Mission and Overview

The mission of the Ph.D. in Nutrition Program is to increase the number of scientists, academicians, and researchers who understand how to integrate the disciplines of molecular biology, metabolism, and nutritional science to formulate questions and solve problems in relation to the metabolic diseases of our society.  The increasing problems associated with metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes) of our State, Region and the U.S. require these appropriately trained individuals.

Students in our Ph.D. program work closely with a research advisor and mentor with an active NIH-funded research program for their focused research area.  Also, through coursework and seminars, students gain a broad perspective and excellent foundation in knowledge/skills of molecular biology, biochemistry and metabolism as well as nutrition for health promotion and disease prevention.

Program Description / Curriculum

• Policies and Procedures

This is a document given to all Ph.D. students and prospective Ph.D. students. It describes the overall program, specifics about coursework, qualifying examination, and dissertation.

Areas of concentration

The Ph.D. in Nutrition Program has 2 areas of focus:

1.  Molecular nutrition

2. Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism  

The major difference is that the molecular track offers extensive in-depth coursework in cell and molecular biology and the research is focused on molecular biology.

The nutritional biochemistry/metabolism track offers extensive in-depth coursework in stable isotopes and metabolomics with a focused metabolic research project.

    • There is an opportunity for elective coursework in both tracks.
    • The electives are tailored to address the strengths/weaknesses and research/ career interests of each student.

PLEASE NOTE:   All students are required to take:

  • NTRN 433 and NTRN 434_Advanced Human Nutrition Science I and II
  • NTRN 452_Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism
  • NTRN 551_PhD Seminar*
  • and
  • IBMS 500_Being a Professional Scientist  / Ethics course sponsored by the School of
    Medicine Biomedical Sciences Training Program (BSTP)
  • *NTRN 551_PhD Seminar includes:
       (1) ethics in research,
       (2) reading and critically evaluating journal articles,
       (3) presentation skills,
       (4) exposure to different types of research,
       (5) how to write grant applications, and
       (6) career discussions.

Students in the molecular track must also take:

  • CBIO 453/455_the BSTP Cell and Molecular Biology Course
  • and
  • NTRN 455_Molecular Nutrition

Students in the nutritional biochemistry/metabolism track must also take:

  • NTRN 454_Isotope Tracer Methodology

All students participate in research each semester starting with their first semester. In order to allow adequate research time students take only 2 courses each semester and the rest of the credits (total of 9) is the Research Course NTRN 561.

The Qualifying Exam involves a written NIH grant application and a one-hour oral exam based on the written grant. The PhD Program Director chairs all "Qualifying Exam'' and "PhD Dissertation Defense" Committees in order to insure fairness and quality control.

Faculty members (both from Nutrition and outside departments) of the Qualifying Exam Committee and Dissertation Committee are selected by PhD Program Director in consultation with Dr. Brunengraber, the Nutrition Department Chair, and the student's Research Advisor.  

Students usually take the Qualifying Exam at the end of Spring Semester of their 2nd year. Once the Dissertation Committee is determined, the student meets with the entire committee periodically, usually every 6 months, to share research progress and seek feedback on protocols/data. In order to be eligible to defend the dissertation, students must have one manuscript accepted for publication and a second manuscript submitted.

By the time most students have completed the PhD, they usually have 2 or more manuscripts accepted for publication.

Expect to complete your PhD degree within 4-6 years. Those completing the degree in the shortest period are those students who have the MS Degree in Nutrition or other science discipline prior to beginning the PhD program.

Each PhD student (US or international) receives full tuition support for their entire program: a yearly stipend and payment of student health insurance.

In addition to tuition, stipend and health insurance, the department provides all PhD students with a new laptop computer (loaded with software) during the first semester, which is for use during the Program.