Full Degree Requirements

Both M.S. and Ph.D. Graduate degrees in Nutrition at the University of California, Davis are offered by the Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology. The full degree requirements for the Masters and Ph.D. programs are given below.

Requirements for the MS Degree Program

Students working toward a master's degree must be registered in residence for at least three quarters. Two regular six-week Summer Sessions may count as the equivalent of one quarter. Usually, all work for the master's degree is done in residence on the Davis campus. With the consent of your Graduate Adviser and the dean of Graduate Studies, however, some work taken elsewhere may be credited toward your degree. The normal limit for such transfer credit is 6 units from another institution, 12 concurrent units (taken as a non-student), or up to one half of the unit requirement if the courses were taken at another campus of the University while in graduate status, providing the units were not used to satisfy requirements for another degree.

The Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology designates its master's degree as a Master of Science (M.S.). All M.S. students are expected to complete a thesis (Plan I). Completion of the M.S. by comprehensive examination (Plan II) is not an option unless the student petitions the Executive Committee and the petition is approved.


requires completion of 30 units of upper division (100-199 numbers) and graduate courses (200-299 numbers) and submission of a thesis. At least 12 of the 30 units required must be strictly graduate work in the major subject.


(by petition only) requires completion of 36 units of upper division and graduate courses and satisfactory performance on a comprehensive final examination.

At least 18 of the 36 units required must be strictly graduate courses in the major subject. No more than 9 units of research (299 courses or equivalent) may be used to satisfy the 18-unit graduate course requirement.

A comprehensive final examination in the major subject area may be written or oral or both. You should be informed in advance of the general subject matter on which you will be examined.

A written summary of research results from all 299 coursework must be submitted to and approved by your Major Professor and two other faculty members.

The following is an outline of the minimum requirements for the MS degree in Nutritional Biology. Where a determination must be made of the adequacy of your background in a particular subject, this will be done by your Graduate Adviser in consultation with you and your Major Professor.


  1. All entrance requirements must be completed before graduation.

  2. Three units minimum of Nutrition 290/291. After taking the required Nutrition 290 (Beginning Nutrition Seminar), Nutrition 291 (Advanced Nutrition Seminar) is required at least two quarters per year.

  3. Core courses: three 5-unit courses. Note: Students who have not taken Animal Biology 102 and 103 are expected to take these during the first year.

  4. Nutrition 299 (Research): 5-9 units for students in Plan II, additional units as necessary to complete the thesis for Plan I. The committees for conduct of the comprehensive oral exams for Plan II students and for evaluation of the MS thesis for Plan I students are comprised of three faculty and are appointed by the dean of Graduate Studies on advice of your Graduate adviser. NOTE: Plan II is by petition only.

    Additional classes as required by your Major Professor in consultation with your Graduate Adviser to permit the formulation of a program best suited to your individual academic and professional needs, while at the same time maintaining academic excellence.

  5. All Academic Senate requirements for unit totals and residency.

  6. Statistics course that meets the GGNB statistics requirement.
  7. You may elect to add courses necessary for qualification as a Registered Dietitian.

Advancement to Candidacy:

The Master´s Degree

You must file an official application for Advancement to Candidacy after completion of at least one-half of the course requirements for the degree and at least one quarter before completion of all degree requirements. Graduate Studies recommends early advancement, so that actual or potential problems can be solved before they reach crisis proportions. The form is available online, from Graduate Studies in 250 Mrak Hall, or from the Graduate Staff Adviser.

After the form has been signed by your Graduate adviser and Thesis Chair (Plan I, Thesis Plan only), it is returned to Graduate Studies after giving a copy to the Graduate Staff Adviser. Once advancement is approved, formal notice of Advancement to Candidacy is sent to you and your Graduate Adviser. If you are not eligible for advancement, you and the department will be informed that action on your application has been deferred and the reason why (e.g., grade point average below 3.0).

