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Nutrition Graduate Program

Quick Links: Admission Requirements, Degree Requirements, Research Facilities, Financial Aid, Example Course of Study

PhD Program Overview

In today's world the relationship between diet and health is of great interest among consumers, medical professionals, research scientists, government policy makers, and private industries related to food, agriculture, and health care. To serve these clients and improve human health, especially in Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region, the PhD program in Nutrition is designed to prepare future leaders and innovators who can expand our knowledge about food and health, solve nutrition-related problems, propose effective nutrition policies, guide new product and service development, and be effective researchers, communicators and educators. To ensure that graduates are prepared for these roles, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • comprehensive understanding of core nutrition knowledge
  • advanced scholarship in a specialty area (i.e. expertise in a least one overlapping biomedical discipline e.g. biochemistry, physiology, cell and molecular biology, food science/functional foods, epidemiology, biostatistics, medicine, etc.)
  • appropriate exposure to social and career-building disciplines (e.g. education, communications, information technology, technical writing, social sciences, etc.)
  • ability to conduct original scholarly research, develop skills in research methodologies and grant writing, understand research ethics, and effectively dissemination research findings via peer-reviewed publications, seminars and practical applications such as teaching.

To accomplish these goals, the PhD program integrates faculty and resources from the instructional and research programs housed in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center  (UHCC) to create an inter-college PhD program that will produce highly marketable, interdisciplinary graduates that can assume leadership roles in the field of nutrition. Subject areas of concentration include clinical nutrition, nutritional biochemistry, nutritional epidemiology, diet and cancer, obesity, mineral nutrition and toxicology, sports nutrition, nutritional product development, functional foods, community and global nutrition. Other cooperating programs include Animal Sciences, Food Science, Kinesiology and Leisure Science, Physiology, and Public Health Sciences.

Admission Requirements
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The admission process is considered a critical step in insuring the success and quality of the program and its graduates; therefore, applicants will be carefully evaluated and selected. The admissions committee is chosen and led by the graduate chair and is made up of graduate faculty with proven records in mentoring successful graduate students. To insure consistent quality of training and financial support, the number of applicants admitted will be kept in line with the availability of high-quality dissertation advisors and available support. Students will not be admitted without a plan to support them and evidence of a faculty member's willingness to serve as a dissertation advisor.

Applicants should have a BS or MS degree in nutrition or a closely related biological science; however, highly motivated students with other degrees may be considered if they have excellent academic backgrounds and demonstrated strength in the biological sciences. Applicants are expected to demonstrate adequate preparation in nutrition, biochemistry, physiology and statistics. If admitted without sufficient preparation in these areas, these prerequisites must be made up early in the student's program. The admissions committee will determine course deficiencies in an applicant's background. Additional admission requirements include a minimum grade point average of 3.4 out of 4.0 for applicants with a BS, and 3.6 out of 4.0 for applicants with a MS or other advanced degree; submission of GRE general test scores that demonstrate performance above the 50% percentile in all areas; three letters of recommendation from individuals that can comment on academic and research potential, a personal resume, and a completed Graduate Admissions Application including a personal statement of objectives that includes your reasons for wanting to attend graduate school, research interests and career goals. The resume and personal statement should be sent electronically to the graduate chairman, PhD in Nutrition,

Online applications are available at Graduate Division - Nutritional Sciences. Foreign applicants must obtain a minimum TOEFL score of 100 IBT (600 paper, 250 computer) or IELTS score of 7.0. Interviews (in person or by phone) are required of all applicants deemed admissible by the admissions committee. In selecting applicants for admission, particular attention will be paid to the quality and depth of the personal statement, the strength of the letters of recommendation (i.e. they must indicate exceptional potential) and the professional qualities and academic depth presented in the personal interview.

The deadlines for receipt of all application materials are February 1 for fall semester applicants, and September 1 for spring semester applicants. Questions about admissions can be directed to our program office at

Degree Requirements
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The principal requirements for the PhD degree are listed here and described in more detail below:

  • pass a qualifying examination
  • complete required coursework and teaching experience (see below)
  • pass a comprehensive exam to demonstrate advanced scholarship in the field
  • defend a doctoral dissertation that presents original, independent research.

All PhD candidates are required to participate in a substantial teaching project with a graduate faculty mentor during at least one semester of their program (if entering with a BS, two semesters are required).

