The PhD in human nutrition is a three-year, 74-credit-hour program designed to align with the goals and objectives of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). As such, the program supports the training and development of researchers and leaders in the field of nutrition by focusing on developing the skills needed to perform bench-to-bedside-to-community research. Graduates of the PhD in human nutrition will be experts in nutrition research methodologies and translational nutrition, thereby efficiently advancing the field of nutrition through research to improve human health. 

In accordance with the goals of the National Institutes of Health NCATS to implement and promote translational science approaches that foster collaborative bench-to-bedside-to-community approaches, a student who has completed this doctoral program in human nutrition will demonstrate mastery of:

1) Translational nutrition – Demonstrate proficiency in nutrition techniques that are integrated across discrete areas of nutrition research methodologies into a cohesive research agenda that moves nutrition research from the laboratory to the patient/community.

2) Communication - Effectively communicate nutrition information, evidencing the ability to evaluate and interpret current research for presentation to the academic, scientific, and/or the lay community.

3) Nutrition research practice – Demonstrate an understanding of relevant laboratory analyses methodologies, metabolic assessment techniques, and statistical research methodologies appropriate for developing strong, competitive research proposals.

4) Independent research – Demonstrate the ability to support an independent career in research by successfully developing and implementing a research protocol, gathering data to effectively test the hypothesis (or hypotheses), and analyzing and interpreting the data.

5) Effective educators - Demonstrate skills of effective classroom presentation of nutrition-related information.   

Application Deadline:  February 1.  Admission decisions for Fall term will be made in mid-February. 

Contact Information:  Before applying, it is recommended that you contact the director of the PhD Program in Human Nutrition, Dr. Linda Knol, at or 205-348-8129.

For additional information, please visit the program webpage at

 Requirements for Admission:

Students may enter the program with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or a master’s degree in a closely nutrition-related field. 

Requirements for admission to the Ph.D. in human nutrition will be:

  • A completed application, including a Statement of Purpose
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae
  • 3 letters of recommendation from faculty or other health professionals capable of judging the applicant’s ability to complete graduate work.
  • Test scores:
    • If a student has previously completed a Master’s degree prior to beginning the Doctoral program and maintained a graduate GPA ≥3.5, their application will be considered without the need to submit a GRE score.
    • Students who have previously completed a Master’s degree prior to beginning the Doctoral program with a graduate GPA of 3.3-3.49 may be considered for admission providing they also have a GRE score of ≥300.  Upon admission, these students would need to receive permission to continue after the successful completion of 12 graduate hours.
    • Students with a Bachelor’s degree will need to submit GRE scores.  Minimum requirement for admission is a ≥300 on the GRE.
  • If an applicant does not have a previous degree in nutrition, minimum prerequisite course work would include NHM 558 Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease, NHM 561 Adv. Vitamins and Minerals, and NHM 562 Metabolism of Energy Nutrients.  These would need to be completed prior to beginning the Ph.D. Nutrition Core coursework and would be applied towards completion of their nutrition electives.  The sequencing of course offerings will be structured such that taking these prerequisites courses will not increase time to graduation nor will they require additional burden or heavier academic loads on the students in order to achieve a timely graduation.
  • Additionally, if a student is admitted without having previously completed a Master’s degree, they will need to complete NHM 509 Research Methods in Nutrition.  The sequencing of course offerings will be structured such that taking prerequisites course(s) will not increase time to graduation nor will they require additional burden or heavier academic loads on the students in order to achieve a timely graduation.


The Ph.D. in human nutrition requires completion of 74 graduate hours, including 17 hours of nutrition core classes, 12 hours of statistics, 9 hours of nutrition electives, 12 hours of non-dissertation research, and 24 hours of dissertation research. 

  • Students with a Master of Science degree in Human Environmental Sciences (M.S.H.E.S.) with an area of study in human nutrition from the University of Alabama may use the courses taken for the M.S.H.E.S. degree towards up to 9 hours of nutrition coursework in the Ph.D. program. 
  • Up to 12 hours of equivalent graduate nutrition coursework may be transferred in from a comparable Doctoral program to count towards completion of the Doctoral program requirements, providing those hours were not used towards completion of a degree at that institution.    