On the candidacy application, you and your Graduate Adviser agree on and submit a statement of how you will complete the requirements for the degree. If you must make changes in your program after Advancing to Candidacy, recommendations for such changes must be made to Graduate Studies by your Academic Adviser.

When the advancement to candidacy application is approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies, you will get a copy of it with a packet of information that includes instructions on thesis preparation and submission (Plan I students). The instructions are included in the Graduate Studies page for "Information for Degree Candidates" where you should click on the link to "Preparing and Filing the Thesis and Dissertation." There are forms you need to complete and submit when you file your thesis with Graduate Studies. If you have any questions, contact the Graduate Studies office.

In order to submit your thesis, you must either be enrolled or on filing fee.

The Masters´s Comprehensive Examination

(PLAN II) (by petition only)

The Master's Comprehensive Examination is conducted by a committee of at least three members nominated by your Academic Adviser and appointed by the Chair of Graduate Council. Graduate Studies requires a unanimous pass vote of the Committee for successful completion. If you do not pass, the Committee may recommend, with the concurrence of your Academic Adviser, that you be reexamined one time. Changes in the composition of the Committee may be made only for reasons of clear necessity, e.g. the extended absence of a member from the campus. If you do not pass on the second attempt, you are subject to disqualification from further work as a graduate student. The result of all Master's comprehensive examinations must be reported to Graduate Studies.

Your Graduate Adviser will report to the Dean that you have completed all requirements for your degree, with the date of the examination, or that you have deferred or have failed. The reporting date usually coincides with the last day of the quarter. An affirmative response and the Graduate Adviser's signature certify that you have completed all program requirements for the degree. Your name will appear on the current degree list if you have satisfied the minimum Graduate Studies requirements.

In order to take your comprehensive exam, you must either be enrolled or on filing fee.

Requirements for the PH.D. Program

The following minimum requirements give background prerequisites for the awarding of the PhD degree in Nutritional Biology. Questions of knowledge and equivalence will be evaluated by your Graduate Adviser in consultation with you and your Academic Guidance Committee, which is chaired by your Major Professor.

There are five major areas that you should be familiar with when planning your PhD degree: your Academic Guidance Committee, the Initial and Core Requirements, courses in your Area of Specialization, the Preliminary and Final Qualifying Examinations, and the Dissertation.

Initial Requirements

  • The Initial Requirements include knowledge equivalent to the minimum requirements for entrance to the MS program.

  • CORE REQUIREMENTS (assumes entry at BS level; thus, courses required in MS program are included)

  • Core Courses: Three 5-unit courses in Nutrition.

  • After you have completed the three core courses, you will take your Preliminary Qualifying Examination during the next academic quarter.

  • One graduate level nutrition-related course, e.g., one course chosen from the Nutrition 250 series or their equivalents. See the list below for a few selected examples. However, if one of these courses is used to support development of an area of specialization (see below), it cannot be utilized to satisfy this requirement.

  • Advanced course in Statistics (see courses listed for statistics specialization for suggestions).

  • After you have passed from Nutrition 290 (Beginning Nutrition Seminar) to 291 (Advanced Nutrition Seminar), you are required to take 291 at least two quarters per year.

  • Nutrition 299 (Research): Units as necessary to complete your dissertation.
  • You may elect to add courses as necessary for qualification as a Registered Dietitian.

Nut 250 Courses or Equivalents

Below are the equivalent courses to NUT 250 along with the units and quarters offered.

  • International Nutrition: NUT 219A, NUT219B, 3 units, Winter/Spring*
  • Metabolic Homeostasis: NUT 250, 3 units, Winter*
  • Nutrition and Immunity: NUT 251, 2 units, Winter*
  • Nutrition and Development: NUT 252, 3 units, Winter*
  • Control of Food Intake: NUT 253, 3 units, Spring*
  • Selected Topics in Nutritional and Hormonal Control of Nitrogen Metabolism: NUT 257, 2 units, Fall*
  • Field Research Methods in International Nutrition: NUT 258, 3 units, Winter*
  • Nutrition and Aging: NUT 259, 2 units, Fall*
  • Biological Significance of Prostaglandins and Related Lipids: BCM 209, 2 units Winter*

* Offered every other year. Check current UC Davis General Catalog

Area(s) of Specialization

This is officially defined as "a group of courses selected in consultation with the student's Academic Guidance Committee and Faculty Adviser to complement the student's Nutrition program in accord with the chosen career orientation."

