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Cornell Graduate Field System

The Graduate School at Cornell is organized into “Training Fields,” that span college and department administrative units. Fields draw  their graduate faculty from multiple disciplines and departments, so students have access to a diversity of scholarship in their respective areas of study.  Faculty members may belong to multiple Graduate Fields, so individual research labs may include students engaged in distinct training programs.  The Field of Entomology currently includes faculty members belonging to the Departments of Entomology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Neurobiology and Behavior, Microbiology, as well as the Boyce Thompson Institute and the USDA-ARS station at Cornell.  Students in the Field of Entomology have opportunities to interact with faculty across the biological sciences at Cornell.

Your Major Advisor and Special Committee

Your first step in joining the Cornell graduate program is to choose a Thesis Advisor.  This will be a faculty member in the Field of Entomology with whom you will work closely throughout your degree.  Your Advisor will guide you in your research throughout your degree, and will help establish financial support for your degree program.  It is strongly advised that you contact prospective advisors even before applying to the program to confirm that they are available and interested in taking on a new student.  Don’t be shy, our faculty welcome these contacts.  If they are not taking on new students they will direct you to other faculty who are actively recruiting.

Once you are established in the program, you will construct a Special Committee.  This is an advisory committee composed of 3-5 faculty for PhD and 2-3 faculty for MS from across the University, chosen by you, and including your Advisor.  While your Chair of the committee must be in the Field of Entomology the other members can be from other Fields. The role of your Committee is to provide additional expertise on your topic of graduate research, and to advise you on coursework selection, research execution, and degree progress.  This committee should be selected by the end of your first year and is required to meet annually.

Thesis and Examinations

Every candidate for the M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Entomology is expected to submit a thesis at the end of their degree program.  The details of thesis content and construction vary among students.  An M.S. or Ph.D. degree can be conferred once your thesis has been judged to be “complete” by your Major Advisor and Special Committee. 

Ph.D. students in Entomology are required to take what we call the “A exam”, ideally in the second year of your degree program.  The Exam is administered by the Special Committee, and will vary depending on the composition of your committee.  The format of the exam is generally oral, and will include a written component.  Topics to be covered may include anything relevant to your proposed research and degree program.  Your Advisor and Committee Members will guide you in preparation for your A exam.


Graduate students in the Field of Entomology have a great deal of freedom in the choice of their classes. Only two courses are required for graduate students in the Field of Entomology:

Entom 2120--Insect Biology* [4 credits]  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.

* If you have had an introductory entomology class at another institution, you can bypass this requirement.

Entom 7670--Professional development in Entomology [2 credits] 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.

The rest of your coursework will be determined by you, your thesis advisor, and, eventually, your committee. Course work is largely driven by what skills students need to conduct your research, including statistical tools, programming skills, wet‑lab techniques, GIS.

Graduate Student Timeline

Graduate students progress through the program at varying rates. PhD students are expected to complete their thesis in five years; MS students are expected to complete their thesis in two years. We have listed below a list of graduate student milestones for a PhD student. Masters students are not required to take the A-exam.

Graduate (PhD) student milestones:

  • form a committee [end of first year]
  • first committee meeting for prescriptive interview to decide on course work and initial projects [end of first year]
  • at least a 15 min seminar to department [on a yearly basis starting in year 2; Jugatae, NB&B lunch bunch, Evol group, PIG, annual department symposium, etc]
  • annual committee meetings [after year 1]
  • annual progress review [Spring every year] 
  • A‑exam [by end of fifth semester]
  • B‑exam [at end, of course; within 5 years]
  • at least 3 thesis chapters/papers [published, in press, in manuscript form]
  • participate in department activities such as Jugatae seminars, Jugatae grad student organization, social events, recruitment weekend, Insectapalooza, annual department symposium

For more detailed information on our graduate program see the Entomology Graduate Student Manual Exuviae.

Please contact our Graduate Field Assistant if you have any questions about the Cornell Entomology training program, or if you would like any further information.