Plant Sciences


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MS in PLSC/Hort

10 Sunflower fieldTHESIS OPTION

Credit Requirements:30 semester credits

  • 16 credits 600-700 level didactic courses (600-689, 700-789) including
    3 credits of PLSC 724: Field Design I (grade of B or better required)
  • 1 credit PLSC 790: Seminar (topically unrelated to student’s thesis topic)
  • 3 additional course credits
  • 10 credits PLSC 798: Master’s Thesis (including a mandatory Exit Seminar)

Additional Credit Requirements for Plant Breeding and Genetics M.S. students:

  • Of the 16 didactic credits mentioned above, PLSC 631: Intermediate Genetics and PLSC 718: Genetics and Plant Improvement must be added to PLSC 724: Field Design I

The M.S. degree should be completed by a full-time student within approximately two years after first registration. If not completed, including approved thesis, after two years, the student and major advisor will provide the Department Head a realistic and attainable date for completion. The assistantship appointment and stipend may be terminated if the student does not complete as scheduled. Part-time graduate students must make steady progress and normally complete the degree within the time limitation of the Graduate School (seven consecutive years). For Leave of Absence options, please see the Graduate Bulletin.

Although minors are not recognized in graduate programs, courses from more than one department may be included in the major. Graduate credit for any course taken more than seven calendar years before the final examination may not be used to satisfy degree requirements without petitioning the Dean of the Graduate School. Please refer to the NDSU Graduate Bulletin for additional information concerning the general requirements for obtaining a M.S. degree.



This program is intended for students who desire the advanced education of an M.S. program but neither expect to pursue a Ph.D. degree nor expect to conduct research as a significant component of their career.

Credit Requirements:30 semester credits

  • 21 credits 600-700 level didactic courses (600-689, 700-789) including 3 credits of PLSC 724: Field Design I
  • 6 additional course credits
  • 1 credit PLSC 790: Seminar (topically unrelated to student’s paper topic)
  • 3 credits PLSC 797: Master's Paper (including a mandatory Exit Seminar)

The Master's Paper must include one of the following three options: a) conduct an experiment that is analyzed statistically and written to include materials and methods and results and discussion, b) a proposal for a research project, with all the components for submission to a fund granting agency, or c) a comprehensive literature review of an approved subject area. Please refer to the NDSU Graduate Bulletin for additional information concerning the general requirements for obtaining this M.S. degree.



Selection of the major advisor will be made on the basis of the student's interest, the availability of faculty members with a similar interest, and a desire of the student and advisor to work together on a program which will enable the student to attain the desired degree. The student and major advisor will select the research study. Selection will be on the basis of the student's interest and the research interests and needs of the major advisor.



A Plan of Study informs the Graduate School of the courses necessary to earn your specific, field-related M.S. degree. As such, all graduate credits listed on a NDSU M.S. Plan of Study apply toward the Master's Degree only.

A student requesting and obtaining significant statistical consultation from a campus faculty member should register for PLSC 793: Individual Study with that faculty member, with credits as recommended by the faculty member and major advisor, and add the course to their Plan of Study.

The Plan of Study will be prepared by the student with guidance from the advisor. Forms are available online at the Plant Sciences and Graduate School websites. The Plan of Study must be submitted to the Plant Sciences Graduate Program Secretary prior to the end of the second semester of residence. The Plan of Study is then reviewed by faculty members and returned to the student with commentary. Following this process, the student should obtain the signatures of their supervisory committee (see section below regarding supervisory committee).

Students needing to change their Plan of Study may submit a Request for Change to Plan of Study/Supervisory Committee form to the Graduate School. The form is found on both the Plant Sciences and Graduate School websites.



While drafting a Plan of Study with the major advisor, discuss the selection of members to serve on the supervisory committee. This committee will assist with the student's degree completion and should consist of at least three members. For details on specifications of committee members, please see the Graduate School Bulletin.



Students with a Graduate Research Assistantship should not register for more than 10 credits each semester (including PLSC 798-899) without permission of the Academic Dean. This restriction may be interpreted as not more than 20 credits in two semesters if there is a need to take courses in sequence, a course offered alternate years only, etc.



The following is a list of courses offered by the Department of Plant Sciences. Many related courses offered by other departments may be taken toward your degree. Your final program of study will be determined by you, your advisor, and your committee. The Graduate Bulletin, will often indicate the year and specific semester courses are offered.

