Public Health Nutrition

Program Administration

  • Kirsten Davison, M.S, PhD – Program Director
  • Teresa Fung, M.S, ScD – Practicum Coordinator
  • Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio, MPH – Program Coordinator

Program Description

The graduate program in Public Health Nutrition (PHN) combines principles and practices from nutrition and social and behavioral science to develop, implement and evaluation of programs and policies that promote optimal nutrition and population health and well-being. Doctoral students in the Nutrition Department who concentrate in PHN will be skilled in quantitative and qualitative methods, program development and evaluation, health disparities, health behavior change and health policy. The program includes the following components:

  • Formal course work
  • Research practicum
  • Seminars
  • Oral Exams
  • Dissertation Defense

Core Skill Areas
Our doctoral students are expected to gain comprehensive academic and applied knowledge in five core skill areas:

  • Nutrition science and principles
  • Translation of science into practice
  • Analytic skills and research methods
  • Policy and leadership
  • Cultural competency

General Information

Students admitted to this program are required to have a general back­ground in the nutrition, behavioral sciences and/or public health. Successful completion of program requirements leads to a Doctor of Science (SD or ScD) degree. The major field of study is Nutrition. The Public Health Nutrition graduate program is a concentration within nutrition, and the Program Director determines the courses that are grouped together to form the nutrition major. In addition to their major and area of concentration, students will select two minors.  All PHN students will select Epidemiology, Biostatistics, or Social and Behavioral Methods as one of the two minor fields. The second minor field will facilitate development in an area relevant to applied research in public health nutrition, and will be chosen in consultation with students faculty advisor.

Credit Hours
Students will complete 25.0 credits in departmental courses in nutrition courses that are required for all nutrition studies and 22.5 credits in concentration-specific courses. Concentration-specific courses will focus largely on social and behavioral health, and include courses in social and behavioral research methods, health behavior theory, health disparities, program planning and evaluation and health policy. With the exception of SBS245( social and behavioral research methods), students will have a choice of courses in each of these content areas. Additionally, students will conduct an applied research practicum project for 10.0 credits. Students with advanced standing (such as those already holding a Master’s degree or equivalent) may have certain course requirements waived if equivalent courses have been completed. Waiver petitions must be approved by the appropriate school representative (faculty advisor and/or department faculty for departmental requirements, and the Committee on Admissions and Degrees(CAD) for school-wide requirements).

At program entry, students will be assigned a faculty advisor from the nutrition department. PHN-affiliated faculty with secondary appointments in the nutrition department will also be eligible as advisors. Students will meet with their advisors on a regular basis during the first two years of study for guidance on their selection of coursework and practicum experiences. When a thesis topic is identified, a new advisor with specific knowledge in the research area may be assigned.

Click here for example publications from PHN faculty.


Nutrition Major Requirements
NUT201: Principles of Nutrition (2.5)
NUT202: Science of Human Nutrition (5.0)

NUT203: Nutrition Seminar Part I (1.25)
NUT205: Advanced Topics in Nutrition (2.5)
NUT206: Nutrition Seminar Part II (1.25)
NUT209: Seminars in Food and Technology (2.5)
ID214: Nutritional Epidemiology (2.5)
EPI202: Elements of Epidemiologic Research (2.5)
BIO211: Regression an Analysis of Variance (5.0)
     OR BIO210: Analysis of Rates and Proportions (5.0)

Concentration-Specific Requirements
ID238: Programs and Principles of Public Health Nutrition (2.5)

SBS245: Social and Behavioral Research Methods (5.0) Pre-req: Regression course
Advanced Topics in Public Health Nutrition (2.5 credits total)*
Social and Behavioral Science Requirement (12.5 credits across 4 subject areas including health behavior theory, health disparities, program planning and evaluation and health policy)*
*Students have flexibility in the courses they select to address the content area. 

Click here to view an example schedule.

Click here for PHN program guide.


Double Major with the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences

SD doctoral students will now have the option to complete a double major in Nutrition and Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS). This course of study is generally of interest to students who bring a strong background in health behavior, or social and behavioral science, to their research on nutrition. Interested applicants will apply to only one department, either Nutrition or SBS. Accepted students will then apply to the second department during their first year of study. Admission into one department and/or indication of interest in the double major does not guarantee acceptance into the second department. Students can expect to add a full semester of coursework to their program of study, and must meet all requirements of both departments. For more information, please contact the PHN Program Coordinator. Please contact the Program Coordinator, Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio ( with any questions.