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Graduate Programs

Graduate Programs

Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science degrees are offered in Nutritional Sciences. There are three major areas of expertise within the Department: Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition, Human Nutrition and Metabolism, and Community Nutrition. Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition is based on laboratory studies of biochemical metabolism in the cell, tissue, and whole animal. Human Nutrition and Metabolism involves human studies or trials to examine nutrient metabolism in health and disease. Community Nutrition focuses on public health areas of nutrition including community-level nutrition assessment, education, and intervention programs. Each emphasis area is interdisciplinary in approach and is supported by other departments at the University of Connecticut, as well as collaborative arrangements with other institutions. Opportunities for interdisciplinary research and study exist with other departments and university units, including the University of Connecticut Health Center, the Department of Sports, Leisure, and Exercise Sciences, the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the Biotechnology Center, the School of Pharmacy, the Department of Pathobiology, the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, the Department of Human Development and Family Relations, and the Department of Animal Sciences. All programs require a thesis, dissertation or expanded paper, in addition to the completion of appropriate Graduate courses and examinations.

See our Graduate Students page for a list of current students.


The Department has ten graduate faculty members (see faculty homepages for more details) including:

  • Professors - Maria Luz Fernandez, Hedley Freake, Ji-Young Lee, Sung Koo and Nancy Rodriguez
  • Associate Professors - Ock Chun and Amy Mobley
  • Assistant Professors - Chris Blesso, Alison Kohan and Yangchao Luo

In addition, there are jointly appointed faculty whose primary appointments are in Allied Health Sciences, Animal Science, Kinesiology and Pharmacology, or the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

Please refer to our program handbook for more information about our program

Application Procedures

Applications: All applications are online to the Graduate School.

Pre-requisites: The pre-requisites for the graduate program are: General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physiology, Biology and Basic Nutrition.

Requirements for Applications: Official transcripts, GRE scores, TOEFL scores (where required), 3 letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Personal statement Guidelines: The personal statement should contain the following information: 1) Reasons why applicant is interested in obtaining a graduate degree in Nutrition; 2) Specific areas of research interests 3) Basis for choosing UConn to achieve their goals. The statement should not be longer than 2 pages.

Deadline for Applications: All applications for fall admission will be reviewed by February 15 by the Graduate Committee and faculty. Aplicants will be informed promptly of final decisions. January 15 is the deadline if applicants wish to be considered for internal or external fellowships. For the spring semester, applications must be received by the Graduate School no later than October 1st.

Standardized Tests: Scores from the Graduate Record of Examination (GRE) are required. The GRE is one component of the application packet and will be evaluated with the rest of the documents.

TOEFL exam: You may be required to submit evidence of your proficiency in the English language if you are not a native speaker by taking the TOEFL. The minimum scores for acceptance are 1) a score of 79 (electronic test) or 550 (paper based) 2) a score of 6.5 on the IELTS test or 3) a score of 53 on the PTE test. Under certain circumstances, the TOEFL can be waived.

Additional questions: For additional questions related to the length of the program, the required courses or the faculty please refer to the Graduate Catalog of Nutritional Sciences or contact the graduate program coordinator:

For questions about social life for Graduate students please refer to the information on the Graduate school web page.

Master of Science

At present, approximately one-third of the Nutritional Sciences graduate students are enrolled in programs leading to the M.S. degree. Most M.S. candidates are enrolled in the Plan A program which requires a minimum of 15 credits, a written general examination, and a research thesis. The course work is designed to develop an advanced level of knowledge in nutrition and related sciences, and prepare the student for developing specific research competencies. The thesis topic is selected by the student and the Major Advisor. Near the end of the course work phase, all M.S. students must successfully complete a comprehensive written General Nutrition Knowledge examination prepared by the Graduate Committee and the Advisory Committee. The non-thesis M.S. program (Plan B) is available for a small group of students who already have practical experience in the field of Nutritional Sciences. This program requires that each student complete a minimum of 24 credits, pass the comprehensive written examination, and prepare a review paper that is to be presented orally to the Department.

