Agricultural Sciences (Ph.D.)

Agricultural Sciences (Ph.D.)

Tom Davis quinoa greenhouse lettuce

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Agricultural Sciences graduate program offered by the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems (ANFS) offers a flexible course of study that provides education and research experience plant and animal agriculture, aquaculture, food systems, and related fields. As a graduate student in ANFS, you will be engaged in an interdisciplinary department focusing on the farm to fork wellness continuum and a holistic approach to solving problems. You will also develop independent and team research experience.

As an Agricultural Sciences student, you will have the opportunity to optimize your graduate course work to suit your interests and career goals. Our faculty offer education and research opportunities in the diverse components of plant and animal agricultural systems including breeding and genetics, physiology, environmental interactions, organismal health, agroecology, and pathology. Student are exposed to diverse production systems, including field based, hydroponics, and aquaculture, as well as post-harvest practices. Beyond the classroom and the lab, you will hone communication skills that essential for professional scientists through teaching, extension, and outreach opportunities with stakeholders and constituents.

With a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences, students are prepared to pursue careers in college teaching and research positions in industry and government. Students may work in plant and animal agriculture, aquaculture, food production and distribution systems, teaching, public service, research in federal, state, and private organizations, or related fields.

The Ph.D. program is thesis-based, with the expectation of generating and publishing substantial new knowledge in the field of interest.


Department of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems
University of New Hampshire
Kendall Hall
129 Main Street
Durham, NH 03824
(603) 862-2130

Curriculum & Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) graduate students work with their advisor and Doctoral Guidance Committee to plan a program of study including the required core courses, competencies, and develop a research proposal. To complete the degree, students must complete a research proposal, pass a qualifying exam, conduct dissertation research, and complete and defend a dissertation.

Guidance and Dissertation Committees: During the first semester, the student and advisor jointly select members of a guidance committee. A nomination form must be sent to the graduate school to officially appoint the committee membership. The Guidance Committee consists of 5 members and is responsible for approving the proposal and oversees the qualifying examination. Once the student has advanced to candidacy, the Doctoral Dissertation Committee is formed. The Dissertation Committee is responsible for administering the dissertation exam.

Dissertation Proposal and defense: All Ph.D. students are required to develop a formally approved research proposal typically by the end of the third semester and no later than the fourth semester. Proposals are approved by the dissertation committee and the major advisor. In addition to the written proposal, students are expected to present a proposal defense presentation. This proposal should consist of the following:

  1. comprehensive review of the literature related to the student’s research topic.
  2. statement of need/justification.
  3. research goal with a list of research objectives with stated hypotheses that address the major research questions.
  4. plan of work describing the experimental approaches or methods to be used in answering the thesis questions.
  5. Expected outcomes and potential pitfalls for each objective.
  6. Timeline for completion of the work.
  7. preliminary research where appropriate.

Candidacy: Following approval of the research proposal and completion of coursework, doctoral students should advance to candidacy. Candidacy is reached after passing a formal qualifying examination that assesses both broad basic knowledge of the student’s field, and topics central to the research project. The purpose of the exam is to measure of the student’s likelihood of successfully completing a doctoral program. The qualifying exam comprises written and oral components.

  1. Written exam: Student choose three areas of specialization in consultation with their Doctoral Guidance Committee. The advisor solicits questions from Committee members and administers the exam. Once completed, Committee members evaluate the responses. The student is expected to demonstrate competence in each of the chosen areas, reflected in clear, concise, well-organized synthetic essays. The exam may be “closed book” or “open book” at the discretion of the advisor.
  2. Oral exam: An oral exam is conducted by the Doctoral Guidance Committee and chaired by the advisor. The student should demonstrate mastery of fundamental concepts in the designated areas of specialization, draw upon a broad spectrum of information to answer theoretical and practical questions. There may be focus on any area that was deemed weak in the written exam.

When the student has passed both parts of the qualifying exam, the advisor will inform the Graduate School and recommend that the student be advanced to candidacy in the Ph.D. degree program.

Dissertation and oral defense: All students must complete a dissertation reporting original research. After completion of the research, the candidate must provide a copy of the dissertation to the Doctoral Dissertation committee at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination. The final thesis defense consists of two parts: an oral presentation of the research in a public seminar, and an oral defense of the dissertation conducted by the Doctoral Dissertation Committee. Final approval of the dissertation will be determined by a majority vote of the committee.

Number of Credits Required

There is no specific credit requirement for the Ph.D., though students must take the required core courses and fulfill the competences outlined below. Up to 8 credits of graduate credit from another institution may be transferred, provided the credits were not counted toward another degree, and the course grade was a B or higher. Petitions requesting transfer credit must be supported by the advisor and graduate committee and approved by the UNH Graduate School.

Core Course Requirements
ANFS 901Introduction to Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems Graduate Studies 11
ANFS 997Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems Seminar 21
Competency Requirements 3
In addition, students will be expected to demonstrate competency in areas of experimental design and analysis and scientific writing and communication. Supportive course offerings include:
BIOL 902Writing and Publishing Science2
ANFS 933Design, Analysis, and Interpretation of Experiments4

Each student, in consultation with their graduate committee, will define one or more areas of informal specialization, and will take additional courses appropriate for their area(s) of specialization.

Additional Information/Requirements

All students in the Agricultural Sciences Ph.D. Program are expected to present their research in ANFS departmental seminar at least three times (including the defense seminar). Students are also encouraged to present at professional conferences and acquire teaching and/or mentoring experience.

Annual evaluation

The annual evaluation of graduate students ensures that students receive the mentorship they deserve and are making progress toward completion of their degrees. The annual evaluation of graduate students consists of a collaborative effort between faculty adviser and student to:

  • Complete a self-assessment;
  • Present a professional quality CV suitable for awards, job applications, and internships;
  • Produce a narrative of service or other activities not captured on a CV;
  • Develop annual goals.


Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Jan. 15 (priority*), Aug. 1 (final) *Applications completed by Jan. 15 will be given priority consideration for admission and financial support. Applications completed after Jan. 15 will be considered based on openings and funding.
  • Spring: Oct. 15 (final)
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: MA RI

Accelerated Masters Eligible: No

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester and UNH Non-Degree work. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must request one official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. International transcripts must be translated into English. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Test Scores: GRE Required

GRE required. Request official test scores to be sent directly to the Graduate School by the testing service. Test scores more than five years old are not acceptable. Student copies and photo copies of scores are not considered official. Our CEEB code is 3918.

For general information about test scores, including waiver requests and current COVID related impacts, please visit our Test Scores webpage.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives.
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program specific application questions.

International Applicants

The University of New Hampshire recommends that international applicants who are living outside of the United States, and are planning on pursuing a research based degree, submit a preapplication form before submitting a full application. Your preapplication request will be carefully reviewed and a decision usually provided within 3 weeks. If your preapplication is approved then it is recommended you then submit a full application. If you are currently living in the United States (on a H1B visa, etc.), or you plan on pursuing a professional master’s degree, then you do not need to submit a preapplication.

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

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