The Institute Of Human Nutrition

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Doctor of Philosophy in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology

The objectives of the Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology are to prepare individuals to conduct original basic research in nutrition and related sciences; to teach in medical universities, colleges, and graduate schools; and to pursue careers in basic and translational research at the national and international level. Institute of Human Nutrition Director Richard J. Deckelbaum, MD (second from right) is the chair of this program and Debra J. Wolgemuth, PhD (third from right)  is the director of the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology training program. 

We are currently accepting applications for the Fall 2016 doctoral program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology. The application process is outlined in detail here: here to begin the application: 


Nutritional and Metabolic Biology Overview

The objectives of the Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology are to prepare individuals to conduct original basic research in nutrition and related sciences; to teach in medical universities, colleges, and graduate schools; and to pursue careers in basic and translational research at the national and international level. The Nutritional and Metabolic Biology track closely integrates with a substantial number of fields relating to human health and disease. Highly qualified baccalaureate degree holders are considered for direct admission to the Doctoral Program, as are students with master's degrees. During the first year, the doctoral program consists of advanced courses and seminars in nutrition and molecular biology, elective courses, laboratory work, and exploration of research opportunities for the dissertation topic. The second year includes additional courses, if needed; research, teaching, and seminars; completion of the Qualifying Examination; and initial meeting with the Doctoral Dissertation Advisory Committee. Students meet at least once or preferably twice yearly with their Doctoral Dissertation Advisory Committee in anticipation of preparation and submission of the dissertation. Ideally, at the end of the fifth or sixth year, the research is completed, and the dissertation is defended and deposited with the University.

The Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology is an integral part of the biomedical training program of the Health Sciences campus. Elective courses are offered in the following departments: Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Biostatistics, Genetics and Development, Microbiology, Pathology and Cell Biology, Pharmacology, Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, and Psychology. Instruction and thesis research are carried out under the guidance of the Ph.D. Program Subcommittee on Nutrition and the direct guidance of the Training Committee of the Institute. In addition, an individual three-member Doctoral Advisory Committee advises each doctoral candidate. The Institute provides facilities for thesis research.  Click here to view the coursework available: Programs in Molecular Basis of Health and Disease


thesis defense partyIn general, students prepare themselves for qualifying examinations and dissertation research by judicious selection of didactic courses at the Medical Center and in other divisions of the University. Instruction is organized around the core areas of concentration listed below, and students are expected to demonstrate competence by oral and written examinations in each of these areas. Instruction is provided by the means of courses, seminars, tutorials, and laboratory work. Course selection for individual students is at the discretion of the Training Committee, student and the Doctoral Advisory Committee.

Thesis research training is available in molecular, cellular and biological aspects of: (1) vitamin A and retinoids; (2) vitamin D and calcium metabolism; (3) lipids and lipoproteins; (4) cardiovascular disease, (5) atherogenesis and vascular cell biology; (6) cancer biology; (7) obesity and energy balance; (8) diabetes; (9) cell biology and immunology; (10) nuclear receptors; (11) nutrition in growth and development; (12) cellular signaling; and (13) molecular epidemiology. Students are expected to acquire expertise and knowledge in the areas of molecular and cell biology, physiology and metabolism, general and nutritional biochemistry, and biostatistics.

Students are provided opportunities for rotations and lectures (in part through Reviews in Nutrition) in underlying metabolic and physiologic derangements associated with clinical nutrition disorders. Emphasis is on problems related to obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, trauma, sepsis, infant nutrition, gastrointestinal disease, renal failure, parenteral nutrition, and preventive nutrition. Areas of study in Public Health include socioeconomic, cultural, political factors that influence food availability and consumption and nutritional status. The biosocial determinants of nutritional risk and broad social and behavioral consequences produced by nutritional disease are examined. The role of nutrition in health promotion and disease prevention is a major priority area. The relation between nutrition and the availability and distribution of different types of health services and the impact of nutritional or nutrition-related programs on specific morbidity and mortality rates, as well as on functional outcome, also receive attention.