Required course work.  PhD students are required to have at least 18 credits of graduate level coursework (excluding research credits) beyond their MS degree or, if entering with a BS degree, at least 36 credits of graduate level coursework (excluding research credits) beyond their BS degree as described below.

Students entering with a BS degree are required to meet all requirements for the Plan A master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences, excluding the production of a formal written thesis. The course requirements include any course deficiencies recommended by the admissions committee plus the following 18 credits of graduate level coursework:

  • 11 credits of required nutrition courses (FSHN 601, 682, 685, 689) including 2 credits of seminar (FSHN 681)
  • 3 credits in statistics at the graduate level (e.g. PH 655, Biostatistics I)
  • 4 credits of advisor-approved electives (2 of which must be at the 600 level)

In addition, at least 12 credits of directed reading and research (FSHN 699) are required.

Students entering with a MS or other advanced degree are required to make up any course deficiencies in their background prior to taking the qualifying exam. Course deficiencies will be assessed by the admissions committee. Credits obtained by making up course deficiencies cannot be used to meet the 18 credit course requirements for the PhD.

After the above requirements are met by students entering with a BS or MS, all continuing PhD students must take a minimum of 18 credits of course work (excluding research credits) consisting of at least:

  • 6 credits of graduate nutrition courses including 2 credits of seminar (FSHN 681)
  • 6 credits in graduate level courses that will foster development of a specialty area in a field overlapping with the discipline of nutrition. For example: biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, epidemiology, medicine, biostatistics, functional foods/food science.
  • 6 credits in graduate level courses from career-building disciplines such as communications, education, information technology, technical writing, or social sciences.

The student in consultation with his/her dissertation advisor will decide on the specific courses used to meet the above 18-credit requirement. An example of a model course of study for a student entering with a BS in Nutrition, and examples of available specialty area courses and career-building courses are included below under Example Course of Study for PhD in Nutrition.

Required teaching experience.  To foster teaching skills, all PhD candidates must participate in a substantial teaching project during at least one semester of their program. All students who are not paid teaching assistants are required to develop, with an instructor of their choice, an instructional experience equivalent to a quarter-time teaching assistantship (10 hrs per week) that includes in-class lectures/instructional activities, or laboratory instruction. At the conclusion of the experience, their instructional mentor must submit a written evaluation of their performance to the graduate chair. Unsatisfactory evaluations will result in the need to repeat the experience until a favorable evaluation is achieved. Students entering with a BS must additionally fulfill the instructional experience required as part of the MS in Nutritional Sciences (6 hrs per week for one semester) prior to sitting for their dissertation proposal defense.

Precandidacy Progress/Qualifying exam(Graduate Division Form I): The purpose of the qualifying exam is to evaluate the student's basic knowledge in nutrition-related fields, determine if the student has a strong enough background to proceed successfully with their doctoral program, and enable advisors to assist the student in planning an appropriate program of study. The areas covered by the exam include basic nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, statistics, epidemiology, and experimental design and is generally taken when this part of the course work is completed. The exam is typically oral, but the content and format is decided by the examining committee. The committee consists of at least three members of the graduate faculty chosen by the student in consultation with their advisor to test the student in basic nutrition, nutrition biochemistry and nutrition research methods. The examining committee must be approved by the graduate chair. The advisor sits in on the exam but is not one of the three examiners. The exam is repeatable once after successful petition to the graduate chair. Students failing the qualifying exam twice must withdraw from the program. Students entering the program with a BS degree will be required to pass the qualifying exam within the first two years of their program. Candidates entering with a MS or other advanced degree must pass the exam within one year. Extensions can be made for students with course deficiencies to make up. Students entering from the Nutritional Sciences MS program at UH within 5 years of receiving their MS degree are exempt from the exam, as suitability for the PhD program will be assessed during their MS program via the Master's degree candidacy exam and thesis defense/final exam.