Either one or two areas of specialization are required. Normally, a single area of emphasis requires 12 units of coursework beyond the core requirement and the basic upper division course in the area. Two areas of emphasis normally require 6 units of advanced coursework in each area.

A more detailed description of some areas of specialization is available online in the GGNB Survival Guide.

Qualifying Examination Committees

The PhD Qualifying Examination will be given in two parts: a Preliminary Examination taken after you have finished your core courses, and a Final Qualifying Examination to be taken before you work on your research full-time.

To be eligible for the Qualifying Examinations you must have satisfied all Program requirements, have removed all deficiencies, and must have at least a 3.0 average in all work undertaken in graduate standing. You must be registered for the quarter(s) in which you take any portion of your Qualifying Examination.

Preliminary Examination Committee

The purpose of the Preliminary Examination is to certify that PhD students in Nutritional Biology have an adequate knowledge of Nutrition including basic principles, methodological approaches, and practical applications, as covered in the three core Nutrition courses and in the entrance requirements. The Preliminary Examination will be an oral examination and normally will not exceed three hours. After you pass your Preliminary Examination, you can take Final Qualifying Examination, which will emphasize your capability to carry out original research in Nutritional Biology, as well as assess your knowledge in a secondary field, i.e., your area of emphasis.

Each academic year, the Executive Committee of the Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology will appoint a Prelim Committee (three to six members of the Graduate Group). When your Academic Guidance Committee says you are ready, you should fill out the “Application for Preliminary Examination” form and have it signed by your Major Professor and Academic Adviser. You are expected to schedule and complete your Preliminary Examination within the first academic quarter after you have finished all three core courses.

The instructors of the tree core courses have provided a pool of representative questions that are designed to serve as a guide for study. Note, however, that the members of the Preliminary Examination Committee are not bound by these questions and may ask you others during the examination. Remember that the examination is supposed to assess your ability to integrate nutritional knowledge across the breadth of the field. The pool of questions will be reviewed every two to three years and revised as necessary.

You can either pass or not pass the exam. You can retake the exam, but you must pass it within one year of completing your core courses in order to remain in good standing.

Final Qualifying Examination Committee

To be eligible for the Final Qualifying Examination, you must have satisfied all group requirements, removed all deficiencies, and must have at least a "B" average in all coursework. You must be enrolled all quarters in which you take any portion of the Qualifying Examination.

At the end of 9 academic quarters of enrollment, a graduate student must have advanced to candidacy in order to continue to be employed.

On advice from your Academic Guidance Committee, your Graduate Adviser will recommend to the dean of Graduate Studies the appointment of a Final Qualifying Examination Committee.

This Committee will consist of five members who must include at least one member of your Guidance Committee, may include your Major Professor (who cannot be chair of the Committee), and which reflects the discipline(s) in addition to Nutrition that will be included in the examination. While you might be tempted to include your Major Professor on your Committee, this is generally not done for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the potential conflict of interest that would then come into play.

The Application for Qualifying Examination can be downloaded from the Graduate Studies Web site.   This form must be submitted to Graduate Studies at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to the exam. As soon as your committee is confirmed, you should fill out the form, obtain the signatures and submit it. Graduate Studies does not need the exact date of your exam; the month or quarter in which you expect to take the exam is sufficient. If you are completing a designated emphasis (International and Community Nutrition or Biotechnology), the director of the designated emphasis must sign the application in addition to your Graduate Adviser. A copy of the form and date/time/location of the exam must be provided to the Graduate Staff Advisor.