Masters degree research projects span a wide range of interests. The following thesis titles illustrate this diversity:

  • Validation of a “Chicken & Salad” Household HACCP Analysis Protocol in a Puerto Rican Community.
  • Maternal Anemia, Prenatal Health, and Birth Outcome in a Low-Income Population.
  • Acculturation and Household Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Latinos in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Determinants of Infant Feeding Behaviors Among a Predominantly Latino Population in Hartford, CT.
  • Mechanisms By Which Chelation Of Zinc Enhance T3 Stimulated Gene Expression In GH3 Cells.
  • Measuring household food inventory with a UPC scanner is a feasible method of studying food usage patterns in low income families.
  • Retinol and Alpha-tocopherol content in prey fish consumed by steller sea lions in the wild.
  • Effects of Increased Dietary Protein Intake on Fluid Balance and Hydration Indices in Endurance Runners.
  • Investigation of factors that influence solubility of canthaxanthin and other lipophylic compounds into bile salt micelles.
  • Influence of the SALUD! Campaign on nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Sleep/wake patterns in infants of women with versus without gestational diabetes mellitus.
  • Effects of increased dietary protein on whole body protein turnover in endurance runners.
  • Effects of dietary protein intake on glucose utilization in endurance athletes.
  • Unintended pregnancies and the likelihood of breast-feeding: A global analysis.
  • The influence of stress during labor and delivery on the onset of lactation.
  • Carotenoid solubilization into bile salt micelles.
  • The effects of zinc on gene expression in primary rat hepatocytes.
  • Comparison of distance education and traditional education in the area of food safety and sanitation.
  • Effects of protein intake on leucine kinetics and substrate oxidation in runners.
  • Potentials to use edible coatings and films as carriers of nutraceuticals - feasibility and functionality.
  • A study on the thermal properties of vegetable sprout seeds and computer simulation of heating performance of seeds during capacitive radio frequency (RF) dielectric heating.
  • Obesity incidence among women from developing countries. The link between adiponectin and the metabolic syndrome.
  • The lowering of plasma lipids following a weight reduction program is related to increased expression of the LDL receptor and lipoprotein lipase.
  • Trans fatty acids in pregnancy: Relationships to essential fatty acid status and infant outcome.
  • The effects of resistance training on protein utilization in healthy children.
  • Food stamps, dietary intakes, and anemia in low-income preschoolers.
  • Energy balance in endurance athletes.
  • Protein utilization differences between healthy obese and non-obese children.
  • Retinoid regulation of the PEPCK gene during fetal development.
  • Chasing anemia: Paradigms for prevention and treatment of iron-deficiency among clinicians serving low-income toddlers in an urban ambulatory care environment.

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. program consists of three parts:

  1. 25-30 credits of advanced course work, beyond the M.S. degree, selected with Advisory Committee approval. A Plan of Study outlining the courses to be taken must be submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Students are required to have a competent reading knowledge of at least one foreign language or at least six credits of advanced course work in a related or supporting area.
  2. The General Preliminary Examination involves two stages. Each student is required to take a written examination at or near the end of the course work program. After successful completion of the written exam, the student needs to pass an oral exam. Following the successful completion of the predoctoral written and oral exams, a student is required to write a detailed proposal describing their research, the Dissertation Prospectus, which is defended orally to the Department. When a student has passed both the written and oral component of the General Examination and passed their Prospectus, they are admitted to the PhD candidacy.
  3. Upon completion of the research described in the Prospectus, the candidate presents and defends his/her dissertation research before their Advisory Committee, Graduate Faculty and peers.

Dissertation topics vary widely, as illustrated by the following list of recent titles (1996-03):

  • Skeletal Muscle Protein Turnover in Runners and Endurance Trained Adults Consuming the RDA for Protein.
  • Effect of carbohydrate restriction and American Heart Association diets on the clinical features of the metabolic syndrome, the inflammatory response and lipoprotein metabolism in Emirati adults.
  • Raisin effects on biomarkers of coronary heart disease in men and women aged 50-70 years.
  • Food label intervention among Hispanics.
  • Potential of eggs in enhancing the cardioprotective effects of carbohydrate restricted diets in weight loss interventions.
  • The influence of zinc on the function of the thyroid hormone receptor.
  • Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy and lacation: Infant outcome.
  • Development and impact of a food label education intervention on food label knowledge, self-efficacy and stage of change among Latinos: A randomized community trial.
  • The impact of breast pumping on the onset of lactogenesis stage II following Cesarean delivery: A randomized clinical trial.
  • Retinoid regulation of PEPCK gene expression.
  • Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism in normal pregnancy and pregnancy complicated with gestational diabetes mellitus.
  • Carbohydrate restriction and dietary cholesterol distinctly affect hepatic cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism in guinea pigs.
  • The effects of a combination therapy with psyllium and plant sterols on clinical markers of cardiovascular disease and lipoprotein metabolism.
  • The influence of functional status and social support on dietary quality in elderly women.
  • The effect of zinc on thyroid hormone induced growth hormone messenger RNA levels in rat pituitary tumor cells.