PLSCCourse TitleCredits/Semester
611 Genomics 3   Fall
631 Intermediate Genetics 3   Fall
633 Weed Biology and Ecology 2   Fall (even yr)
653 Advanced Weed Science 2   Fall
655 Cropping systems: An Integrated Approach 3   Spring
665 Advanced Landscape Plants 2   Fall (even yr)
680 Advanced Turfgrass Topics 3   Spr (even yr)
684 Plant Tissue Culture and Micropropagation 2   Fall
685 Arboriculture Science 3   Spr (even yr)
686 Eco-Physiology of Horticultural Crops 2   Fall (even yr)
710 Professional Development I 1   Fall
711 Professional Development II 1   Spring
718 Genetics and Plant Improvement 3   Fall
721 Genomics Techniques 2   Spring
724 Field Design I 3   Fall
727 Crop Breeding Techniques 1   Sum (odd yr)
731 Plant Molecular Genetics 3   Spr (even yr)
734 Field Design II 2   Spr (odd yr)
741 Cytogenetics 4   Fall (even yr)
751 Advanced Plant Genetics 3   Spr (odd yr)
753 Action and Fate of Herbicides 2   Spr (even yr)
755 Advanced Crop Management Decision Making 3   Fall (even yr)
763 Laboratory Methods - Weed Science 2   Spr (odd yr)
776 Advanced Plant Breeding 4   Spr (odd yr)
780 Population Genetics 2   Fall  (odd yr)
781 Quantitative Genetics 2   Spr (even yr)
785 Crop Breeding Programs Management 2   Spr (even yr)
790 Graduate Seminar 1-2
793 Individual Study Variable
792 Master's Teaching Experience 1
696, 796 Special Topics Variable
797 Master’s Paper 1-3
798 Master’s Thesis Variable
892 Doctoral Teaching Experience 1
899 Doctoral Dissertation Variable



M.S. candidates are required to present one seminar (one credit of PLSC 790). Seminar topics for PLSC 790 are approved by the faculty member handling the course in the semester in which the student is enrolled. Communication with this person is essential. One additional seminar (part of 798 credits) is a presentation of your thesis research results. Consult with the faculty member currently supervising the seminar to schedule date and time of all seminar presentations including the final seminar of student's research. This final seminar is presented after completion of the final exam with the student's supervisory committee. Graduate students are expected to attend and evaluate all graduate seminars, whether registered or not. The graduate student is also welcome to attend and participate in PLSC 491, undergraduate seminar.

The seminar is the responsibility of the student, but the seminar coordinator and the student's assigned topic advisor will be very helpful. Please refer to the PLSC 790 syllabus and guidelines for the specific requirements and policies.



The Department of Plant Sciences provides teaching opportunities for several graduate students each semester. Ph.D. students are required to complete 2 credits of PLSC 892, Doctoral Teaching Experience. However, M.S. students who have an interest in teaching can take advantage of this teaching opportunity when openings are available. The student will register for 1 credit of PLSC 792, Master's Teaching Experience, the semester of teaching and will receive a letter grade.



Ten credits of Master's Thesis (PLSC 798) are required for an M.S. The initial credits for PLSC 798 should deal with thesis planning, related literature review, and preparation of the research proposal and Plan of Study. The later credits should deal with thesis research progress, thesis writing, and presenting the findings in the final seminar. An incomplete or unsatisfactory grade may be given if satisfactory progress is not made and deadlines are not met. The final seminar is also completed as part of the PLSC 798 credits.



Each graduate student will be required to prepare a proposal of the research which the graduate student and his/her major advisor have discussed in detail. All students will use the same format for this proposal and that format is presented in PLSC Professional Development I. If you are not required to enroll in this course or if you do not take the course during your first or second semester, please see the instructor for the proposal format.

No later than during your second semester, a Request to Schedule Research Proposal Meeting form should be completed and submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator. Following the research proposal meeting with the supervisory committee, the Report of Research Proposal Meeting form should be completed and submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator.  (Both forms are available at Once the research proposal is approved by your supervisory committee members, submit one copy to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator. Periodic meetings with your graduate committee will help keep your committee aware of progress and changes in your plan of study and/or thesis research; this will help avoid problems later.



