Nutrition — Ph.D.

Program director
Sujatha Rajaram

The aim of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in nutrition is to prepare students for a career in academia, governmental agencies, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, or private industry. The program is designed to provide an advanced curriculum in nutrition, professional skills, and competencies required to support careers in teaching and research. This program is unique in that it is situated in the School of Public Health in a health sciences university. The program engages in interdisciplinary research that encourages collaboration across public health disciplines and the basic sciences, and that promotes and builds on its core legacy on vegetarian and plant-based nutrition. Areas of curricular strength and research emphasis include plant-based diets and the health of the individual, populations and the planet, nutritional epidemiology, diet and chronic disease risk reduction, and community nutrition.

Student learning outcomes

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate and evaluate advanced knowledge in nutritional sciences and apply it to the understanding of diet-disease relationships. 
  • Review and illustrate the biological mechanisms underlying the relationships between nutrients, foods, and diet patterns and health. 
  • Critically evaluate the evidence base and advocate for the role of plant-based diets in promoting health of the individual, population groups, and the planet. 
  • Apply analytical and fundamental concepts in nutritional epidemiology.  
  • Conduct a nutrition research study—including designing the study, collecting and analyzing the data, and interpreting the research findings.      
  • Effectively communicate nutritional science to diverse stakeholders to advance the field and improve the health of the population.
  • Use best practice modalities in pedagogical practices and deliver training or educational experiences that promote learning in an academic setting.
  • Apply the principles of scientific and professional ethics.

Educational effectiveness indicators

  • Comprehensive examination
  • Dissertation proposal defense (qualifying examination)
  • Dissertation manuscript (two manuscripts submitted for peer-reviewed publication)
  • Oral defense of dissertation
  • Teaching assistant
  • Presentation at scientific conference


  • Master's degree in nutrition preferred; or an M.S. or M.P.H. degree with completion of all prerequisite courses; or a health professional degree at the master's level or higher (M.D. or equivalent)
  • Advanced biochemistry (may be taken concurrently with the program)
  • Anatomy and physiology, microbiology, general chemistry and organic chemistry
  • GPA of 3.5 or higher preferred
  • GRE or equivalent (above the 40th percentile in each section is favorable)

Individuals who may benefit from the program

Individuals seeking careers in:

  • Academia (teaching and research)
  • Researcher in private industry, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, research institutes
  • Public health nutritionist
  • Leadership role in academia and public health sector
NUTR 504Nutritional Metabolism5
NUTR 517Advanced Nutrition I: Carbohydrates and Lipids4
NUTR 518Advanced Nutrition II: Proteins, Vitamins, and Minerals4
STAT 509General Statistics4
STAT 548Analytical Applications of SAS2
or STAT 549 Analytical Applications of SPSS
Public health core
EPDM 509Principles of Epidemiology3
PHCJ 606Public Health Fundamentals3
PHCJ 608ADoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 608BDoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 608CDoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 614Pedagogy: The Art and Science of Teaching2
PHCJ 615Intermediate Biostatistics3
PHCJ 618Transformative Communication2
Nutrition core
NUTR 608AScientist Forum1
NUTR 608BScientist Forum1
NUTR 608CScientist Forum1
NUTR 617Preventive Nutrition I: Carbohydrates and Lipids2
NUTR 618Preventive Nutrition II: Protein, Vitamins and Minerals2
NUTR 619Preventive Nutrition III: Phytochemicals3
NUTR 620Advanced Topics in Nutrition 16
NUTR 664Vegetarian Nutrition: Person, Population, Planet3
RELE 525Ethics for Scientists3
RELR 5_Graduate-level Relational3
RELT 5_Graduate-level Theological3
Electives 26
Research core
NUTR 539Research Methods in Nutrition2
NUTR 543Concepts in Nutritional Epidemiology3
NUTR 685Preliminary Research Experience2
NUTR 698Dissertation12
STAT 568Data Analysis3
Total Units72

Register twice for a maximum six units. Each offering in an academic year will be a different topic


Choose in consultation with academic advisor.  Must be graduate-level courses in nutrition, dietetics, public health, or basic sciences.

Culminating experience

As a part of the culminating experience, the student publishes one manuscript in peer-reviewed journal (co-authorship or review article acceptable), submits two publishable  papers from their dissertation research  to peer reviewed journals, successfully defends dissertation, and submits a committee approved dissertation manuscript. Further details provided in the SPH Doctoral Handbook.

Normal time to complete the program

4 years based on full-time enrollment