For more information about the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology PhD program, click here (  For questions, you can email Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at  or call (212) 305-8058.

Special Admission Requirements
  • The Aptitude (General) GRE is required and results of one advanced GRE are also recommended.
  • A personal interview, if possible.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
For the M.A. Degree

A student enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology will be awarded the M.A. degree upon completion of the following requirements:

Points of credit:  Thirty points of credit are required for the M.A. degree, of which 24 must come from coursework, including 1 point for Human Nutrition G9205, Doctoral Seminar in Human Nutrition in the first year of residence. The remaining 6 points come from credit received from enrollment in Human Nutrition G9011, Doctoral Research in Nutrition (research rotations in the first year).

Core curriculum:  Students are required to take the following courses: Physiology G6001, Principles of Physiology, Human Nutrition G4020, Molecular and Cell Biology of Nutrients, and CMBS 4010, Responsible Conduct of Research/Related Policy Issues. A minimum of two of the following five courses is required. The precise selection of courses should be based on the student's research interests and career goals: CMBS G4150, Microbial Molecular Genetics, CMBS G4250, Molecular Biophysics, CMBS G4350, Cellular Membranes and Organelles, Biochemistry G6300, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Eukaryotes I, Biochemistry G6301, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Eukaryotes II. G6300 and G6301 must be taken together.

A minimum of one course in Biostatistics is required. Depending on the student's background and upon consultation with members of the Training Committee, the student may choose among the following courses: Public Health P6104, Biostatistical Methods, Public Health P6105, Introductory Probability with Statistical Applications, Public Health P8135, Linear Regression Models, Public Health P6130, Biostatistics for the Basic Sciences, Public Health P6110, Statistical and Computer Methods in Health Data Analysis, Public Health P8112, Statistical Methods in Biological Assay.

Courses: Students are required to make satisfactory progress towards completion of the course requirements established by the Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology. Those students who have taken equivalent courses at other universities may be exempted from some of these course requirements. Such an exemption is established through mutual agreement between the student and The Training Committee. If a student is exempted from a course requirement, the student is required to choose an appropriate elective course(s) in order to fulfill the 24-point requirement established above. It is expected that most students will be able to complete these requirements at the end of one year of residence within the Ph.D. program.

Research: Students are required to complete three research rotations, one of which must be must be in the laboratory of a member of the Doctoral Subcommittee on Human Nutrition.

Residence Units: Two

For the M.Phil. Degree

Prerequisite: Completion of the core M.A. program or its equivalent and any other assignments and courses required by the student's advisory committee.

Course Requirements and Points of Credit:  Thirty points from the M.A. degree, enrollment in Human Nutrition G9205 (Student Seminar) in each semester of residence, enrollment in Human Nutrition G9300 (Reviews in Nutrition) commencing in the second year of residency in the Program.

Examinations: successful completion of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Examination is normally completed late in the second year of residence in the program. The Qualifying Exam must be completed prior to entering the third year of the program.

Research: Students are required to make satisfactory research progress, commencing from the initiation of dissertation research at the start of the second year of residence in the program and continuing through award of the M. Phil. degree.

Full-time Residence Units: Six

For the Ph.D. Degree

Prerequisite: the M.Phil. degree.

Course Requirements:  Enrollment in G9205 each semester of residence in the Program; enrollment in G9300, Reviews in Nutrition, for a total of six terms during residence in the Program (normally years 2-4).

Research: the candidate must prepare, with the approval of his or her Doctoral Advisory Committee, a dissertation embodying original research and must satisfactorily defend (and deposit) the dissertation.

Financial Support

All students, both from the U.S. and other countries, accepted into the program are awarded support throughout their training that fully provides for the tuition and medical insurance fees required by the University. Students also receive a generous stipend that commences with registration and normally continues throughout graduate study as long as satisfactory academic progress is made.

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