PhD in Nutrition & Metabolism

The doctoral program in Nutrition & Metabolism is part of the umbrella program entitled Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS). The program includes coursework in the biomedical sciences through the Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (FBS) curriculum, additional required courses in Nutrition & Metabolism, and biomedical research. The FBS core curriculum includes principles of biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, genetics/genomics, and other advanced classes. The Nutrition & Metabolism coursework addresses how the basic knowledge acquired through the FBS curriculum applies to studies of nutrition and metabolism in health and disease, including studies at the basic, translational, and population-based levels. To see program highlights, faculty, and additional information, please visit the Graduate Medical Sciences Nutrition & Metabolism website.

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 metabolism and human health. Students can tailor their coursework and research experiences to pursue their particular interests.

Learning Outcomes

Learning objectives for the PhD program include the following:

  • Understand the scientific basis for nutrient requirements.
  • Demonstrate ability to assess relevant scientific literature and synthesize existing knowledge in nutrition and metabolism with new research information.
  • Understand the molecular, cellular, biochemical, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms that influence nutrient utilization, food intake, and energy balance.
  • Understand the mechanistic connections of nutrient status to health and disease.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate your knowledge of the field of nutrition and metabolism through effective presentation and writing skills.


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 from each college or university attended
  • A minimum of three letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement that describes qualifications for the intended educational objectives

International applicants must also submit:

  • Official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS (unless the applicant has previously attended college/university in the US, Canada, UK, or Australia)
  • International Student Data Form

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

Qualifying Examinations

Candidates for the PhD in Nutrition & Metabolism must pass a two-part qualifying exam that includes a written examination and an oral defense of a research proposal.

Dissertation Advisory Committee and Dissertation 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 Dissertation Advisory Committee determines that the research work is complete, the student writes and orally defends the dissertation.

Program Requirements

Required Courses for the PhD

  • GMS FC 701 Protein Structure, Catalysis, and Interactions (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 702 Structure and Function of the Genome (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 703 Architecture and Dynamics of the Cell (2 cr)
  • GMS FC 704 Mechanisms of Cell Communication (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)
  • GMS NU 620 Clinical Nutrition Research (3 cr)
  • GMS NU 700 Nutrition and Metabolism Seminar (2 cr)
  • GMS NU 709 or FC 709 Research Design and Statistical Methods for Biomedical Sciences (3 cr)
  • GMS NU 901, 902 Research in Nutrition and Metabolism (var cr)

Elective Courses

Advanced 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.

Financial Support

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

Faculty and Research Programs

The research of our faculty focuses on the role of nutrition and nutrient metabolism in the pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases from basic, clinical, and epidemiological perspectives. Nutrition and metabolism faculty have particular expertise in three general areas of research: (1) nutrient signaling in obesity, diabetes, and other disease (e.g., adipocyte biology, islet biology, insulin secretion, muscle metabolism); (2) clinical and translational research (e.g., energy balance and weight loss, sarcopenia of aging, diet and childhood obesity, vitamin D and health outcomes, exercise metabolism); and (3) diet and chronic disease outcomes (e.g., minerals and cardiovascular health, obesity and cancer risk, diet patterns and risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes).