PhD Nutrition

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in nutrition prepares you for a career in academia, governmental agencies, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, and private industry. The program is designed to provide an advanced curriculum in nutrition, professional skills, and competencies required to support careers in teaching and research.

Program Director - Sujatha Rajaram

Get details on the standard cost of attendance at LLU. View Estimates.

Student Housing

The GRE is not required for applicants who meet the admissions criteria. If an applicant does not meet the minimum GPA requirements, the GRE is required in order for the application to be considered. For prospective students who wish to strengthen their application, GRE scores can be submitted as an option, but it is not required. GRE scores must have been attained within the last five years.

A legacy of over 50 years in plant-based nutrition research

The Loma Linda University School of Public Health has a rich history of plant-based nutrition research. We engage in interdisciplinary research across public health disciplines and the Basic Sciences. This collaborative way of working is how we continue to promote and build on our core legacy of vegetarian and plant-based nutrition. Some key studies include:

  • Nutritional epidemiology studies relating plant based diet patterns to health outcomes and longevity (the Adventist health Study)
  • Several clinical trials with plant foods (nuts and soy) intervention and health outcomes
  • Vegetarian nutrition education research
  • Environmental impact of plant based diets compared to animal inclusive diets.

Areas of curricular strength and research emphasis include: 

  • Plant-based diets and the health of the individual
  • Populations and the plane
  • Nutritional epidemiology
  • Diet and chronic disease risk reduction 
  • Community nutrition

Leading the conversation on plant-based nutrition

Guided by its Nutrition faculty, the School of Public Health hosts the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition (ICVN), the premiere scientific conference on the health effects of plant-based diets held every 5 years. The conference is designed to provide a review of the accumulated findings, and introduce theoretical concepts, practical applications, and implications of vegetarian dietary practices for both the prevention of disease and the promotion of health, as well as for the furthering of research endeavors. The theme for the 7th ICVN was Plant-foods for the health of people, populations and the planet.

The 7th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition

In February 2018, we hosted the 7th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, on the campus of Loma Linda University. Since 1987, the congress has been held only every 5 years and is the premier scientific conference on the health effects of plant-based diets. It brings together international scientists, physicians, nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals to showcase the latest advances from basic science, epidemiology, and clinical trials in vegetarian nutrition. Proceedings for the 7th ICVN are underway.

Visit the 7th ICVN website.

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Prerequisites & Learning Outcomes

Who should consider this program?

Those who may benefit from the program include individuals seeking careers in:

  • Academia (teaching and research)
  • Researcher in private industry, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, research institutes
  • Public health nutritionist
  • Leadership role in academia and public health sector


  • Master's degree in nutrition preferred; or an M.S. or M.P.H. degree with completion of all prerequisite courses; or a health professional degree at the master's level or higher (M.D. or equivalent)
  • Applicants with a master’s degree in another field may indicate their relevant training, research and/or practice experience, or educational background comparable to the M.P.H. or the M.S. degrees. Dr.P.H. and Ph.D. degree applicants who are admitted without a CEPH-accredited M.P.H. degree will be required to take PHCJ 606 Public Health Fundamentals, EPDM 509 Principles of Epidemiology, STAT 521 Biostatistics I or AHRM 514 Biostatistics  (that covers SPSS and R, SAS), or equivalent courses to fulfill the public health fundamental learning outcomes described in section D.1 of the 2016 CEPH criteria. 
  • Advanced biochemistry (may be taken concurrently with the program)
  • Anatomy and physiology, microbiology, general chemistry and organic chemistry
  • G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher preferred

Learner Outcomes

Upon graduation from the Ph.D. in Nutrition program, the graduates should be able to:

  • Evaluate advanced knowledge in nutritional science and explain the biological mechanism underlying the relationship between nutrients, foods, and diet pattern and health.
  • Critically evaluate the evidence base and advocate for the role of plant-based diets in promoting health of the individual, population groups, and the planet.
  • Apply analytical and fundamental concepts in nutritional epidemiology.
  • Conduct a research study that addresses a nutrition problem, collect/abstract, analyze, and interpret the data and report findings.
  • Effectively communicate nutritional science, orally and in writing, to the scientific community and the public, to advance the field and to promote public health.
  • Use best-practice modalities in pedagogy to deliver educational experiences in an academic setting.
  • Apply the principles of scientific and professional ethics in research, teaching, and practice.

Educational Effectiveness Indicators

  • Assessment from required courses
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Dissertation proposal defense (qualifying examination)
  • Dissertation manuscript: submission of two manuscripts from the dissertation to peer-reviewed journals. One manuscript published in peer-reviewed journal (from dissertation or non-dissertation).
  • Oral defense of dissertation
  • Teaching assistant
  • Presentation at a scientific conference

Program Requirements

Culminating Experience

As a part of the culminating experience, the student must have one publication in peer-reviewed journal (co-authorship or review article acceptable), submit two manuscripts from their dissertation research to peer reviewed journals, successfully defends dissertation, and submits a committee approved dissertation manuscript. Further details provided in the SPH Doctoral Handbook.



NUTR 504: Nutritional Metabolism

STAT 509: General Statistics

STAT 548 or STAT 549: Analytical Applications of SPSS or Analytical Applications of SAS

NUTR 517: Advanced Nutrition I: CHO, Lipids

NUTR 518: Advanced Nutrition II: Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals​

Required Courses


  • Micronutient metabolism course or equivalent

  • Macronutient metabolism course or equivalent

  • NUTR 504 Nutritional Metabolism 3

  • STAT 548 Analytical Applications of SAS and R 2, or STAT 549 Analytical Applications of SPSS

  • STAT 521 Biostatistics I 3-4 or AHRM 514 Biostatistics

Public health core

  • EPDM 509 Principles of Epidemiology 3

  • PHCJ 606 Public Health Fundamentals 4

  • PHCJ 608A Doctoral Seminar for Public Health 1

  • PHCJ 608B Doctoral Seminar for Public Health 1

  • PHCJ 608C Doctoral Seminar for Public Health 1

  • PHCJ 614 Pedagogy: The Art and Science of Teaching 2

  • PHCJ 615 Intermediate Biostatistics 3

  • PHCJ 618 Transformative Communication 2

Nutrition core

  • NUTR 617 Preventive Nutrition I: Carbohydrates and Lipids 2

  • NUTR 618 Preventive Nutrition II: Protein, Vitamins andMinerals 2

  • NUTR 619 Preventive Nutrition III: Phytochemicals 3

  • NUTR 620 Advanced Topics in Nutrition 6

  • NUTR 664 Vegetarian Nutrition: Person, Population, Planet 3

  • PHCJ 624A Scientist Forum 1

  • PHCJ 624B Scientist Forum 1

  • PHCJ 624C Scientist Forum 1


  • RELE 525 Ethics for Scientists

  • RELR 5__ Graduate-level Relational (RELR 540
    recommended) 3

  • RELT 5__ Graduate-level Theological 3

Electives 6

Research core

  • NUTR 634 Concepts of Nutritional Epidemiology 3

  • NUTR 639 Research Methods in Nutrition 2

  • NUTR 685 Preliminary Research Experience 2

  • NUTR 698 Dissertation 12

  • STAT 568 Data Analysis 3

Total Units - 73

Meet your program director

Sujatha Rajaram, PhD

Program director

Sujatha Rajaram, PhD