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Graduate Masters of Science (MS) Program in Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology at Cornell

Graduate Masters of Science (MS) Program in Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology at Cornell

The Northeast Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases together with Cornell’s Department of Entomology are excited to announce a new Master of Science in Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology graduate program. This interdisciplinary master’s program will fall under the Medical and Veterinary Entomology Concentration, combining courses offered through entomology, public health, and veterinary medicine units at Cornell University. Graduates in the program can expect to interact with medical entomologists, virologists, epidemiologists, field ecologists, modelers, and molecular biologists not only at Cornell, but also at leading academic, state government, and public health institutions in the Northeast through our collaborative Center for Excellence, including Columbia University, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the New York State Department of Health.

The Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases is funded through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the overarching purpose of addressing the most pressing educational and applied research needs in vector-borne disease biology for the US Northeast region. The Center for Excellence has three primary goals:

1.    Conduct applied research to develop and validate effective vector-borne disease prevention and control tools and methods necessary to anticipate and respond to disease outbreaks

2.    Train a cadre of public health entomologists with the knowledge and skills required to rapidly detect, prevent, and respond to vector-borne disease threats in the USA

3.    Build effective collaborations between academic communities and public health organizations at federal, state, and local levels for vector-borne disease surveillance, response, and prevention

Core Competencies of the Program

Graduates of the program will demonstrate a high level of competency in the following skills and knowledge areas:

  •         Understanding of arthropod biology, body plan, organ systems, behavior and physiology, infection biology, and immunity
  •       Knowledge of arthropod behavior, host finding, and sensory systems
  •        Arthropod taxonomy skills, with a focus on the classification and diversity of disease vector arthropods
  •         Practical skills with arthropod identification, demonstration of a solid understanding of disease vector evolutionary relationships
  •        Understanding of the current state of knowledge regarding insecticide resistance and methods for resistance monitoring, as well as an understanding of regulation of insecticides in the US and NY, CT, and the Northeast 
  •       Knowledge of vector-borne pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoa) of global and regional importance
  •       A deep understanding and practical experience with surveillance methods for vectors and pathogens
  •        An understanding of the components of rigorous experimental design and data analysis
  •        Knowledge of alternate control strategies; genetic, behavioral, acoustic and visual/olfactory approaches to sampling; spatial repellents; and push-pull systems for reducing human exposure
  •         Effective oral and written communication skills; competent strategies for communicating with peers and the public; leadership skills and training in effective collaborations and teamwork; conflict resolution and management
  •       Understanding of sociology and psychology as it relates to public health prevention and messaging
  •        A clear understanding of ethical practices in science and public health

Program Cost and Funding

The MS in Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology program is an exciting opportunity to gain advanced training in relevant and novel topics in public health entomology. This is a two-year program, which includes a mandatory 10-week summer internship with a participating academic or public/environmental health partner.

To ensure successful engagement and completion of program competencies and projects, students will receive fellowship support from the Center of Excellence, which will cover full tuition and provide academic-year and full summer internship stipends and health insurance coverage.


For program and application information, please contact:

  • Emily Mader, Program Manager for the Northeasr Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases,
  • Stephanie Westmiller, Graduate Field Administrative Assistant,

If you have questions about the educational course of study, please contact:

  • Dr. Laura Harrington, Professor of Entomology, Program Director for the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases,

How to Apply

You can access more information on applying to the MS in Entomology program on the Department’s Application Process page. The deadline for application submissions is December 1, 2018.

Please note: You will need to reference Dr. Laura Harrington as your principal investigator, and include your interest in the Medical and Veterinary Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology program in your statement of purpose.

MS in Entomology: Vector-Borne Disease Biology Course Requirements

Graduates of the MS in Entomology: Vector Biology program will be required to complete 43-44 instructional credits and 8 independent study credits, for a total of 51-52 total credit hours. Students will also be required to establish a committee, including Dr. Laura Harrington and one other faculty member. Full course descriptions can be accessed through the Cornell Course Catalog here.

