Graduate School Admissions

Prospective students interested in plant breeding and genetics research at OSU should identify a faculty member or members as a potential mentor and apply to the respective graduate programs in the departments of Horticulture and Crop SciencePlant Pathology, and Entomology in the College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Science (CFAES) and Molecular Genetics and Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology in the College of Arts & Science (CA&S) or to the Translational Plant Sciences Graduate Program.

The Ohio State University Graduate School admissions is a competitive process. The minimum undergraduate GPA is a 3.0 and requires a completed 4-year degree from an accredited institution. For full eligibility of internal fellowships, we recommend that you apply to programs by November 30th. 


Graduate Assistantship, Mercer and McHale Laboratories
QTL for drought tolerance in chile pepper from Mexico and the US

Application deadlines: December 13 for domestic students and Nov 30 for international students

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student interested in studying the adaptive genetic variation found in improved and landrace varieties of crops, as well as their wild relatives, collected from centers of origin. The successful candidate will be part of a USDA funded project and co-advised by Drs. Kristin Mercer and Leah McHale at Ohio State University in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science ( in Columbus, Ohio. Briefly, Dr. Mercer studies plant evolutionary ecology within agricultural systems, including adaptation in and evolution of crop diversity in centers of origin. Dr. Leah McHale studies breeding and genetics, including the identification and characterization of beneficial alleles for food quality and resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses. You can look at our various research projects on our lab websites here ( and here (

In this Mexico-US collaborative project on chile pepper (Capsicum), we aim to relate phenotypic, molecular, and climatic variation to understand how patterns of genetic variation have been shaped by the environment. The successful candidate’s project will use QTL analysis to highlight regions of the genome controlling environmental adaptation using greenhouse and laboratory experiments. Such analysis will enhance our understanding of mechanisms of adaptation to abiotic stress, especially drought. Students with an interest in international collaboration are especially encouraged to apply and a facility with Spanish is a plus, but not required.

Outside of our labs, there are many collaborators at OSU that can contribute to your graduate training. The Department of Horticulture and Crop Science has other faculty with interests in the ecology and evolution (or adaptation) of agricultural plants, as well as faculty with a molecular focus who investigate the genetic basis for ecologically and agronomically relevant traits. Similarly, there are collaborating faculty in other departments at OSU, including Plant Pathology, Entomology, Molecular Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, and Geography, who can enhance your experience. Interdisciplinary programs, such as the Center for Applied Plant Science (CAPS) and the Agroecosystem Management Program (AMP), exist to further broaden opportunities. Strong collaborators with scientists at institutions in Mexico and Hawaii extend our network to the south and west.

Applicants will apply for the PhD program and should have a MS in a related field or strong prior research experience (undergraduate thesis, technician position, etc.). There are fellowship opportunities through the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences and Graduate School, so high quality applications will be forwarded accordingly. We encourage students to consider concurrently applying to external fellowship funding sources.

Please contact us directly if you are interested in the position. Please include a description of your interests, as well as an updated CV with GPA, GRE, and TOEFL scores, as relevant. GRE scores should be expressed as a percentage. Kristin Mercer,, 614-247-6394. Leah McHale,, 614-292-9003.

Further information can be found on the Future Graduate Students page for Horticulture and Crop Science ( For specifics on applying to OSU, please visit the Graduate School website ( and Regina Vann (, Graduate Studies Coordinator, can also be of assistance.