Plant Science MS Program

The Master of Science (MS) degree is awarded upon successful completion of a minimum of 36 credits. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 must be achieved to graduate. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- for course credit. 

Duration of Study

Students are responsible for planning their graduate program in consultation with their Academic Advisor. Students must meet all deadlines and be aware that most Core Courses are offered only once per academic year. Students are expected to complete the MS degree as follows:

  • MS (Non-Thesis)- three Semesters and one Summer Session.
  • MS (Thesis)- four Semesters and one Summer Session.

Students must complete their Thesis by the end of the fourth Semester (not including the Summer Session). Students who require additional time to complete their Thesis must apply for an extension per the time limits and extensions policy.

Assessment Test

To facilitate the design of an individual study plan, all admitted students must take a written assessment test when they arrive on campus. The assessment determines whether students have mastered the prerequisites for undertaking graduate-level courses taught in the program. The exam will focus on mathematics and basic sciences. Students must prepare for the test by refreshing the general knowledge gained from their undergraduate education before arriving at KAUST. The study plan requirements must be satisfactorily completed, in addition to the university degree requirements.

In the case of failure of the assessment test MS students are mandated to take 100-level courses and will be graded Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U) for these courses but do not receive academic credit toward their degree. Students mandated to take the full Fall Semester of the PGDip Program and who wish to transfer to the PGDip Program in the Spring Semester must apply to do so before Week 1 of the Spring Semester.

The MS Requirements

MS students must complete the following requirements:

  • Core Courses (12 credits)
  • Elective Courses (6-12 credits)
  • Research/Capstone (Thesis 18 credits, Non-Thesis 12 credits)
  • Graduate Seminar (non-credit)
  • Winter Enrichment Program (non-credit)

Core and Elective Courses must be technical courses and cannot be substituted with Research, Internship, or Broadening Courses to fulfill degree requirements.

Core Courses (12 credits)

Core Courses provide students with the background needed to establish a solid foundation in the program area. Students must complete 12 credits (4 Core Courses) and be aware that Core Courses may be offered only once per academic year.

B 211Fundamentals of Molecular Microbiology


B 241Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab


PS 201Concepts of Developmental Biology and Genetics


PS 202Plant Physiology and Adaptation



Elective Courses (6-12 credits)

Elective Courses allow students to tailor their educational experience to meet individual research and educational objectives with the permission of the Academic Advisor. Thesis students must take two Elective Courses (6 credits) and Non-Thesis students must take four Elective Courses (12 credits).

AMCS 215Mathematical Foundations of Machine Learning


B 204Genomics


B 206/BioE 206Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology


B 209Molecular Genetics


B 214Biomolecule Structure and Function


B 316Foundations in Bioimaging


BESE 300Fundamental Skills in Bioinformatics


CS 247Scientific Visualization


Others upon approval of the Academic Advisor.

Graduate Seminars (non-credit)

All students must register for PS 398 and receive a Satisfactory grade for three Semesters during their MS. Student must attend a minimum of eight lectures per Semester. 

Winter Enrichment Program (non-credit)

All students must register for WE 100 and successfully complete one Winter Enrichment Program (WEP), usually taken in the first year of study.

MS Thesis

Students planning to pursue the Thesis option must complete a minimum of 12 credits of Thesis Research (PS 297). Students must complete any remaining credits through one or a combination of the options listed below:

Thesis Application

Students must complete the application and have it approved by the Program Chair no later than the end of week one of their third Semester. The Thesis Advisor must be a full-time program-affiliated Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor at KAUST. The Thesis Advisor can only become project affiliated for the specific thesis project with the Program Chair’s approval. The application must include a Thesis Proposal endorsed by the Thesis Advisor and a timeline for completion.

Students who meet the graduation requirements of the non-thesis track may drop the thesis up until the end of their third Semester. Students not able to complete their thesis after this deadline will face academic dismissal.

Petition to Defend Thesis

Students must submit a petition to defend their Thesis by the deadline published in the Academic Calendar. Students are responsible for scheduling the Thesis Defense Date. All committee members must attend the Defense. Students must defend their Thesis and obtain the final approval of the Defense within their duration of study (4 Semesters and 1 Summer Session).

Thesis Committee Formation

Students must form the Thesis Committee and submit a petition to defend the Thesis by the deadline published in the Academic Calendar. The Thesis Defense Committee, which must be approved by the Dean, must consist of at least three members and typically includes no more than four members. At least two of the required members must be KAUST Faculty. The Chair plus one additional Faculty member must be affiliated with the student's program. This membership can be summarized as follows:

Member Role Program Status
1 Chair Within program
2 Faculty Within program
3 Faculty or approved Research Scientist Outside program
4 Additional Faculty or Research Scientist Inside or outside KAUST


•   Members 1-3 are required; Member 4 is optional.

   Co-Chairs may serve as members 2, 3, or 4 but may not be a Research Scientist.

•   Members 2 and 3 must use primary affiliation only.

   Adjunct Professors and Professors Emeriti may retain their roles on current Committees but may not serve as Chair on any new Committees.

   Professors of Practice and Research Professors may serve as members 2, 3, or 4 depending upon their affiliation with the student's program; they may also serve as Co-Chairs.

   Visiting Professors may serve as member 4.

View a list of Faculty and their affiliations here.

Thesis Defense

The format of the Oral Defense is left to the discretion of the Thesis Committee. Students defending their Thesis receive an outcome of a Pass or Fail. A Pass is achieved when the Committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote; otherwise, the outcome is a Fail. In the case of a Pass, students must send the Thesis Result Form within 2 days of the Thesis Defense to the GPC. In the case of a Fail, the Committee Chair must inform the GPC immediately to take the necessary action. Students must submit the Final Approval Form by the deadline published in the Academic Calendar. The required forms are available on the webpage of the Office of the Registrar. 

Thesis Document

Students must follow the Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines available on the KAUST Library webpage when they write their Thesis. Once the Thesis is ready to be examined, students must determine the Defense date with the agreement of all members of the Thesis Committee.

Thesis Archiving

Students must archive the Thesis in the KAUST Library two weeks from the final result form. This must not exceed the duration of study or the deadline published in the Academic Calendar.

MS Non-Thesis

The non-thesis option is only for those with justifications like (i.e. not pursuing a Ph.D., going to industry, job offer etc.), The non-thesis option must be approved by the Academic Advisor and the Program Chair.

Students wishing to pursue the non-thesis option must complete a total of 12 capstone credits, with a minimum of 6 credits of Directed Research (PS 299). Students must complete the remaining 6 credits through one or a combination of the options listed below: