Funding for Graduate Students

Chris Smart teaching students
Chris Smart teaching students

Most graduate students in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology receive full funding in one of three forms: graduate research assistantships (GRAs), teaching assistantships (TAs), and fellowships.

GRAs may come from section resources or from individual faculty research programs. All of these funding sources include a stipend, tuition and fees, and student health insurance. GRA stipends in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology for the 2017-2018 academic year are approximately $31,00 per year.

In addition to these sources of funding, all students are encouraged to apply for external fellowships.

Section GRAs

Assistantships may be awarded by either the Ithaca or the Geneva unit of the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology.  Awards are based on each student's qualifications and interests. Recipients are expected to make a commitment to research programs in these respective sections. Students typically have considerable freedom to choose a research program within the section offering the GRA, although some constraints may apply at the discretion of the section chairs.

Faculty program GRAs

The faculty member in whose lab the student is conducting research may provide the funding in the form of a GRA. This type of funding is usually from research grants awarded to the faculty member by a government agency or from private sources. Availability of this type of funding is sometimes difficult to predict in advance.

Teaching assistantships

A limited number of teaching assistantships (TAs) may be available in the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology or through the Undergraduate Biology Program to assist in introductory courses. Students must apply for these positions well in advance. Biology TAs typically teach two laboratory sections per week, requiring an average of 18-27 hours of work per week depending on which course is taught. Teaching in the biology program also satisfies the teaching requirement for a degree in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. 


The Graduate School of Cornell University offers several fellowships specifically for recruiting outstanding graduate students. For example, the Graduate School awards Cornell Fellowships to new students with outstanding academic records, and the State University of New York Fellowship is awarded to underrepresented minorities. In addition, incoming Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology students have been successful in recent years when competing for Presidential Life Science Fellowships, a prestigious award given to a limited number of students annually throughout the university.

External fellowships

All students are strongly encouraged to apply for external fellowships. The Graduate School maintains a comprehensive fellowship database available to Cornell students. In particular, all students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are requested to apply for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in their first and second years of graduate school. Many deadlines for applications are in the autumn, so early inquiries and applications are necessary.

Additional information on funding and taxes can be found through the Cornell Graduate School.