Advance to Candidacy: Dissertation proposal defense & Comprehensive exam (Graduate Division Form II):

Dissertation proposal defense Students entering with a BS degree are required to defend their dissertation research proposal to the satisfaction of their dissertation advisor and committee. They must do this after they pass their qualifying exam and after they have met all other requirements for the Plan A master's degree in Nutritional Sciences except the completion of a formal thesis. The proposal should consist of a written and oral presentation of the proposed dissertation research. This proposal defense serves as a capstone, similar to a MS thesis defense, and assures that the student can demonstrate sufficient research skills and knowledge of the research plan to proceed with the dissertation research. The dissertation committee will consist of the student's advisor and at least four members of the graduate faculty chosen by the student in consultation with their advisor, and a tenured faculty member, from a graduate program other than nutrition, selected to serve as a university representative. The committee membership must be approved by the graduate chair. The defense is repeatable once after successful petition to the graduate chair.

Students entering with a MS degree must also have their proposed dissertation research approved by their dissertation committee (Form II). The basis for the approval for students who have an MS degree (and thus have more experience in research) is determined by the chair of the student's dissertation committee in consultation with the dissertation committee members.

Comprehensive exam (Graduate Division Form II):  When candidates have completed all, or most of their coursework toward the PhD, they must pass the comprehensive exam. The timing of the exam will be decided upon by the student in consultation with their advisor. The purpose of this exam is to determine the student's comprehension of fundamental nutrition knowledge, expertise in an overlapping discipline, and competence in research, communications, and critical thinking skills to verify that they can excel as a professional in the field. The form of the exam is both written and oral. It will be conducted by an examination committee composed of at least three members of the graduate faculty (excluding the student's advisor) with collective expertise to cover the range of expectations listed above. The composition of the committee is proposed by the student in consultation with their advisor. To insure the quality and consistency of exam committees, its composition must be approved by the graduate chair. The time frame and grading of the exam will be decided by the committee. The examination criteria and procedures will conform to the Graduate Division's standards for all Manoa doctorate programs. A student must pass this exam to achieve candidacy and remain in the PhD program. The exam is repeatable once after successful petition to the graduate chair. After passing the exam the student is eligible to formally select their doctoral committee as described below.

Dissertation (Graduate Division Forms III and IV):  All PhD candidates must conduct scholarly, independent, original research that contributes new knowledge to the field. The candidates develop and conduct research projects under the direction of their dissertation advisor and doctoral committee. The doctoral committee is selected by the student in consultation with their dissertation advisor, and must be approved by the graduate chair. The dissertation advisor (chair of the committee), and a majority of the committee members must come from the Nutrition Graduate Faculty. The committee must have at least five members and one member (University Representative) from a graduate faculty outside the student's field of study and area of specialization. At the conclusion of the research process, students write a dissertation. The student's doctoral committee then conducts a final examination to assess the student's ability to orally present their dissertation in a seminar format, and defend their research and written dissertation (Form III). The final exam is repeatable once after successful petition to the Graduate Dean. The dissertation, final exam criteria and procedures will conform to the Graduate Division's standards for all Manoa doctorate programs. The dissertation submission form (Form IV) replaces the former dissertation signature page.

Note: Course requirements and other degree requirements are subject to change at any time. For a description of current degree requirements contact the Graduate Chairman.  

Research Facilities
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The Nutrition PhD Program is housed within the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, located in laboratory and teaching facility called Agricultural Sciences III. The building contains teaching and research laboratories, an experimental kitchen, taste panel and sensory evaluation rooms, food processing facilities, a computer laboratory, state-of-the-art classrooms, graduate student cubicles, faculty offices, and conference and seminar rooms. The department also maintains an animal research facility nearby for studies using experimental animals. Cooperating graduate faculty offices and laboratories are located at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center (UHCC) and John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) located a few miles from the main campus. UHCC is a multidisciplinary research institute of the university engaged in all aspects of cancer research from etiology and prevention to treatment and continuing care at the new, state-of-the-art research facility..

Financial Aid
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A limited number of tuition waivers, teaching and research assistantships are available, depending on the availability of funds. Financial aid is awarded on a competitive basis based on scholarship and need. To begin the application process, indicate in your application materials that you are seeking financial aid and why.


Example Course of Study for PhD in Nutrition (for students entering with a BS degree in nutrition) 1

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               FALL SEMESTER                           SPRING SEMESTER

Year 1:                        Credits                                               Credits

*FSHN 601

The Science of Food Systems



*FSHN 681

Seminar in Food & Nutritional Sciences



Biostatistics I



*FSHN/PH   631

Nutritional Epidemiology


*FSHN 681

Seminar in Food & Nutritional Sciences



*FSHN 699

Directed Reading & Research



(with advisor's approval)







Total Credits




Total Credits


Summer Semester
*FSHN 699    Directed Reading and Research    variable credits (V)

Year 2:

*FSHN 682

Topics in Nutritional Sciences   




Specialty discipline course #1


*FSHN 681

Seminar in Food & Nutritional Sciences




Nutrition course #1


*FSHN 699

Directed Reading & Research



*FSHN 699

Directed Reading and Research


*FSHN 685

Nutrition & Disease: Cellular & Molecular Aspects




(Qualifying exam taken)



Total Credits




Total Credits


Summer Semester
Dissertation proposal defense taken
*FSHN 699   Directed Reading and Research    variable credits (V)

Year 3:

FSHN 699

Directed Reading and Research



*FSHN 699

Directed Reading and Research



Specialty discipline course #2




Career-building course #1



Nutrition course #2



*FSHN 681

Seminar in Food & Nutritional Sciences



Total Credits




Total Credits


Summer Semester
Comprehensive exam taken
*FSHN 699    Directed Reading and Research    variable credits (V)

Year 4:

*FSHN 800

Dissertation Research



*FSHN 800 

Dissertation Research



Career Building Course #2



*FSHN 681

Seminar in Food & Nutritional Sciences


Summer Semester
*FSHN 800 Dissertation Research    variable credits (V)

Year 5:

FSHN 800

Dissertation Research



*FSHN 800

Dissertation Research (Dissertation Defense/Final Exam)


1Students entering with a MS in Nutrition would begin at Spring semester, Year 2.  Course requirements are subject to change at any time.  Each student's specific course of study will be developed in consultation with their dissertation advisor and will depend on their background preparation and interests. The table is for example purposes only.
*Required course for degree.

Examples of Specialty Discipline Courses


Examples of Career-building Courses

Cell and Molecular Biology:




DNA and Genetic Analysis


ETEC 600

Theory & Practice in Educational Technology

CMB 621

Cell Molecular Biology I


ETEC 448

Links to Lifelong Learning

CMB 622

Cell Molecular Biology II


ETEC 649

Development of Online Courseware

CMB 654C

Molecular Biology of Cancer


EDEA 662

Curriculum in Higher Education

MBBE 651

Signal Transduction & Regulation of Gene Transcription


EDEA 657

Introduction to Higher Education

MICR 475-475L

Bacterial Genetics - Bacterial Genetics Laboratory


EDEP 664

Instructional Psychology

Biomedical Sciences:



BIOM 640

Clinical Research Methods


FSHN 697

Grant Writing for Graduate Students

BIOM 642

Applied Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics


TPSS 654

Communication in the Sciences

BIOM 643

Applied Biostatistics


COM 420

Communication in Multicultural Organizations

BIOM 644

Bioanalytical Methods


ECGC 610

Counseling in Theory & Practice

BIOM 645

Clinical Protocol Development


JOUR 410

Writing for Public Relations

PSY 675

Treatment Research


JOUR 460

Media Ethics

PH 702

Health Promotion Research


FAMR 455

Consumer Communications



PH 701

Health Communication

MBBE 401

Molecular Biotechnology


Policy and Sociology:

ANSC 491

Topics in Animal Biotechnology


PH 602

Introduction to Health Services



PH 623

Social Science & Public Health

MBBE 412

Environmental Biochemistry


PH 649

Needs Assessment & Program Planning

MBBE 621

Metabolic Engineering


PUBA 601

Policy and Organizational Processes

BIOC 471

Clinical Biochemistry


Business and Marketing:



MKT 331

Marketing Communications

MICR 461-461L

Immunology- Immunology Laboratory


BUS 311

Information Systems for Global Business Environment

MICR 625

Advanced Immunology


BUS 315

Global Management & Organizational Behavior





PH 656

Biostatistics II




PH 661

Epidemiology Study Design Critique




PH 663

Principals of Epidemiology I




PH 664

Principals of Epidemiology II




PH 747

Statistical Methods in Epidemiological Research




PH 702

Health Promotion Research




PH 748

Chronic Disease Epidemiology




Food Science:




