MS and PhD Programs
Candidates for graduate study in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences need a background in chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, statistics, bacteriology and physiology. Prior coursework in food science or nutrition is desirable. Students may be accepted into the NDFS graduate program with deficiencies in these areas; however, their supervisory committee will require that competence equivalent to a BS degree in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences be obtained as part of the Program of Study.
Students must meet some departmental requirements, in addition to requirements of the School of Graduate Studies, as shown at: http://www.usu.edu/graduateschool/apply/
Departmental requirements include the following:
- Students must attain Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores at the 40th percentile minimum on the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing tests.
- A student may enroll into a PhD70 program with a BS degree or into a PhD48 program with an MS or equivalent degree pending meeting the other requirements of the department and graduate school. In either case, the student must pass a comprehensive examination to become a candidate for the PhD degree as described later in these degree requirements.
- Before acceptance into the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences, potential MS and PhD graduate students must be accepted by a faculty member who is willing to add them to his or her research team.
Once admitted, students are required to maintain enrollment as follows:
- Registered for 9 or more graduate credits or enrollment in at least 3 credits per semester in order to use University facilities and receive direction (including thesis or dissertation direction) from their major professor.
- Enrollment in at least 6 credits per semester if receiving an assistantship or fellowship from Utah State University.
Assistantship Policy on Additional Employment
Graduate students in the department receiving a 0.5 FTE assistantship may not accept additional employment without written permission of their major professor and the department head; this policy is to ensure that graduate students have sufficient time available to complete the academic requirements of their degree in a timely fashion.
Selecting a Major Professor
Initially, students are accepted into the department when at least one faculty member has expressed a willingness to add the student to his or her research team. By doing so, the faculty member guarantees at the time of acceptance that the student may work in his or her research program. However, offers of financial aid must be discussed directly with the faculty member. Students may choose as their major professor any faculty member who can and is willing to accommodate them.
Establishing a Supervisory Committee
A supervisory committee must be selected by the student in conjunction with his or her major professor during the student's first semester as an NDFS graduate student. The major professor serves as the chair of the supervisory committee. A minimum of three members (at least two from the department) including the major professor are required for the MS program. A minimum of five members (at least one from outside the department) including the major professor are required for the PhD program.
The Supervisory Committee Approval Form needs to be submitted to the GPC by the second semester for MS students and the third semester for PhD students. It is the student's responsibility to meet with the proposed committee members to make certain they are able and willing to serve. The Supervisory Committee Approval Form is sent to the GPC to be forwarded to the Graduate School. (Note: The Supervisory Committee Approval Form may be found on the School of Graduate Studies website at: http://rgs.usu.edu/graduateschool/forms.
Defining a Program of Study
Students should register for their first semester based on advise from their major professor. Students should then prepare a Program of Study in conjunction with their major professor. The Program of Study should ensure fulfillment of the minimum requirements for all NDFS graduate students (shown below) and also include other courses providing the background necessary to conduct their research.
Students need to schedule a meeting with their supervisory committee to discuss the proposed Program of Study by the end of the second semester for MS students and by the end of the third semester for PhD students. A copy of the proposed Program of Study should be given to each committee member several days prior to the committee meeting.
The purpose of the committee meeting is to secure the supervisory committee's approval of the Program of Study. The committee will determine any deficiencies in core BS competencies or academic background. Students in the NDFS graduate program should have already taken undergraduate general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, algebra, and statistics. Although these courses may be taken as part of the graduate program, they will not be counted as graduate credit in the Program of Study.
The supervisory committee is responsible for ensuring NDFS graduate students have (or obtain during their program of study) the expected core competencies of NDFS bachelor's degree graduates. This can be based upon transcripts of courses from prior studies, passing courses listed in the program of study (with a minimum grade of B), or by administering a written or oral examination.
The committee will also determine that the courses included in the Program of Study meet the minimum requirements for obtaining an MS or PhD in Nutrition and Food Sciences (as shown below). All members of the committee, as well as the department head, must sign the Program of Study Form before it is sent to the School of Graduate Studies. Registration for all subsequent semesters should be based on the approved Program of Study. Changes to the Program of Study require electronic revision form to be sent to the GPC then forwarded to the Graduate School.
The student may register for courses not listed on the Program of Study with approval of his or her major professor (especially if the student is receiving a research assistantship).
Minimum Course Requirements for MS/PhD Students in Nutrition and Food Sciences
Program of Study for MS and PhD Degrees
Total Credits Required
For the MS degree, 30 total credits are required. For the PhD degree, 70 total credits are required from Bachelors degree (PhD70) and 48 total credits from Masters degree (PhD48).
The following courses are required. For further information, see the School of Graduate Studies section of this catalog.
- NDFS Graduate courses. 5 credits for MS, 10 credits for PhD.
- Biochemistry and Statistics. Biochemistry (CHEM 5700 ), NDFS 6410, or any other biochemistry-based course suggested by the committee: 3 credits for MS, 3 credits for PhD; Statistics (STAT 5100 , STAT 5120 , STAT 5200 , STAT 5600 , PSY 7610 , PSY 7780 ): 3 credits for MS, 6 credits for PhD.
- NDFS Graduate Seminar (NDFS 7800 ). 2 credits for MS, 2 credits for PhD48, 4 credits for PhD70.