Students on a one-half time GRA position in Plant Sciences are expected to be on campus every working day except those on approved annual leave, holidays, or weekends. Although participation in the project of the major advisor is often full time in June, July, and August, and less during the academic year, variations are common. The participation time may vary among projects, or among students within a project, depending on the size and complexity of dissertation or other factors. Graduate students not on a GRA also are expected to participate extensively in project activities unrelated to their dissertation.



Academic Standards in Plant Sciences

  1. The NDSU Graduate School requires each student to maintain a 3.0 (A=4) accumulated grade point average to remain in good standing. The Department of Plant Sciences has the same standards.
  2. If the academic average of the graduate student falls below 3.0, they are placed on academic WARNING and the major advisor and the student's supervisory committee should evaluate the situation and make suggestions or take appropriate action. The student should improve the GPA to 3.0 or better in the next semester or they are placed on academic PROBATION. A student on academic PROBATION is not eligible for a graduate assistantship or tuition waiver. A third semester of academic deficiency will result in termination of graduate candidacy.
  3. A grade of B or better is required in PLSC 724: Field Design.

The assistantship or fellowship may be terminated early for reasons including lack of adequate progress in thesis and research, or non-participation in project activities.



Candidates for the M.S. degree will prepare a thesis approved by the major advisor and Department Head, and acceptable to the oral examining committee. Style should follow guidelines of the appropriate national organization.

The student and major advisor usually will be senior and junior author, respectively, on a publication when the results are predominately from the thesis. A paper may be written by the major advisor upon failure of the graduate student to submit a paper. In this case, the student will usually be the junior author. Acknowledgment should be given for major aid or counsel on research or analysis of data, provision of facilities, and financial assistance.



A final examination is required.  The final exam is oral and lasts approximately two to three hours. Questions are based on course work and your research project.  Forms needed for the final exam can be obtained online at

The final examination process is as follows:

  1. The student must prepare the “Request to Schedule Examination” form and submit it to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator, who will submit it to the Graduate School.  This must be done at least two weeks before the exam date.
  2. The thesis must be in the hands of the Supervisory Committee at least seven days before the final examination.
  3. The student must prepare the “Report of Final Examination” form and take it to the exam to obtain signatures from committee members.
  4. A copy of the signed “Report of Final Examination” form and “IRB/IACUC/IBC Compliance Notification” form must be submitted to the PLSC Graduate Program Administrator, and then the forms must be taken by the student to the Graduate School within seven days after the examination is completed.
  5. To participate in commencement, the student must have passed the final examination seven days prior to the commencement ceremony and all course work must be completed.

Below is a list of suggestions which may help you prepare for the examinations.

  • Questions are not always clear, so be sure you understand the question and its intent. Request restatement or clarification if in doubt.
  • If you know the answer, think a moment to formulate a good beginning, and then answer as briefly and accurately as possible.
  • Indicate that you cannot answer a question if you cannot, but of course "I don't know" cannot be your answer to many questions!
  • Know the plants with which you worked, including something of their morphology, taxonomy and close relatives, life history, etc.
  • Know basic procedures.
  • Know the chemicals used in your research and how they reacted.
  • Know the design of your experiment and a few others.
  • Know about the calculation and interpretation of your data, and the aspects of any conflicting data.
  • Know something about agriculture in North Dakota, the United States, and the world.
  • Know equipment and instruments you need -- and possible substitutes.
  • Think about and know some applications of results of your thesis and other research.
  • Be broader than just your special interest -- at least topics discussed in PLSC 790 Graduate Seminar.
  • In your answers, do not use words or concepts you do not understand, or could not discuss in some detail.
  • Avoid adding uncertain or incorrect statements to an already correct answer to a question.
  • If you are sure of a correct answer or viewpoint, defend it calmly and logically.
  • Knowledge of both details and principles is important -- know as much of each as possible.



After the final exam, each student will be emailed a Graduate Student Checkout List. This form lays out the steps for fulfilling department degree requirements, including: Resigning your position as a GRA, Exit Seminar, Exit Meeting, and Exit Photo scheduling; completion of survey and forwarding address information; and check-in of work space, computing equipment, and NDSU keys.

After all steps are completed, the form may be signed by any member of the Academic Support Staff and the exiting student. The form will be filed in the student’s Department of Plant Sciences student file.

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