Topical Seminars

Students must take one topical seminar worth two credits. Seminar options include:

-       Current topics in tick biology and disease transmission

-       Current topics in mosquito biology and disease transmission

-       Advanced vector behavior

-       Vaccines for vector-borne disease

-       Novel strategies for vector-borne disease control

-       Emerging pathogens and potential introductions to the Northeast USA

Independent Study Project

One semester-long independent study project worth four credits will be required (please see potential mentors listed on the Center website: This independent study course can be a laboratory project, public health research paper or detailed data analysis, public health survey, development of materials, or project design. An advising committee consisting of one mentor in academia and one in a public health position is required. The course project can be conducted on-site at collaborating institutions.

Summer Internship

A mandatory 10-week summer internship at a federal, state, or local health department, or at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, is required. A scholarship program will provide salary and housing for summer internship students. Students can select from the following topical areas for their internship project:

-       Vector biology and modeling

-       Vector surveillance

-       Vector control

-       Insecticide resistance

-       Repellents

-       Big data management

-       Novel strategies for vector control

-       Public health messaging

-       Public perceptions of vector-borne disease

Thesis Defense or Dissertation

Students will defend their MS degree with a final oral practical exam and a written exam. A passing grade of 75 is required to complete the program.

Required Courses

Course Title

Course Description


Introduction to Disease Vectors

(modified from entom 4520 w/lab)

Surveys the key aspects of vector taxonomy, evolution, biology and behavior, history of VBD control globally and in the US.


Insect biology

(ENTOM 2120 w/lab)

Introduces the science of entomology, focusing on the systematics, anatomy, physiology, basic and applied ecology, and natural history of insects. Early fall laboratories include field trips to collect and study insects in the natural environment. A personal collection emphasizing ecological, behavioral, and taxonomic categories is a requirement of the laboratory. Must be taken during first semester of MS program.


Professional development in entomology

(ENTOM 7670)

Focus on professional development skills, including critical reading of scientific literature, oral and written presentation, and grant writing. Must be taken during first semester of MS program.


Introduction to Epidemiology

(VTPMD 6640)

Course covers fundamental epidemiology concepts and methods in the investigation of determinants of health or disease in populations.


Statistical Methods

(BTRY 3010 OR ENTOM 3030)

BTRY 3010 students gain competency in statistical theory and application, experimental design and scientific rigor. ENTOM 3030 students get hands-on experience in how to design, analyze and interpret biological experiments.


Vector-borne disease control  with lab

(New entom course)

Includes insecticide/acaracide toxicology and control; insecticide resistance, biological control, IVM and emerging tools for control; and a regulatory process overview.



(biomi 4090)

Provides a broad understanding of how viruses infect and cause disease. Topics include the classification of viruses, virus entry, genome replication and assembly, and virus pathogenesis.


Public Health Microbiology

(biomi 2500)

Employs a variety of methods (including historical and current case studies and databases) to help students understand basic principles of microbiology as they apply to the emergence, transmission, pathogenicity, and control of infectious human disease.


Medical Parasitology

(biomi 4310)

Covers protozoan, and helminth parasites of public health importance, with emphasis on epidemiologic, clinical, and zoonotic aspects of these parasites.


Public Health Foundations I and II

(VTPMD 6101 & 6102)

This course covers Leadership skills; Research Ethics; Effective Communication in Public Health (oral and written expression); Concepts in One Health (two semesters)


Public Health Ethics & Leadership

(vtpmd 6103)

This course covers competent strategies for communicating with peers and the public, effective collaborations and teamwork, conflict resolution and management





Capstone seminar in vector-borne diseases

(new mph & entom course)

Students will take this course the semester after their summer internship. They will reflect on their internship experience and summarize their experiences in a final report and presentation.


Topical Seminar

(see above Topical Seminar description)


Independent Study

(see above Independent Study description)