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PhD in Nutritional Sciences

Our graduate program is part of a campus-wide network of research programs that provides integrative research in the biomedical sciences.

The primary graduate degree program in nutritional sciences is the NSGP. Both MS and PhD degrees in Exercise Physiology are also associated with the Nutritional Sciences Program. In addition, MS or PhD degrees in animal sciences, biochemistry and food science are offered to students studying nutrition through the respective departments.

The Nutritional Sciences Graduate Program provides training in the distinct core nutrition knowledge described by the Graduate Nutrition Education Committee of the American Society for Nutrition: general research skills; structure and biochemical and metabolic functions of nutrients and other dietary constituents; food, diets, and supplements; nutritional status assessment; nutrition and disease; nutrition interventions and policies; and, analytical skills.

lab work

Graduate students also receive training in laboratory research, seminar preparation and delivery, scientific writing, problem solving and research grant writing.

Graduate study in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri offers the advantage of interdisciplinary nutrition research that is facilitated via the many research centers at MU, including Food for the 21st Century (F21C), the Botanical Center, and the Life Sciences Center.

The graduate program is administered by the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in association with the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and the School of Medicine.

Graduate study in Nutrition at the University of Missouri is facilitated via the interdisciplinary NSGP, departmental degree programs, and the Food for the 21st Century (F21C) Nutritional Sciences Cluster. The NSGP is jointly administered by the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the School of Medicine. It coordinates the core graduate nutrition curriculum and offers MS and PhD degrees in Nutrition.

Requirements

Requirements for the PhD degree in nutritional sciences include a mastery of the distinct core nutrition knowledge described by the Graduate Nutrition Education Committee of the American Society for Nutrition: general research skills; structure and biochemical and metabolic functions of nutrients and other dietary constituents; food, diets, and supplements; nutritional status assessment; nutrition and disease; nutrition interventions and policies; and, analytical skills.

  • General Chemistry (CHEM 1310, 1320)
  • Organic Chemistry (CHEM 2050)
  • Biochemistry (BIOCHEM 4270, 4272)
  • Biology (BIO 1500)
  • Human Nutrition I (NEP 2340)
Course Title & Number Hours
Human Nutrition II (NEP 7340) 3 hours
Biochemistry (BIOCHM 7270, 7272) 6 hours
Nutritional Biochemistry of Lipids (NEP 8310) 3 hours
Nutrition in Human Health (NEP 8340) 3 hours
Vitamins and Minerals (AN SCI 9442) 3 hours
Statistics (6 credits), possible courses include:

Statistical Methods for Research (STAT 7070, 3h)
Statistical Software and Data Analysis (STAT 7110)
Sampling Techniques (STAT 7310)
Applied Statistical Models I (STAT 7510, 3h)
Applied Statistical Models II (STAT 8220, 3h)
Analysis of Variance (STAT 7530, 3h)
Biostatistics (STAT 7410)
Experimental Design (STAT 7540)
Applied Multivariate Data Analysis (STAT 7560)
Data Analysis (STAT 8310, 3h)
ANOVA in Applied Research (ES CPS 8610, 3h)
Regression in Applied Research (ES CPS 8620, 3h)
Qualitative Methods in Educational Research I (ES CPS 8630, 3h)
Social Statistics (SOCIOL 7120, 3h)
Advanced Social Statistics (SOCIOL 8130)

6 hours
Doctoral Seminar (NS 9087 1h/semester; must present twice) 4 hours
Research Dissertation (NS 9090) 12 hours
TOTAL CORE COURSE REQUIREMENT 40 hours

> 72 hours total beyond the bachelor’s degree, including but not limited to courses from the following Emphasis Areas; courses from the Masters degree ≤ 30 hours may be counted towards the doctoral degree at the discretion of the student’s committee.) At least 15 of the 72 hours of course work must be at the 8000/9000 level (exclusive of research, problems and independent study experiences). Graduate students may elect to take the suggested courses from the following emphasis areas within nutritional sciences. The emphasis areas are not degree programs, nor are the course lists all inclusive; rather, they serve to guide course selection.

Human/Clinical Nutrition

Course Title & Number Hours
Etiology of Obesity (NEP 7001) 3 hours
Sports Nutrition (NEP 7970) 2 hours
Exercise Metabolism (NEP 8870) 3 hours
Research in Dietetics (NEP 7950) 2 hours
Nutrition Throughout the Lifespan (NEP 7360) 3 hours
Nutrition Therapy I (NEP 7370) 3 hours
Nutrition Therapy II (NUTR 7380) 2 hours
Human Nutrition II Laboratory (NEP 7330) 2 hours
Endocrinology (AN SCI 8420) 3 hours
Immunology (V PIO 8451) 3 hours
Addiction Treatment and Prevention (SOC WK 7330) 3 hours

Public Health Nutrition

Course Title & Number Hours
Community Nutrition (NEP 7590) 3 hours
Nutrition Throughout the Lifespan (NEP 7360) 3 hours
Epidemiology and Biostatistics (V PBIO 8455) 2 hours
Endocrinology (AN SCI 8420) 3 hours
Intro to Immunology (V PBIO 8451) 3 hours
Human Nutrition II Laboratory (NEP 7330) 2 hours
Addiction Treatment and Prevention (SOC WK 7330) 3 hours
Sociology of Health Systems (SOCIOL 7400) 3 hours
Principles of Epidemiology (F C MD 8420) 3 hours
Epidemiology and Community Health (V PBIO 6678) 2-6 hours

Behavioral Science

Course Title & Number Hours
Neurobiology (BIO SC 7500) 3 hours
Sensory Physiology and Behavior (BIO SC 7560) 3 hours
Behavioral Biology (BIO SC 7640) 3 hours
Developmental Neurobiology (BIO SC 8450) 3 hours
Functional Neuroscience (PSYCH 8210) 3 hours
Addiction Treatment and Prevention (SOC WK 7330) 3 hours

Food Science

Course Title & Number Hours
Food Chemistry and Analysis (FS 7310) 4 hours
Food Chemistry and Analysis Lab (FS 7315) 3 hours
Food Microbiology (FS 7370) 3 hours
Sensory Analysis of Foods and Beverages (FS 7380) 3 hours
Food Product Development (FS 7970) 3 hours
Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals (FS 8440) 3 hours
Technology of Dairy Products and Ingredients (FS 7331) 3 hours

Biochemistry/Cell Physiology

Course Title & Number Hours
Nutritional Biochemistry of Carbohydrates (NEP 8360) 3 hours
Exercise Metabolism (NEP 8870) 3 hours
Biochemistry Lab (BIOCHM 7274) 2 hours
Molecular Biology Lab (BIO SC 7374) 2 hours
Enzymology and Metabolic Regulation (BIO SC 8432) 3 hours
Vet Cell Biology (VB SCI 7333) 4 hours
Vet Physiology (VB SCI 8420) 6 hours
Mammalian Cell Function (VB SCI 7310) 3 hours
Neural Control (VB SCI 8410) 1 hour
Transmembrane Signaling (VB SCI 9426) 3 hours
  • Grant proposal: The student must be primary investigator on one research grant during the second year of the doctoral program. At the advisor’s discretion, the grant may or may not be submitted to a funding agency, and may or may not be the student’s dissertation research proposal. The student’s advisor will mentor the student during the grant-writing process. The primary advisor and doctoral committee will evaluate the grant proposal and provide the student feedback.
  • Teaching: The student will teach a minimum of 1 lecture per semester for 2 semesters.
  • Authorship: The student will be primary author on at least one research article prior to the dissertation defense.

The Qualifying Exam must be passed before a student is officially admitted to the doctoral program. The Qualifying Exam should be completed by the end of the second semester (D1 form should be filed with the Graduate School). The Qualifying Exam consists of both Human Nutrition II (NS 7340) (a grade of B or better will be considered passing), a knowledge-based written exam and oral defense.

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to ensure that all students officially admitted into the doctoral program have basic nutrition knowledge (outlined in Table below). The intent of the exam is to identify deficiencies and correct them early in a student’s graduate education.

Per Graduate School guidelines, a student must pass the Qualifying Exam to be officially admitted into the doctoral program. Each student may have two attempts to pass the Qualifying Exam; the first attempt will occur during the first academic year, as mandated by the Graduate School.

The Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee is responsible for constructing, administering, and grading (Pass/Fail) the Qualifying Exam. The Qualifying Exam will be a written exam comprised of objective questions (multiple choice, matching, true/false) on selected topics from the Core Knowledge for the Discipline of Nutrition identified by the The Graduate Nutrition Education Committee, American Society for Nutritional Sciences (J. Nutr. 132:779-784, 2002). In addition, each student must pass an oral exam that will elaborate on material covered by the objective questions. The oral exam, which will be administered by 2-3 members of the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee, should be completed within two weeks of completion of the written exam. The Qualifying Exam will be administered to all eligible students each June. A student may petition the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee to take the Qualifying Exam at another time.

The Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee will determine whether a student passes the exam based on a minimum score of 75% correct on the written portion of the Qualifying Exam and satisfactory performance on the oral portion of the Qualifying Exam. In the event that a student does not pass the Qualifying Exam on their first attempt, the student and his/her advisor will develop a plan to correct knowledge deficiencies for approval by the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee. After completion of the approved remedial work, the student is eligible to take the Qualifying Exam for the second time.

The Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee may also determine that although a student passes the exam, there are particular areas of weakness that should be corrected. In this instance, the student and his/her advisor will develop a plan to strengthen the weak areas and will submit this plan to the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Education Committee for their approval. Upon completion of the plan, the student will notify the Committee.

After the qualifying process is complete and the doctoral committee has been confirmed, the Qualifying Examination Results and Doctoral Approval Committee Approval (D1) form (pdf) should be submitted to the Graduate School.

Core knowledge for the discipline of nutrition (J. Nutr. 132:779-784, 2002)

  1. General Research Skills
    • Evidence of and for causality; developing hypotheses
  2. Structure and biochemical and metabolic functions of nutrients and other dietary constituents
    • Physiological and biochemical basis for nutrient requirements
    • Chemical structure and biochemical and metabolic functions of essential and nonessential nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, B vitamins, vit C, vit D, vit A, vit E, vit K, calcium, iron, zinc, sodium, potassium, iodine, magnesium, phosphorous)
  3. Food, diets, and supplements
    • Food sources of nutrients and factors affecting nutrient bioavailability
    • Effect of food processing and handling on nutrient content and bioavailability
    • Nutritional toxicology including upper limits of intake; nutrient-nutrient and drug-nutrient interactions
    • Planning and assessing adequacy of diets, including under- and overnutrition
    • Cultural and social factors affecting food intake and choices
    • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI); food guide pyramid (myplate)
    • Nutrient supplements including risk/benefit ratios; life stage issues; component bioavailability
  4. Nutritional status assessment
    • ABCD: anthropometry, biochemistry, clinical, dietary
    • Functional assessments including immunological, cognitive, and pregnancy outcomes
  5. Nutrition and disease
    • Clinical nutrition
    • Interactions of etiologies of chronic diseases with nutrition
  6. Nutrition interventions and policies
      ASSESSMENT
    • Situation assessment including screening, prevalence, at-risk groups, hunger, malnutrition, overnutrition
    • Determinants: economic, supply/demand, medical, cultural, care-giving, intrahousehold and community food distribution
    • Food supply, seasonality, security, dietary quality, preservation
    • Surveillance and monitoring
      INTERVENTIONS
    • Fortification and supplementation
    • Programs of government, nongovernmental, and private sector organizations

Suggested Texts to Review for Qualifying Exam

  • Human Nutrition I/II Texts
  • Community Nutrition Text
  • Diet Therapy Text

Qualifying Exam Policy (PDF)

  • Timing: The student must substantially complete the course work outlined in the plan of study to the satisfaction of the doctoral advisory committee and the Graduate School before being declared ready for the comprehensive examination.
  • Process: The comprehensive examination is the most advanced posed by MU. It consists of written and oral sections. It must be completed at least seven months before the final defense of the dissertation. The two sections of the examination must be completed within one month. The student must be enrolled to take this examination. It is to be administered only when MU is officially in session. The written section may be arranged and supervised by the major adviser, in which case questions are prepared and graded by the doctoral advisory committee. For the comprehensive examination to be completed successfully, the doctoral advisory committee must vote to pass the student on the entire examination, both written and oral sections, with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote. A report of this decision, the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Results Form (D3), with the signatures of all committee members, must be sent to the Graduate School and the student no later than two weeks after the comprehensive examination is completed.
  • Failure: A failure of either the written or oral section of the exam constitutes failure of the comprehensive exam. If a failure is reported, the committee also must include in the report an outline of the general weaknesses or deficiencies of the student's work. The student and the committee members are encouraged to work together to identify steps the student might take to become fully prepared for the next examination. A student who fails may not take a second comprehensive examination for at least 12 weeks. Failure to pass two comprehensive examinations automatically prevents candidacy.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines (approved 8/18/14)

