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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

This interdisciplinary master’s program falls under the Medical and Veterinary Entomology Concentration, combining courses offered through entomology, public health, and veterinary medicine units at Cornell University. 


Our goal for the MS in Entomology with a focus on Vector Biology program is to provide a foundation from which graduates can immediately enter the workforce in public health vector-borne disease surveillance, vector surveillance and control, and related fields.T

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 Northeast 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,
  • Sarah Michaels, Lecturer 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..

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 a minimum 60 total credit hours in the program, with a mixture of instructional credits and masters-level thesis research credits. Students will also be required to establish a committee, including Dr. Laura Harrington and one other faculty member.

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 Research

Students will be expected to complete a written, publication-quality thesis based in part on their summer internship programs. Additional research may be conducted before or after the summer internship is completed. Final Practical and Written Exam

Required Courses

This program includes 5 required core courses covering topics of entomology and vector biology (16 credit hours), as well as 7 required core courses covering public health topics and competencies (18 credit hours). 


Students must also complete a capstone seminar in vector-borne disease offered through the Entomology Department, as well as dedicate at least 1 credit hour each semester to masters-level thesis research. 


This program is designed to be completed in 2 years. Please find more information about the required core courses and program electives below. 


Please visit the Cornell Class Roster to learn more about the courses listed below.



Course Title

Course Description


Introduction to Disease Vectors

(ENTOM 4250 + lab)

This course introduces vector taxonomy, evolution, biology, behavior, and the history of vector-borne disease control, with an emphasis on the Northeast USA. In this course, students will gain an understanding of arthropod biology, body plan, organ systems, behavior and physiology, infection biology and immunity. Students will also gain practical skills with arthropod identification and demonstrate a solid understanding of disease vector evolutionary relationships.


Insect Biology

(ENTOM 2120 + 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


Professional development in entomology

(ENTOM 7670)

This is a graduate level seminar required of, and limited to, first semester graduate students in the Field of Entomology. The content focuses on professional development skills, including critical reading of scientific literature, oral and written presentation, and grant writing.


 Toxicology of Insecticides

(ENTOM 4900 + lab)

History, metabolism, and mechanism of action of genetically modified, synthetic, and naturally occurring insecticides. Discusses insecticide resistance, resistance management, and new approaches to insect control with genetically modified organisms.


Vector Biology in Practice

(New ENTOM Course)

This seminar course will combine video interviews and lectures from experts in in the field, current topics discussions and hands on experience with laboratory/field methods



Public Health Foundations I

(VTPMD 6101)

This course will introduce students to the history and role of public health, and will set the foundation of public health practice on the two guiding paradigms: the 10 essential public health functions, and the One Health/Planetary Health approach to public health prevention and problem solving. Students build their public health competency via investigating a breadth of public health issues, including both chronic and infectious disease, and the impact of our environment and climate on disease spread, acquisition, and impact.


Public Health Foundations II

(VTPMD 6102)

This course will reinforce and expand upon learning from Public Health Foundations I by considering new cases and more complex public health issues. Students will further develop their public health competence by applying systems thinking to assess and address issues of public health importance.


Public Health Ethics & Leadership

(VTPMD 6103)

This course will help build a student's professional toolkit such that they have the tools to enter the public health workforce and excel in leadership and management roles, including navigation of ethical situations and challenges. The course will introduce students to the key elements of leadership and professionalism, and will characterize the elements within the public health practice context via case studies, guest speakers, and a research paper.         


Epidemiology in Practice

(VTPMD 6104)

This applied course will cover foundational concepts of epidemiology, including data collection, measures of disease frequency and association, diagnostic testing, bias, and study design.


Biostatistics for Health Sciences

(VTPMD 6105)

Teaches statistical concepts and application for health related data analysis. Topics in descriptive statistics include summary measures, measure of association, concepts related to data distribution, and confidence intervals. Topics related to analytical analysis include categorical data, parametric and non-parametric population comparisons and correlation, and regression techniques. Emphasizes the understanding of statistical concepts and application and the structure of health data.


Principles of Infectious Disease for Public Health

(VETMI 6111)

This lecture-based course will cover the infectious agents important for public health, including the major viral, bacterial and parasitic agents in health and disease for humans, and involved in zoonosis from animals. The focus will be on the biology of the agent in the context of its transmission and possible countermeasures. Best taken in conjunction with VETMI 6112.


Cases in Infectious Diseases & Health

(VETMI 6112)

This case-based course will focus on small group and applied learning. Subjects under discussion will cover the infectious agents important for public health, including the major viral, bacterial and parasitic agents in health and disease for humans, and involved in zoonosis from animals. Best taken in conjunction with VETMI 6111.



Capstone Seminar in Vector-Borne Disease

(New ENTOM Course)

Students will analyze their summer field experiences, discuss the final outcomes of their work and next steps.


Master’s Level Thesis Research

(ENTOM 8900)

Thesis research conducted by MS students in the field of entomology with advice and consultation of a major professor who is a member of the field.

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Insect Ecology

(ENTOM 4550 + lab)

You will learn to think like an ecologist by studying the fundamental principles of insect ecology and the types of questions ecologists ask, seeing how ecology can be used to understand and solve environmental problems, and putting this knowledge into action during group activities in the lab and field.


Insect Physiology

(ENTOM 4830 + lab)

Introduction to the often unique ways in which insects have met their basic needs. Examines each organ system with emphasis on basic principles and specific examples. Also introduces students to some common methods used in physiological research and to the critical reading of scientific literature.


Seminar in Ecology & Evolution of Infectious Diseases

(ENTOM 6900)

Graduate-level discussion of the ecology, epidemiology, genetics, and evolution of infectious disease in animal and plant systems. Weekly discussion of research papers published in the primary scientific literature. Participation in discussion and presentation of at least one paper required for course credit.


Topical Seminar in Vector-Borne Diseases

(New ENTOM Course)

These seminars will address special topics within vector-borne disease biology including Malaria, Lyme Disease, Arbovirology, and others.


Global Health Economics and Policy

(PAM 4140)

This course has two objectives: 1) To explore how Economics can be used to understand global health, and 2) to provide tools and skills for understating global health policy. I emphasize economic models, scientific understating of diseases and the use of quantitative tools for the assessment of global health issues.


Public Health Microbiology

(BIOMI 2500)

This course will use a variety of teaching 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. Major topics include water and food borne disease, zoonotic diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and antibiotic resistance.


Microbiology of Human Contagious Diseases

(BIOMI 2600)

This course provides an introduction to the microbiology of microbial diseases. The primary focus is on molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, including detection of the host environment, binding of pathogenic microbes to host cell surfaces and their invasion of host cells and tissues, and the delivery and functions of microbial toxins. It will include host defenses and microbial countermeasures against these defenses. We will also study the evolution of pathogens and the co-evolution of their hosts.


Principles of Virology

(BIOMI 4090)

Covers principles of virology that will give 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. Particular emphasis is placed on virus-host cell interactions and common features between different viral families. Recommended for those planning to attend medical school, graduate school or Veterinary college, or just interested in what viruses are and how they cause disease.


Medical Parasitology

(BIOMI 4310)

Systematic study of arthropod, protozoan, and helminth parasites of public health importance, with emphasis on epidemiologic, clinical, and zoonotic aspects of these parasitisms.


Additional Electives

Students may choose additional electives if approved by the NEVBD advising team. Check the courses of study for classes. Other areas of interest may be marketing or communication.