- Teaching or Occupational Experience. NDFS 6910 or NDFS 5250 : 2 credits required for PhD. (Credits in this area are not required for MS.)
- Other Graduate Courses. USU courses approved for graduate studies: 5-11 credits for MS; 13-18 credits for PhD48, 18-27 credits for PhD70.
- Research. NDFS 6970 : 6-12 credits for MS; NDFS 7970 : 12-17 credits for PhD48, 18-27 for PhD70.
In consultation with the major professor, the student must choose a research area suitable for the MS thesis or PhD dissertation, and then prepare a research proposal. Research proposals should be written and approved by the end of the second semester for students completing the MS degree and by the end of the third semester for PhD students.
The content and duration of the proposed research should be appropriate for the degree. It is expected that MS research and coursework (including writing and defense of the thesis) should be completed within 2 years (24 months). The length of research being proposed for the PhD dissertation is dependent on the discovery by the student of a substantial level of new information that can be added to their field of specialization.
The proposal should include the following:
- Description of the problem, based on the most current literature
- Statement of the purpose of the intended research
- Research Plan
- List of references cited, presented in a form acceptable for publication in a scientific journal in the student's field
The student prepares the research proposal under the guidance of the major professor. Once the research proposal is completed, it is the student's responsibility to schedule a meeting with his or her supervisory committee, and to provide each committee member with a copy of the research proposal at least two weeks prior to the meeting.
During the committee meeting, the student is expected to provide an oral presentation of the proposed research, and discuss any regulated aspects of the research, such as hazardous materials, experimental animals, or human subjects. A copy of the approved research proposal should be kept in the Deparment's student file.
Comprehensive Examination (PhD students only)
Before a student can become a candidate for the PhD degree, he or she must take a comprehensive examination, as required by the School of Graduate Studies. The qualifying/comprehensive exam will consist of 2 parts:
- Written exam: the purpose of this exam is to evaluate the students' critical thinking skills. The format of this exam will be established by the major professor and the committee members. Some examples include requesting the student to write a review paper or a literature review on a topic outside his/her area of research, discussion of specific papers, or evaluation of different situations related to their discipline.
- Oral exam: The written exam will be closely followed by an oral exam where the student will be questioned on his/her general knowledge of topics related to his/her discipline. This test is designed to assess students' oral communication skills and their ability to think "on the spot". The oral exam can be a follow up of the written exam or can be based on a different topic.
The qualifying/comprehensive exam must be taken during the second year of the student's program. If the student does not pass the exam, he/she will not be accepted into the PhD program and could be considered for an MS degree.
Typically students will be asked questions related to their area of specialization and their field of research. However, the comprehensive exam can also be used to test students' overall knowledge of food science or nutrition, and committee members can ask any questions that will test the student's knowledge and ability to synthesize nutrition and food science information, as well as answer questions. The Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree Form should be completed at this time. On the Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree Form, the committee members will list the field in which they examined the student, and then sign the form accordingly.
Thesis or Dissertation Final Examination
Students write the thesis or dissertation under the guidance of their major professor. To schedule a tentative date for the final examination (or defense) of the thesis or dissertation, students should also contact their supervisory committee members. Students need to plan well in advance, so that there will be sufficient time allowed for the student to complete their writing and for the committee members to read the thesis or dissertation. When the thesis or dissertation is ready to be defended, and at least four weeks prior to the tentative defense (or final) examination date and time, the student submits a copy to each committee member.
After the committee members have read the thesis or dissertation and have determined that it is indeed ready to be defended, the student prepares the Appointment for Examination Form. Each of the supervisory committee members is required to sign this form, indicating that they have read and tentatively approve the content and format of the thesis or dissertation, and that they can be in attendance at the defense.
The Appointment for Examination Form needs to be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies a minimum of 10 working days prior to the defense. The School of Graduate Studies will appoint one of the supervisory committee members (other than the major professor) to chair the defense examination.
Completing the Thesis or Dissertation
After a successful defense of the thesis or dissertation, the student is required to make any changes to the thesis or dissertation that are required as a consequence of the final examination. At this time, the student can schedule with the School of Graduate Studies a date by which he or she expects to have the thesis or dissertation available for review. If the thesis or dissertation is not submitted to the School of Graduate Studies prior to this date, it will be reviewed at the next available date.
When the thesis or dissertation has been revised to the satisfaction of the committee member(s) assigned the responsibility of ensuring such changes are completed to the satisfaction of the supervisory committee (usually the major professor), the front page of the thesis or dissertation can be signed. The student then completes the Thesis/Dissertation Format and Style Form and obtains the major professor's signature (in the NDFS Department the major professor also acts as the departmental format/style reviewer) and submits the thesis or dissertation to the School of Graduate Studies.
Following review by the School of Graduate Studies, the thesis or dissertation is collected by the NDFS Department and returned to the major professor, along with a list of corrections. The major professor then has the responsibility of ensuring that the thesis or dissertation is revised (if necessary), and of signing a release indicating that the thesis or dissertation is ready for binding. The student may then make the needed copies of the thesis or dissertation and submit them for binding. It is also the student's responsibility to ensure that all other forms and fees related to the thesis or dissertation and to the completion of his or her degree are finalized.