PhD in Nutrition & Metabolism

Nutrition scientists apply the tools of physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics, as well as epidemiology and social sciences, to questions that are important for understanding the impact of nutrition on human health. The PhD in Nutrition & Metabolism program provides students with core knowledge of nutrition and then focuses on training them to conduct original, nutrition-related research. Students can tailor your coursework and research experience to pursue their interests.

Doctoral students are required to rotate through two to three different laboratories/research groups before choosing a mentor for their thesis work. Directed study opportunities to pursue research or specialized topics under the guidance of a faculty member are also available. Our interdisciplinary program is mainly based in the Department of Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, but we have faculty from many other departments of the School of Medicine and Boston University.

To see program highlights and faculty and additional information on research programs, please visit the BU Medical Sciences site.

Program Requirements

Required Courses for the PhD

  • GMS NU 755 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition I: Energy Balance and Micronutrients
  • GMS NU 756 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition: Macronutrients
  • GMS NU 620 Research, Clinical and Public Policy Applications in Medical Nutrition Sciences GMS
  • GMS NU 700 Medical Nutrition Sciences Seminar
  • GMS NU 901, 902 Research in Medical Nutrition Sciences
  • GMS BI 755, 756 Biochemistry A, B
  • GMS BI 759 Integrative Biochemistry
  • SPH EP 713 Introduction to Epidemiology, or equivalent
  • Biostatistics

Course Descriptions

GMS NU 755 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition I: Energy Balance and Micronutrients (Prerequisite: at least one semester each of Biochemistry and Physiology, or equivalent, and permission of the instructor.) This is the first semester of a two-semester sequence (that can be taken in either order) that focuses on the physiological, biochemical and molecular bases of nutrition. This semester will cover concepts of essential nutrients and methods for determining their requirements (DRIs), body composition, nutrition and growth, energy expenditure, regulation of energy intake, vitamins and macro-mineral metabolism (Ca, P) and micronutrients. Functions and roles of micronutrients in signaling from gene to whole organism will be discussed. Implications for nutrient requirements through the lifecycle and in health and disease will be addressed. A discussion session will teach students to critically evaluate cutting-edge and seminal papers addressing each topic, and introduce students to state-of-the-art research approaches and methodologies–basic (cell and molecular), clinical, and epidemiological. Weekly writing assignments on the papers will provide experience and hone skills with scientific writing. Fried, 4 cr, 1st sem.

GMS NU 756 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition: Macronutrients (Prerequisite: at least one semester each of Biochemistry and Physiology and permission of the instructor.) Regulation of lipid, carbohydrate, and protein digestion, absorption, transport, tissue and cellular metabolism. Integration of macronutrient metabolism in response to alteration in nutritional status (e.g., starvation, obesity) on a whole body and tissue-specific basis. Mechanism regulating macronutrient metabolism in response to stresses such as exercise, aging, and disease. A discussion session will teach students to critically evaluate research papers, provide knowledge of seminal papers in the field, and introduce students to research approaches and state-of-the-art methods (e.g. assessment of metabolic flux using stable isotopes, euglycemic clamps, metabolomics). Fried, 4 cr, 2nd sem.

GMS NU 620 Research, Clinical and Public Policy Applications in Medical Nutrition Sciences (Prerequisite: Human Physiology, or equivalent, and permission of the instructor. Prereq or Coreq NU 755 or 756). The course will focus on disease states related to nutrition and diet, with a major focus on clinical nutrition research. It will accomplish three goals. First, the course will acquaint students with current concepts and methods in clinical nutrition research. Second, it will familiarize students with clinical research and how investigators approach nutrition-related questions in their specific fields to answer questions related to disease states. Third, it will evaluate the role of nutrition as it relates to development, prevention, and therapy of 18 major diseases, including cardiovascular, diabetes, gastrointestinal, osteoporosis, obesity, and cancer. Apovian. 4 cr, 2nd sem.

GMS NU 700 Medical Nutrition Sciences Seminar. Students develop and present a research seminar. Fried and Moore. 2 cr, Fall

GMS NU 804 Directed Studies in Medical Nutrition. TBA. Directed studies of a specific advanced topic with a faculty member.

GMS NU 901, 902 Research in Medical Nutrition Sciences. TBA. var cr, 1st and 2nd sem.

Contacts

Susan K. Fried, PhD (Director, skfried@bu.edu)
Lynn L. Moore, PhD (Associate Director, llmoore@bu.edu)

Faculty and Research Programs

Research interests of our faculty (a full list of faculty is below) focus on the role of nutrition and nutrient metabolism in the pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases from basic, clinical, and epidemiological perspectives.

Nutrient signaling in obesity/diabetes

  • Adipocyte biology (Corkey, Farmer, Fried, Kandror, Pilch, Puri)
  • Islet biology/insulin secretion (Corkey, Shirihai)
  • Muscle metabolism/exercise (Ruderman)

Metabolic and nutritional aspects of aging

  • Muscle biology and sarcopenia (Bhasin, Guo, Jasuja)
  • Energy sensing and aging (Ruderman)

Clinical/Translational research

  • Obesity, diets, and weight loss (Apovian, Fried, Isfan)
  • Interventions to prevent sarcopenia of aging, e.g., dietary protein (Bhasin, Apovian, Moore)
  • Dietary factors and childhood obesity (Bandini, Lenders)
  • Vitamin D and health (Holick)
  • Diabetes, inflammation and the microbiome (McDonnell, Apovian)

Diet and Chronic Disease–Population Studies

  • Dairy and calcium intake and risk for obesity and its co-morbidities (Moore, Newby)
  • Obesity and cardiovascular risk (Moore, Coviello)

List of faculty

  • Caroline M. Apovian, MD, FACP, FACN
  • Linda Bandini, PhD
  • Shalender Bhasin, MD
  • John Cook, PhD
  • Barbara Corkey, PhD
  • Andrea Coviello, MD
  • Stephen R. Farmer, PhD
  • Susan K. Fried, PhD
  • Wen Guo, PhD
  • James A. Hamilton, PhD
  • Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD
  • Nawfal W. Istfan, MD, PhD
  • Konstantin V. Kandror, PhD
  • Elizabeth A. Krall Kaye, PhD, MPH
  • Carine Lenders, MD, ScD
  • Marie McDonnell, MD
  • Lynn L. Moore, DSc
  • P. Kirstin Newby, ScD, MPH, MS
  • Paul F. Pilch, PhD
  • Vishwajeet Puri, PhD
  • Paula A. Quatromoni, DSc, RD
  • Vasan Ramachandran, MD
  • Rahul Ray, PhD
  • Neil Ruderman, MD, PhD
  • Orian S. Shirihai, MD, PhD
  • Keith Tornheim, PhD