at an early date. Appropriate research areas include the applied fields as well as problems with a theoretical or methodological focus. In many cases a combination of these approaches will emerge. This document also describes the guidelines for the development of individual graduate programs and specifies the evaluation procedures to be used to assure that each graduate has achieved an acceptable level of competence.

Students are not admitted to a graduate program in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences until a faculty member has agreed to serve as major professor. If a student's educational objectives change at a later date, he/she may request another major professor. Requests to change major professor, however, may affect a student's funding. Requests for the proposed change should be submitted to the Coordinator of Graduate Programs for action. Similarly, a major professor may resign from this responsibility.

The Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences requires all graduate students to participate in a meaningful teaching or extension experience and to exhibit proficiency in both writing and general presentation skills as a part of their graduate programs. The teaching/extension requirement is to be an experience that is beneficial and relevant to the education of each student.

All M.S. students are required to successfully complete a final oral certifying examination. The oral examination is considered to be a comprehensive examination of the M.S. degree. Since M.S. degree programs may vary markedly between students, the oral examination will also vary, but in each case the examination will attempt to determine if the candidate has achieved (a) an acceptable level of competence in the general area of crop and/or soil science and related fields, and (b) a comprehensive knowledge of his/her major area of specialization. In addition to the oral examination, a written examination may be given by and at the discretion of each member of the guidance committee.

It is usually desirable, but not mandatory, that a student earn a master's degree before proceeding to a doctoral program. Students who plan to pursue work toward a doctorate without earning a master's degree will be enrolled as master's candidates until they have earned 30 semester credits beyond the bachelor's degree (college requirement) obtained, it is the responsibility of the student and major advisor to submit a letter to the Graduate Programs Committee requesting a change from M.S. to Ph.D. status.

All doctoral programs in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences must include course work, a teaching/extension experience and general presentation skills requirement, written research proposal, research and dissertation, comprehensive examination, seminar, and final oral examination. Students enrolled in interdisciplinary programs such as Plant Breeding, and Genetics or Environmental Toxicology are required to fulfill all degree requirements for both Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and the interdisciplinary program. It is the student's responsibility to be informed about relevant requirements.

The general university and college requirements for graduate programs are found in the Michigan State University publication Academic Programs. In addition, students are advised to consult the section entitled "Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities" in Spartan Life: MSU Student Resource Guide and Handbook. A copy of Spartan Life may be obtained from Student Affairs and Services Building. This document contains additional information concerning academic programming, termination of graduate assistantships, and access to student records, and among other subjects.

The Department of Plant Soil and Microbial Sciences offers graduate programs leading to Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. A student in the department may purse studies related to plant genetics and breeding, molecular biology of plants and microorganisms, physiology and management of crops, weed control, turfgrass management, soil genesis and classification, soil biochemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil chemistry, soil fertility, soil management, ecological, environmental and pollution aspects of soils, hazardous waste treatment, sustainable agriculture systems, agriculture statistics, biometry, and nitrogen biotechnology studies. Depending on specialty area and previous preparation, taking supporting courses selected among botany, biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry, genetics, geology, plant pathology, and statistics may be necessary to fulfill academic requirements.

Applications are considered throughout the year. However, decisions on acceptance and assignment of assistantships or fellowships are often made well in advance of the student's starting date. Therefore, it is important that you can complete your application at an early date to ensure a timely evaluation of your application and for consideration of available financial support. Applications for Fall admission should be received by January 1.

Although not all programs in our department require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), it Is strongly recommended that all applicants take the GRE. If you are applying to the Plant Breeding and Genetics group, GRE scores are mandatory. The general GRE is offered in October, December, and April. Applicants are required to have three letters of reference forwarded to the Chairperson of the Graduate Programs Committee with in Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. Applications forms and further descriptive materials can be obtained from the Graduate Programs Office or can be submitted electronically via the Graduate School website .

The Department also has faculty and students who participate in interdepartmental degree granting programs including the Plant Breeding and Genetics Program, the Genetics Program, the Environmental Toxicology Program, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program, and the Center for Microbial Ecology. Graduates of these programs are awarded degrees in both the home Departments and in the inter-departmental program.

A Master of Science candidate must successfully complete a minimum of 30 credits beyond the bachelor's degree, pass an oral final examination and present a thesis. A non-thesis option is available.

A PH.D candidate must complete a course program specified by the student's guidance committee including 24 research credits. The candidate must also pass a comprehensive examination and a final oral examination in defense of his/her dissertation.   Contact the PSM Graduate Office at (517) 353-0111 for more information or a Graduate Programs booklet.