Nutritional Biochemistry PhD Degree

A doctoral degree program in nutritional biochemistry could prepare scholars to conduct original research that can inform the realms of medicine and public policy. Find out more about the common courses and admission requirements.

Applying for a PhD Program in Nutritional Biochemistry

Although individual requirements may vary, most universities will require that a candidate has achieved at least a bachelor's degree and has passed the general GRE exam prior to applying to the doctoral program. Some schools even prefer that the candidate will have passed a specialized GRE exam, showing proficiency in their chosen field of study. It is also generally required that applicants include two to three professional recommendations from faculty members that are familiar with their previous work. These should detail a clear understanding of the basic principles of laboratory methods, biology, chemistry and nutrition. Finally, candidates should typically prepare a personal statement describing their field of interest and what they hope to accomplish in their research. After the application has been submitted, select candidates will often be invited for a personal interview with the department's doctoral committee.

Obtaining a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry

After being accepted into a doctoral program, candidates may pursue an individualized curriculum of classroom instruction, seminars and laboratory work that is designed by a committee made up of faculty members, advisors and the department chairperson. While the completion of this curriculum will usually take around six semesters, many candidates will spend an additional two to three years working on original research required to support their dissertation.

Molecular Metabolic Physiology

Coursework in molecular metabolic physiology typically takes an in depth look at the mechanisms that influence a complex system of human diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Understanding the unique processes that occur at a cellular level, students may explore how defects in these processes can lead to disease and begin to understand methods used to correct them. Armed with this information, doctoral candidates should begin to tackle the important research questions that lead to major breakthroughs in healthcare and medicine.

Maternal Nutrition and Fetal Development

This type of course generally covers the intricate relationship between the nutritional metabolism of a pregnant mother and its effects on the growth and development of her fetus. It may examine how epigenetic factors will influence the health of the child by using advanced molecular technology to uncover the connections between the maternal metabolic pathways that affect the genetic expression of the fetus. An in depth understanding of fetal and reproductive biology is typically required to take courses at this level.


While many doctoral candidates will generally have been exposed to biostatistics in their previous studies, an in depth understanding is required to proficiently interpret statistical data presented in various scholarly journals. It is also important in order to extrapolate pertinent information from an array of regression methods and in choosing an appropriate statistical method with which to evaluate their own research questions. This kind of course may be helpful to further prepare the student to incorporate meaningful statistics into the presentation of their research findings.

Nutritional Genomics

With this sort of course, students commonly explore the complex relationship between gene expression and nutritional pathways. They typically gain a comprehensive understanding of how certain genetic factors affect the metabolic pathways that make certain nutrients more or less bioavailable. They may also learn to evaluate the role that nutrient availability plays in the epigenetic expression of certain traits.


Understanding metabolites and their unique interactions within the human organism is a crucial skill for a nutritional biochemist. Metabolites are gathered from a number of different sources including blood and urine samples, to trace a metabolic pathway that gives a more robust picture of the processes that affect nutrient transport. Coursework in metabolomics should prepare the candidate to utilize analytical methods for decoding the metabolite profile of an individual to determine factors of therapeutic relevance in a research setting.

Laboratory Research

Many candidates hoping to obtain their PhD in nutritional biochemistry are anxious to get started on their own research. However, before they can do that, they are usually required to assist and observe in multiple research laboratories within their department. This exposure to different laboratory research techniques often broadens the field of methods at their disposal for when they begin their individual research assessments.

Pathology and Pharmacology

These courses generally investigate the causes and treatments of diseases at a cellular level. With this understanding a nutritional biochemist should begin to fully grasp the unique mechanisms of action of different pharmacological agents, in addition to understanding how they affect the absorption rates of different nutrients within the body.

Nutritional biochemistry is a field of research with a number of meaningful applications. Doctoral degrees may be earned within about six years, and holders could be on the forefront of unlocking the underlying causes of many diseases that afflict our society today.