Exam Content

The comprehensive exam is intended to cover a breadth of topics/issues within nutritional sciences; questions should require higher levels of the cognitive domain including application, analysis, and evaluation. Each doctoral committee member will be responsible for contributing one (preferably multipart) question. The committee will submit their questions to the doctoral committee chair at least one week prior to the scheduled exam date. The doctoral committee chair will be responsible for ensuring that the questions submitted by the committee cover distinct areas within nutritional sciences. The oral portion of the comprehensive exam will be held within one month after completion of the written portion of the exam per the University of Missouri Graduate Studies’ rules.

Exam Administration

The student will be given up to 4 hours to complete the written portion of the exam; the exam may be typed. The student may use paper (i.e., non-electronic) resources provided by their committee members. No online resources will be permitted in the room where the exam is held, including cell phones, computers or calculators. A computer without internet access is permitted for word processing or data analysis. The oral exam must be completed within one month of the written exam. Typically, the oral exam is expected to last 2 hours.

Exam Evaluation

Each member of the doctoral committee will be responsible for evaluation of the written response to the question the member contributed. The evaluation will be either "pass" or "fail." Evaluation of the written portion of the exam will be completed and submitted to the committee chair prior to the oral portion of the exam. At the conclusion of the oral exam, each committee member will evaluate the student’s performance on the oral exam as “pass” or “fail.” Per the Graduate Studies rules, for the comprehensive examination to be completed successfully, the doctoral advisory committee must vote to pass the student on the entire examination, both written and oral sections, with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote. A report of this decision, the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Results form (D3), with the signatures of all committee members, must be sent to the Graduate School and the student no later than two weeks after the comprehensive examination is completed.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines (PDF)

The dissertation must be written on a subject approved by the candidate's doctoral program committee, must embody the results of original and significant investigation and must be the candidate's own work. All dissertation defenses shall be open to the general faculty. For the dissertation to be successfully defended, the student's doctoral committee must vote to pass the student on the defense with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote.

Annually, each graduate student must complete the Annual Review Requirement by updating information in the Graduate Student Progress System. At the end of each year the adviser will evaluate each master’s student. Each student must maintain a 3.0 GPA. In addition, each graduate student must maintain adequate research progress as judged by the adviser and/or graduate committee. Inadequate progress will result in a probationary period of 30 days to 1 semester.

A doctoral student must successfully complete the comprehensive examination within a period of three (3) years beginning with the first semester of enrollment as a PhD student. In addition, the program for the doctoral degree must be completed within three (3) years of passing the comprehensive examination. Time spent in the armed services will not count toward the six (6)-year limit (See Graduate School Active Duty Policy). For any extension of either of these time limitations, the student must petition their faculty advisor/mentor and the academic program’s director of graduate studies in writing during the semester prior to reaching the time limitation. The director of graduate studies will notify the adviser in writing of the decision.

Program Faculty

Graduate faculty members who teach in this program hold appointments in the departments of Nutritional Sciences, Animal Sciences, Biochemistry, Child Health, and Food Science.

There are approximately 10 graduate students formally in the NSGP, plus approximately 15 graduate students working in the same labs and pursuing departmental degrees.

In addition, faculty in Animal Nutrition and in Human Nutrition raise the total MU nutrition-related graduate students to 50.

This rich environment offers a wide range of interdisciplinary research opportunities for the degree candidate.

Research

Nutrition is, by definition, an applied and multi-disciplinary science that integrates other disciplines such as biochemistry, physiology, biology, psychology, sociology, and economics. A primary research focus in the department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology is the role of diet in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases that are prevalent in the United States today: obesity, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, immune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and osteoporosis. Specific dietary components being studied for their role in human health include protein, calcium, vitamin D, copper, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and nutraceuticals.

Another important research area is the determinants of eating behavior, including neuro-psychological, sociologic, and economic factors. Investigative approaches include epidemiology, clinical trials, human studies, experimental and transgenic animal models, and cultured cell models.