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Soil Science: MS, PhD

Soil Science

USU is the only university in the state that offers degrees in soil science. The graduate programs in soil science are concerned with the chemical, physical, and biological aspects of the soil. This program is particularly strong in water-related issues, especially regional issues involving water and irrigation in the West. In particular, USU boasts unique and renown areas concentrating on digital soil mapping which aids in flood prediction, land restoration, using state-of-the-art environmental sensors to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, and tracking contaminant transport through soils caused by mountain snowmelt.

Students are able to focus their research on solving current issues and problems in areas including soil and water chemistry/biogeochemistry, soil biology and ecology, soils and nutrient bioavailability, environmental soil physics, soil and water management, soil genesis, morphology, and classification, and sustainable agroecosystems. Soil scientists fill the gap between engineers, geologists, and ecologists, and play a major role in ensuring that high-quality soil and water are available to current and future generations.

Graduates in soil science can pursue the following careers:

  • Soil scientists with government agencies
  • Conservation
  • Land management
  • Soil testing
  • Soil fertility research
  • Fertilizer development
  • Monitoring and remedying environmental pollution in soil and water
  • Environmental consultants
  • Fertilizer retail
  • Irrigation system design
  • Waste management
  • Mine land reclamation

Admission Requirements

Students without an undergraduate or graduate degree in plants, soils, biometeorology, or a closely related field may be required to complete selected undergraduate courses prior to admission.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

Applications for graduate programs are accepted year-round. However, chances for acceptance are best if students apply between October and January of each academic year. The time it takes to process an application is primarily dependent on the speed with which the School of Graduate Studies receives letters of recommendation, transcripts, and test scores. For most students, this process may take six to eight weeks. Applicants should plan accordingly.

Program Requirements

PhD Qualifying Exams:

Each student must undergo some sort of qualifying experience. Depending on the student’s particular research and their faculty committee, the exam can either be a traditional oral and written exam, a scholarly proposal, or another option best suited to the student’s individual situation.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of two options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper or creative work of art and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Students are encouraged to pursue the Plan A option.

Financial Assistance

The department typically funds all of its graduate students with research assistantships.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Brent Black, PhD, Oregon State University
Associate Professor
Area: Pomology
Office: AGSC 308
Phone: (435) 797-2174

Janis Boettinger, PhD, University of California – Davis
Area: Soil genesis, classification and mineralogy
Office: AGSC 354
Phone: (435) 797-4026

Grant Cardon, PhD, University of California – Riverside
Associate Professor
Area: Soil management and environmental quality
Office: AGSC 164
Phone: (435) 797-2278

John Carman, PhD, Texas A&M University
Area: Plant reproduction and development
Office: BTEC 211
Phone: (435) 797-2238

Earl Creech, PhD, Purdue University
Assistant Professor
Area: Agronomy
Office: AGSC 328
Phone: (435) 797-7319

Daniel Drost, PhD, Cornell University
Area: Vegetable production
Office: AGSC 310
Phone: (435) 797-2258

Robert Gillies, PhD, University of Newcastle, England
Area: Biometeorology
Office: AGRS 309
Phone: (435) 760-8023

Paul Grossl, PhD, Montana State University
Associate Professor
Area: Soil chemistry, biogeochemistry
Office: AGSC 348
Phone: (435) 797-0411

Lawrence Hipps, PhD, University of California – Davis
Area: Biometeorology
Office: AGRS 341
Phone: (435) 797-2009

David Hole, PhD, Texas A&M University
Area: Cereal breeding
Office: AGSC 334
Phone: (435) 797-2235

Astrid Jacobson, PhD, Cornell University
Associate Professor, PSC Graduate Program Coordinator
Area: Soil chemistry
Office: AGRS 338
Phone: (435) 797-2184

Jiming Jin, PhD, University of Arizona, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Assistant Professor
Area: Global climate modeling and analysis
Office: NR 358
Phone: (435) 797-8175

Paul Johnson, PhD, University of Minnesota
Professor, Department Head
Area: Turfgrass science
Office: AGRS 344A
Phone: (435) 797-7039

Scott Jones, PhD, Utah State University
Associate Professor
Area: Soil physics
Office: AGRS 343
Phone: (435) 797-2175

Roger Kjelgren, PhD, University of Washington
Area: Ornamental horticulture
Office: AGRS 336
Phone: (435) 797-2972

Kelly Kopp, PhD, University of Connecticut
Associate Professor
Area: Water Conservation, turfgrass science
Office: AGRS 334
Phone: (435) 797-6650

Jennifer MacAdam, PhD, University of Missouri
Associate Professor
Area: Forage production and physiology
Office: AGSC 330
Phone: (435) 797-2364

