Crop and Soil Sciences Doctorate

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) have been 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.

Students completing a master’s degree at Michigan State University may apply for a doctoral program in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences by filing a written request and an application for change of graduate major form, if appropriate, with the Graduate Programs Committee. The request for transfer to a doctoral program must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation/commitment from the student’s major professor for his/her M.S. degree program. The request requires approval of the department and the College.

The doctoral program has flexibility to accommodate the diverse interests and talents of the future scientists being educated in the department. This flexibility implies responsibility for the student to make an early selection of a major professor and, in consultation with the guidance committee, an early selection of a program of courses and a research area. Changes in academic programs may be made as further evidence suggests modifications are needed by submitting a Change in Academic Program form to the Coordinator of Graduate Programs for approval.

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 Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and the interdisciplinary program. It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about relevant requirements.

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.

It is the responsibility of the student, in consultation with the major professor, to form a guidance committee at the earliest possible date, but not later than the second semester of study following completion of provisional requirements, if any. The guidance committee must consist of at least four members of the faculty. The major professor usually serves as chairperson of the committee. At least two committee members must be from the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and at least one member of the committee is to provide direction and counsel and to oversee the progress of the student. The guidance committee also has final responsibility for determining whether the student has met the standards for the Ph.D. degree.

The program of courses is developed by the student and major professor in consultation with the guidance committee. Individual course programs vary greatly between students depending on each student’s specific interests and prior education and experience. The course program should strengthen the student’s overall understanding of crop and/or soil sciences and provide greater depth in the student’s specific area of interest. The course program must be reviewed and approved by the student’s guidance committee. This process must be completed prior to completion of two semesters. University regulations require that each Ph.D. student register for a minimum of 24 semester credits of Dissertation Research. In addition, it is strongly recommended that each Ph.D. student complete at least 24 semester credits of course work.

A grade point average of 3.0 in the non-research courses is required before the student can be certified for graduation. Collateral courses may be taken for graduate credit: CEM 361, 362, 372, 383, and 384.

The Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences required 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 requirements is to be an experience that is beneficial and relevant to the education of each student. If the student has completed this requirement as a CSS Masters student, she/he is not required to complete it again.

There are four options available to fulfill this requirement. Please contact the CSS Graduate Programs Office at 517-355-0271 x1111 for more information on these options and details of the Doctoral Program.

All domestic and foreign students are required by the University to complete the Teaching Assistant Orientation. The orientation is offered once prior to the start of the fall semester. Students should attend the orientation in the academic year they plan to serve as a TA.

Each doctoral students is required to complete a written research proposal. The purpose of the proposal requirement is to provide students with experience in writing research proposals and to ensure communication on the research project between the student and guidance committee. The proposal must be approved by the guidance committee within two years of admission into the doctoral program.

The comprehensive exam is made up of two components, the written and the oral exam. Students must pass the comprehensive exam. The written component must be passed before the oral exam is taken.

The comprehensive exam is a pass/fail examination required of all Ph.D. students and should be taken after 80% of required course work is completed.

Upon completion of the dissertation, a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation is held. The final examination consists of two parts: 1) Oral seminar presented by the student on his/her research. 2) Final oral examination conducted by the guidance committee, chaired by the major professor. On the basis of the dissertation and the student’s defense, the guidance committee either approves or rejects the dissertation.


Doctoral Degree Requirements and Due Dates

Requirements Due Date
Selection of Guidance Committee Prior to completion of second semester.
Report of Guidance Committee—Doctoral and Other Programs (Form Required) Prior to completion of second semester.
Teaching/Extension and General Presentation Skills Must be submitted with Report of Guidance Committee form. Must be approved in Advance.
Domestic/Foreign Teaching Assistant Attend just prior to fall semester of the year you will TA.
Seminar Requirement (Form Required) After completion of the first seminar.
Proposal Requirement (Form Required) Must be approved by the Guidance Committee within two years of Admission to the doctoral program.
Comprehensive Examination (Form Required) Can be taken when 80% or more of course program is completed.
Application to Graduate (Form Required) See the University Calendar in the Schedule of Courses.
Final Dissertation Defense (Form Required) See the University Calendar in the Schedule of Courses.
Final draft of Dissertation to The Graduate School See the University Calendar in the Schedule of Courses.