Comprehensive Examination

By the end of the fifth semester in residence (not including summer terms) students must successfully complete a comprehensive candidacy exam.

This written comprehensive examination is required of all candidates for the Ph.D. degree.  The core comprehensive exam will be offered on the second Thursday of January and the second Thursday of June each year.  This exam should be prepared for by individual study expanding on the content covered in four core courses: NHM 601 Contemp Research Nutrition Sci, NHM 602 Methods Integrat Nutr Assess, NHM 603 Nutrition Intervention, and NHM 625 Nutritional Epidemiology.  The exam must be passed unconditionally before the student can defend his/her proposal and be advanced to candidacy. 

Prior to taking the exam, students must have completed their core course requirements, and at least 75% of their other didactic course work.  We recommend that students take their comprehensive exams when they have completed the core course requirements.  Students should NOT assume that “A” level performance in their coursework is adequate preparation for the comprehensive exam. Students must be registered for at least one semester hour of graduate work during the semester(s) in which the comprehensive exams are taken.

The exam is written and graded by the graduate faculty in the Doctoral program.  Grading is performed in a blinded fashion, with each section being graded by the graduate faculty who taught the course.  Each of the four sections is graded as “passed” or “failed”.  If any sections earn a score of “failed”, the student will be required to meet with the PhD program coordinator to go over the feedback from the grader(s).  The student has two weeks from this meeting to prepare for a retake of the sections that did not earn a “pass”.  Sections that were not passed on the initial examination can only be retaken once.  If a student fails a section for the second time, they will be dismissed from the program per University Graduate School protocol.

The Comprehensive Exam will cover material outlined in the following core courses:

NHM 601 Contemp Research Nutrition Sci

NHM 602 Methods Integrat Nutr Assess

NHM 603 Nutrition Intervention

NHM 625 Nutritional Epidemiology


Doctoral Dissertation

The Doctoral dissertation is designed to provide students with a significant research experience and the ability to demonstrate their mastery of research design, implementation, and knowledge dissemination.   Once students have successfully completed academic coursework and their comprehensive exams, they may then identify a dissertation committee, register for dissertation hours, and present their dissertation proposal.  The Doctoral dissertation committee should include a minimum of five graduate faculty members with at least one committee member from outside of the home department. This committee will work with the student to develop an appropriate timeline and to ensure the student meets all University standards for documentation and research protocols appropriate for their respective department, college, and graduate school.

The Doctoral dissertation requires the completion of 24 hours of dissertation credit.  Each student will work closely with his/her Doctoral program chair and his/her Doctoral dissertation committee in the development of a dissertation proposal.  Upon completion of the dissertation research, a draft of the written dissertation is to be submitted no later than 2 weeks before the planned oral dissertation defense.  Notice of this defense is to be posted throughout the college and will be announced via e-mail to faculty and currently enrolled graduate students. The student’s committee will be in attendance, as well as any faculty or students from the University who may wish to attend.

Human Nutrition, Ph.D. Hours
Required Courses
NHM 601Contemp Research Nutrition Sci3
NHM 602Methods Integrat Nutr Assess3
NHM 603Nutrition Intervention3
NHM 690Doctoral Studies Seminar2
NHM 691Grant Writing Nutrition Res3
NHM 695Interpret Nutrition Research3
CHS 627Multivar Meth Hlt Stats3
NHM 625Nutritional Epidemiology3
NHM 648Secondary Analysis Survey Data3
Statistics Elective3
Research Hours
NHM 698Non-Dissertation Research12
NHM 699Dissertation Research24
Nutrition Electives (9 hours)9
Advanced Community Nutrition I
Adv. Community Nutrition II
Maternal and Infant Nutrition
Child and Adolescent Nutrition
Childhood Obesity
Nutrition in IPP
ID Mgmt of Chronic Disease
Nutrition for the Older Adult
Special Prob Nutrition
Nutr. and Health Disparities
Nutritional Neuroscience
Adv Prac. in Post Sec. Diet Ed
Total Hours74