Jeanette Norton, PhD, University of California – Berkeley
Professor, PSC Graduate Program Advisor
Area: Soil microbiology
Office: AGRS 340
Phone: (435) 797-2166

Corey Ransom, PhD, Michigan State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Weed science
Office: AGSC 336
Phone: (435) 797-2242

V. Philip Rasmussen, PhD, Kansas State University
Area: Sustainable agriculture
Office: AGSC 305 B
Phone: (435) 797-3394

Jennifer Reeve, PhD, Washington State University
Associate Professor
Area: Organic and sustainable agriculture
Office: AGSC 332
Phone: (435) 797-3192

Teryl Roper, PhD, Washington State University
Department Head, Plants, Soils, and Climate Department
Area: Pomology
Office: AGSC 322C
Phone: (435) 797-8698

Larry Rupp, PhD, Cornell University
Area: Ornamental horticulture
Office: AGRS 337
Phone: (435) 232-1158

Simon Wang, PhD, Iowa State University
Associate Professor
Area: Climate diagnostics and prediction
Office: AGRS 342
Phone: (435) 757-3121

Ralph Whitesides, PhD, Oregon State University
Area: Weed science
Office: AGSC 326
Phone: (435) 797-8252

Stanford Young, PhD, Oregon State University
Research Professor
Area: Seed production
Office: AGSC 320
Phone: (435) 797-2082

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

American Chemical Society: With more than 163,000 members, the ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. A nonprofit organization, chartered by Congress, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers, and related professions around the globe.

American Geophysical Union: AGU is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the furtherance of the geophysical sciences through the individual efforts of its members and in cooperation with other national and international scientific organizations.

American Meteorological Society: AMS promotes the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. AMS publishes nine journals, sponsors more than 12 conferences annually, and offers numerous programs and services.

American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America: ASA, CSSA, and SSSA are prominent international scientific societies headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. Because of their common interests, all three societies share a close working relationship as well as the same headquarters office staff. Society members are dedicated to the conservation and wise use of natural resources to produce food, feed, and fiber crops while maintaining and improving the environment.

American Society for Horticultural Science: ASHS supports the science for specialty crops, global solutions for nutritious food sources, and healthy, beautiful environments. ASHS members (researchers, faculty, and other educational personnel, Extension agents, federal and state experiment station representatives, and growers and distributors of horticultural products) continue to make significant advances in these areas, and are well-positioned to lead the rapid evolution of horticultural science through the 21st century.

American Water Works Association: AWWA is the authoritative resource on safe water, with more than 60,000 members worldwide sharing knowledge on water resource development, water and wastewater treatment technology, water storage and distribution, and utility management and operations.

Ecological Society of America: ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to improve communication among ecologists, raise public awareness of the importance of ecology, and influence environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy makers.

Labs, Centers, Research

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Environmental Quality Laboratory: The EQL is located at the Utah Water Research Lab and is equipped for analyses of organic and inorganic constituents in air, water, and soil. The EQL consists of chemistry, microbiology, radiological and analytical instrumentation laboratories, two constant-temperature rooms, and research project areas.

Utah Agricultural Experiment Station: The UAES is part of a network of researchers and facilities at the nation’s land-grant universities and is committed to improving agriculture and managing natural resources for the people of Utah. At research facilities on the USU campus and throughout the state, UAES supports hundreds of research projects that promote agriculture and human nutrition and enhance the quality of rural life.

Utah Botanical Center: The UBC, located in Kaysville, Utah, is home to research and demonstration projects focused on sustainable living in the Intermountain West. Studies of water conservation, horticulture, water quality enhancement, wetland ecology, integrated pest management, urban forestry, agriculture, fish and wildlife, highway enhancement, and storm-water management combine to make the center a living laboratory.

Utah Center for Water Resources Research: The UCWRR facilitates water research, outreach, design, and testing elements within a university environment that supports student education and citizen training.

Utah On-Site Wastewater Training Center: This center provides education, training, and technology transfer to installers, inspectors, regulators, and homeowners within the Rocky Mountain Region on the proper design and use of wastewater treatment systems.

Utah Water Research Laboratory: The UWRL works on nearly 250 water-related projects a year and has projects in all of Utah’s 29 counties and more than 40 countries. The lab is one of the go-to places that addresses the technical and societal aspects of water-related issues, including quality, quantity, and distribution of water.

Water Initiative: Utah State University supports a broad community of students and faculty engaged in water education, research, and outreach. The USU Water Initiative provides an overarching umbrella for the activities of this community aimed at fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and collegial sharing of ideas related to water across the departments and colleges of USU.

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Academic Advising

Jeanette Norton
Professor, PSC Graduate Program Advisor
Office: AGRS 340
Phone: (435) 797-2166

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