Acceptance Procedures

Applicants for admission should consult the Departmental Web Page and the Graduate School for detailed information. After all forms, including GRE scores and three letters of recommendation, have been received, the departmental Graduate Committee will review all credentials relative to requirements for admission. Applicant files are then circulated to all Graduate Faculty members to match an applicant with a prospective advisor for acceptance into the graduate program. The Graduate Faculty evaluate applicants on the basis of their transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores (TOEFL scores when applicable), and research interests. Those students meeting entrance requirements, whose goals are consistent with Departmental programs, who have an identified advisor, and have their financial needs met, will be admitted to the Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences. Financial assistance is available in the form of Research Assistantships, named Fellowships, and University Scholarships. Financial aid forms must be completed before aid can be considered (see the Graduate Bulletin and application materials)

Students who have earned a bachelor's degree and are interested in becoming a registered dietitian (RD) should review our department undergraduate program handbook which explains the process for becoming an RD and the two dietetics programs at UConn, the didactic program in dietetics (DPD) and the coordinated program in dietetics (CP). The department of allied health has a graduate coordinated program for students interested in pursuing a dietetic internship and graduate degree. Students pursuing a graduate degree in nutritional sciences may be able to use graduate course work to fulfill some of the DPD course requirements, however the MS and DPD programs in nutritional sciences are separate programs with separate requirements. Students interested in the DPD should contact the program director: Rhonda Brownbill ( Students interested in the coordinated master's program should contact the program director: Ellen Shanley (


The Department of Nutritional Sciences has excellent facilities for the training of graduate students. Since 1991, several renovation projects have been completed to update our research laboratories including the lipid laboratory and animal care facilities. Our laboratories contain a full range of equipment for molecular and metabolic research, as well as facilities for tissue culture and human metabolic studies. The University Biotechnology Center offers a wide range of support services for the synthesis and characterization of macromolecules. Through collaborative arrangements, clinical and field research sites are available for specific research and training projects on campus, within the region, and also abroad. Research collaborations are currently active at clinical centers in Hartford, the Human Performance Laboratory in Athletics, the Hispanic Health Council, and other community agencies in the state.

The main campus library, Homer Babbidge Library, and the Medical School library in Farmington house current journals and an extensive collection of reference materials. Computerized search services are available at the University libraries and also within the Department via the Internet. A computer room is available with high capacity, state-of-the-art computer hardware and software needed for analysis and reporting of health and nutrition surveys as well as for graphic design for publications and production of posters for scientific presentations. The Department also has access to high quality desktop publishing software and printers. Numerous computing facilities are available throughout campus. UConn's Information Technology Department runs mainframe services available to graduate students.

Employment Opportunities

The following are selected examples of positions held by recent advanced degree graduates of our department:

  • Academia: Tenure track faculty positions at the University of North Carolina, the University of Rhode Island, The University of Georgia, Arizona State University and Springfield College plus post-doctoral positions in prestigious institutions including Harvard Medical School, Yale University, Linus Pauling Institute, University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center.
  • Health Care Industries: Director of Nutritional Services, Dietitian - Private Practice, Hospital or other Health Care Facility, Nutrition Education, Food Service, Outpatient Nutrition Services, Research, Administration.
  • Government: Nutritionist - State Department of Health, Nutrition Educator - State Department of Education, WIC Director, School Nutritionist, Nutrition Education and Training, Nutrition Policy and Planning, Research, Administration.
  • Food Industry: Product Development, Quality Control, Marketing and Sales, Scientist/Research Specialist, Administration, Production Management, Production/Owner and Operator.
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A Seminar Series Presented by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut
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