In general, all members of the Final Examination Committee should have achieved a degree at least equivalent to the Ph.D. If the appointment of a Committee member from outside the University of California is necessary, please consult with your Academic Adviser. You will need to complete an "External Committee Membership" form, along with the suggested committee member's cv, and submit to the Office of Graduate Studies for approval.

The primary objective of the PhD Final Qualifying Examination is to assess whether you are suitably qualified and prepared to undertake independent research. It also evaluates your knowledge of your secondary field (your area of emphasis). You are expected to have a broad understanding of the field of Nutrition and one or more areas of specialization.

The main purpose of the examination is not to test you for factual information, but to evaluate your ability to apply scientific reasoning to the solution of nutrition problems. There may not be any single "right answer" to the questions posed to you. The Committee members are often more interested in the reasoning process you use to develop an answer than in the answer itself.

Once the Committee is appointed, you are advised to meet with the individual members to discuss their philosophy and expectations regarding the Qualifying Examination. Also you should have some idea of the members' areas of research and you certainly may request some suggested reading materials from each Committee member. After the examination date is set, you should contact the individual Committee members at least once.

A week before the examination date, you may wish to meet with the chair of the Final Examination Committee to discuss the details necessary for the examination, e.g. the actual room set-up, the order of the examiners, etc. Also, you or your chairperson should send a memo to the Committee members reminding them of the date, time, and location of the examination. IMPORTANT: Please inform your Graduate Staff Advisor of your exam date, time, and location.

The date of the examination will be arranged between you and your Committee chair. The Committee will conduct the examination and will submit the report of each of its members to Graduate Studies in one of the following outcomes:

  • PASS;

  • NOT PASS; with the option to retake all or part of the examination within a specified time period, or to satisfy specific requirements;


In cases where your Committee reports a Not Pass or Fail, the chair shall inform you of your right to appeal the Committee's decision for cause. Appeals cannot be based on the academic judgment of the Committee. The appeal is directed to the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, who submits the matter to the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council for review and recommendation. The chair of the Qualifying Examining Committee is responsible for reporting the votes and supplying other information to Graduate Studies.

The findings of the Qualifying Examination Committee, and especially its overall vote, are given to you immediately after the Examination so that you can know whether you performed acceptably. You should be aware that the final decision is made by the Graduate Council and that one or more negative votes does not necessarily mean a failure. When the decision is unanimous, the Graduate Council has delegated decision authority to the Qualifying Examination Committee itself.

Upon recommendation of the Qualifying Committee and with the approval of the Dean, you may repeat the qualifying examination once. The exam must be held by the same Committee except that members may be replaced, with the approval of the Academic Adviser and the Dean, for cause such as extended absence from the campus. Failure to pass the examination on the second attempt will result in disqualification from further study for the doctoral degree at UC Davis.

Dissertation Committee

Your Dissertation Committee is appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies on the advice of your Academic Adviser and consists of your Major Professor and two other professors, at least one of whom is not from your home department (preferably from your area of emphasis). It is charged with three responsibilities:

  1. To approve your dissertation topic and the plan that you have developed for independent study.
  2. To advise you during the course of your research. You are responsible for informing the Committee of your progress.
  3. To evaluate your dissertation, and your defense of the research, to recommend further research if desirable, and finally, to determine the acceptability of your thesis and to recommend to the Dean that you have satisfactorily fulfilled the dissertation requirement.

Detailed instructions on the format of dissertations (theses) can be obtained from the Graduate Studies Office. Instructions will be mailed to you when you advance to candidacy or can be obtained online through the Graduate Studies homepage; click on Continuing Student Information; then click on Preparing and Filing the Thesis and Dissertation. There are forms you have to complete and submit with your dissertation. If you have any questions, please call the Graduate Studies office. After submission of the dissertation the candidate is expected to resent the results of this research in a graduate group seminar.

Please note that in order to file your dissertation, you must either be enrolled or on filing fee.

If they wish, doctoral students in nutrition can choose to be admitted into a Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology or in International and Community Nutrition.