PhD in Nutrition & Metabolism

Nutrition scientists apply the tools of physiology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and genetics and genomics, as well as epidemiology and social sciences, to address questions that are important for understanding the impact of nutrition on human health. Students can tailor their coursework and research experiences to pursue their interests.

The doctoral program in Nutrition & Metabolism provides students with core knowledge of the biomedical sciences through the FiBS curriculum. Nutrition & Metabolism coursework addresses how this basic knowledge applies to the study of nutrition and metabolism in health and disease at basic, translational research, and population-based levels. To see program highlights and faculty and additional information on research programs, please visit the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences Nutrition & Metabolism website.


All applications are centralized and must go through the online Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) application process. Candidates applying to PiBS must have a strong background in the biological and physical sciences.

Applicants will be asked to submit the following:

  • An official transcript of each college or university attended
  • A minimum of three letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement that describes qualifications for the intended educational objectives
  • Official results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test

International applicants must also submit:

  • Official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for applicants whose native language is not English
  • International Student Data Form

Contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Lynn L. Moore, for additional information.

Qualifying Examinations

Candidates for the PhD and MD/PhD degrees in Nutrition & Metabolism must pass a two-part qualifying exam that includes a written examination and an oral defense of a “mock grant proposal”.

Thesis Advisory Committee and Thesis Defense

The Nutrition & Metabolism program requires five Advisory Committee members including the chair (who must be a GMS faculty member), the primary mentor, and at least one outside member. The committee is assembled at least once annually to discuss the progress of the dissertation research, or more often as the situation warrants. Once the Thesis Advisory Committee determines that the research work is complete, the student writes and orally defends the thesis.

Financial Support

Financial assistance in the form of tuition and health benefits, as well as a living stipend, is available to students in good standing in the PhD program.

Program Requirements

Required Courses for the PhD

  • GMS FC 701 Protein Structure, Catalysis, and Interactions (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 702 The Genome (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 703 Cell Dynamics and Architecture (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 704 Cell Communication (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 706 Molecular Metabolism (2 cr)
  • GMS NU 755 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition I: Energy Balance and Micronutrients (4 cr)
  • GMS NU 756 Molecular, Biochemical and Physiologic Bases of Nutrition: Macronutrients (4 cr, or 2 cr when combined with FC 706)
  • GMS NU 620 Clinical Nutrition Research (3 cr)
  • GMS NU 700 Nutrition and Metabolism Seminar Class (2 cr)
  • GMS NU 709/FC 709 Research Design and Statistical Methods for Biomedical Sciences (3 cr)
  • GMS NU 901, 902 Research in Nutrition and Metabolism (var)

Elective Courses

Electives may be selected from the many course offerings in GMS according to individual interests and goals (after consulting with your advisor). Students focusing on nutritional epidemiology should select more advanced courses in epidemiology and biostatistics in consultation with their advisor. Similarly, students focusing on metabolism should select electives in biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics/genomics, and physiology.

The following electives are recommended as options, depending on student’s interest:

  • GMS CI 640 Regulatory & Compliance Issues (4 cr)
  • GMS CI 670 Biostatistics with Computer (4 cr)
  • GMS CI 671 Intermediate Biostatistics with Computer (4 cr)
  • GMS FC 705 Translational Genetics and Genomics (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 707 Physiology of Specialized Cells (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 762 Critical Thinking in Biomedical Research (2 cr)
  • GMS MM 701 Genetics & Epidemiology of Human Disease (2 cr)
  • GMS MM 703 Cancer Biology and Genetics (2 cr)
  • GMS MM 710 Molecules to Molecular Therapeutics: The Translation of Molecular Observations to Clinical Implementation (4 cr)
  • GMS PH 730 Human Physiology: A Cellular and Organ Physiology (4 cr)
  • SAR HS 776 Nutritional Epidemiology (4 cr)

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, Kandror, Pilch)
  • Islet biology/insulin secretion (Corkey, Shirihai, Deeney)
  • Muscle metabolism/exercise (Ruderman, Cacicedo)

Clinical/Translational research

  • Obesity, diets, and weight loss (Apovian, Fried, Istfan, Kim)
  • Interventions to prevent sarcopenia of aging, e.g., dietary protein (Apovian, Moore)
  • Dietary factors and childhood obesity (Bandini, Lenders, Moore, Quatromoni)
  • Vitamin D and health (Holick)

Diet and Chronic Disease–Population Studies

  • Dairy and calcium intake and risk for obesity and its co-morbidities (Moore)
  • Obesity and cardiovascular risk (Moore, Ramachandran)
  • Minerals and blood pressure (Moore)