FSHN 607

Advanced Food Science I




FSHN 608

Advanced Food Science II




FSHN 609

Advanced Food Safety




ANSC 454

Meat Science & Muscle Biology




FSHN 701

Topics in Food Science








PHYL 603

Medical Physiology




PHYL 601

Physiology of Exercise




KLS 602

Metabolic Analysis





Program Graduate Faculty
Research Interests / Affiliation  E-mail
J.C. Banna, PhD, RD (2009, UC Davis) Nutrition Education, International Nutrition, Minority Populations
C.L. Albright, Ph.D (1983, Univ Houston) Intervention research on energy balance/weight control; physical activity; dietary fat, fiber, fruits and vegetables/ CRCH
M.J. Berry, PhD (1986, UC Santa Barbara) Selenoproteins; antioxidants and human disease/ JABSOM
C. Boushey, PhD (1995 U. Washington) Nutritional Epidemiology, cancer and obesity/CRCH
R. Cooney, PhD (1981, UC San Diego) Tocopherols, carotenoids and Coenzyme Q-10 mechanisms of action in health and disease/ CRCH
T. Delormier, PhD, PDt (2011, University of Montreal) Indigenous health, Health promotion, Public health nutrition, Community-based research
M. A. Dunn, PhD (1985, Penn State) Nutritional Biochemistry, Mineral Metabolism, Aluminum Toxicity/ CTAHR
A.Franke, PhD (1985, Freiburg, Germany) Analytical chemistry, lab assessment, phytochemicals/ CRCH
R. Hetzler, PhD (1988, Southern Illinois) Exercise physiology, sports nutrition/ Dept. of Kinesiology and Leisure Sciences
C.Y. Hu, PhD (1984, UC Davis) Animal growth, adipose differentiation, lipid metabolism/ CTAHR
A. S. Huang, PhD (1985, U. Wisconsin-Madison) Food Chemistry, Taro Processing/ CTAHR
R. Jha, PhD (2010, University of Saskatchewan) Feed Evaluation, Animal and Aquaculture Nutrition, Carbohydrate Metabolism, Gut Physiology and Health
S. Jun, PhD (2002, Penn State) Feed Evaluation, Animal and Aquaculture Nutrition, Carbohydrate Metabolism, Gut Physiology and Healt
Y.S. Kim, PhD (1988, UC Davis) Muscle biology, regulation of growth and muscle mass/ CTAHR
J.D. Latner, PhD  (2002, Rutgers University) Clinical psychology,eating behaviors and disorders, obesity/ Dept. of Psychology
L. LeMarchand, MD, MPH, PhD. (1987, U. Hawaii) Nutritional epidemiology, genetic markers/ CRCH
J.H. Leslie, DrPH, MPH, RD (2011, U Hawaii) Nutrition education, community-based and translational research, public health nutrition
Q.X. Li,  PhD  (1990, UC Davis) Environmental biochemistry, proteomics/ CTAHR
Y. Li, PhD (2004, Univ. Missouri) Food microbiology, food safety, probiotics/ CTAHR
G. Maskarinec, MD, MPH, PhD. (1996, University of Hawaii) Nutritional epidemiology, soy, hormones and cancer/ CRCH
P. V. Nerurkar, PhD (1990, Bombay University, India) Metabolic disorders and alternative medicine/ CTAHR
C. R. Nigg, PhD. (1999, U. Rhode Island) Theory of health behavior change, intervention, physical   activity/exercise and nutrition behavior, research design/ JABSOM
R. Novotny, PhD, RD (1986, Cornell University) Community and global nutrition, anthropometric assessment, nutritional epidemiology/ CTAHR
T.B. Ron, PhD (1996, U Hawaii) Aquaculture
M. Stewart, PhD (2008, U. Minnesota) Dietary fiber content of foods, fiber fermentation, functional foods, intestinal health/ CTAHR
C. A. Titchenal, PhD, CNS (1986, UC Davis) Nutrition and human performance, dietary supplements, nutrition journalism/ CTAHR
J. Yang, PhD (1999, Univ. of Alberta, Canada) Molecular biology of muscle growth, molecular mechanisms and prevention of obesity and diabetes/ CTAHR


Affiliate Graduate Faculty
Graduate Faculty Research Interests/ Affiliation  E-mail address
H. Turner, PhD (1998, U. London, UK) Cell biology and immunology/ Dean of Research, Chaminade University, Honolulu, Hawaii.