Nutritional and Metabolic Biology

Program Category: PhD Programs
Email Address: nutrition [at]
Director of the Institute of Human Nutrition: Richard J. Deckelbaum, MD
Director of the PhD Program and Chair of the Training Committee: Debra Wolgemuth, PhD
Degree Programs: Full-Time: PhD
Please note: the degree for this program is conferred by GSAS, but program specifics, such as admissions, degree requirements, financial aid, etc., are administered by other schools of the University.

This program is located on the Columbia University Medical Center campus.


The Doctoral Program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology (NMB) prepares individuals to conduct original research in nutrition as it relates to the health sciences; to teach in colleges, graduate schools, and medical schools; and to pursue careers in basic and translational research at the national and international level.

The NMB program integrates a number of fields relating to human health and disease. Students with master’s degrees or highly qualified baccalaureate degree holders are considered for admission to the Doctoral Program.

Students prepare themselves for qualifying examinations and dissertation research by judicious selection of required and elective didactic courses at the Medical Center and in other divisions of the University. Instruction is organized around a core area of concentration (see training areas below) through a combination of courses, seminars, tutorials, and laboratory research.

NMB thesis research training is available in molecular, cellular, and biological aspects of:
Atherogenesis and vascular cell biology Micronutrient metabolism and function Nutrition in growth and development 
Cardiovascular disease Vitamin A and retinoids Cancer biology
Obesity and energy balance Lipids and lipoproteins Microbiology and immunology
Neurobiology Diabetes Cellular signaling
Molecular epidemiology Bone metabolism and function Stem cell biology

Students are expected to acquire expertise and knowledge in the areas of molecular and cell biology, physiology and metabolism, general and nutritional biochemistry, and biostatistics. 

Students are provided exposure to underlying metabolic and physiologic derangements associated with clinical nutrition disorders. Emphasis is on problems related to obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, infant nutrition, gastrointestinal disease, renal failure, parenteral nutrition, and preventive nutrition. 

The first year of the program consists of advanced courses and seminars in nutrition and molecular biology, elective courses, laboratory work and exploration of research opportunities for the dissertation topic.

Course selection for individual students is at the discretion of the Training Committee and the Dissertation Research Advisory Committee (DRAC).  First year students typically take the following required courses

Required courses for the MA degree
Fall Spring
Pathology G6003, Mechanisms of Human Disease I Pathology G6004, Mechanisms of Human Disease ll
Biochemistry G6300 Biochemical/Molecular/Cell Biology I Biochemistry G6301 Biochemical/Molecular/Cell Biology ll
Human Nutrition G9205, Doctoral Seminar in Nutrition Human Nutrition G4020 Molecular and Cell Biology of Nutrients
Human Nutrition G9011, Doctoral Research in Nutrition I Human Nutrition G9205 Doctoral Seminar in Nutrition
  Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies 4010, Responsible Conduct of Research and Related Policy Issues
  Human Nutrition G9011, Doctoral Research in Nutrition II
One Biostatistics Course (Fall only):  
Public Health P6104 Introduction to Biostatistical Methods (includes registration for P6114 Recitation) OR  
Public Health P6103 Introduction to Biostatistics (includes registration for P6114 Recitation)  

Electives may be taken at any time, usually after the first year in the program. The selection of courses should be based on the student’s research interests and career goals, or to fill deficits in their background. The NMB program is an integral part of the biomedical training program at the Health Sciences campus. Elective courses are offered in the following departments: Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Biostatistics, Genetics and Development, Microbiology, Pathology and Cell Biology, Pharmacology, Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, and Psychology. Below is a selection of possible courses from which to choose:'

Fall  Spring
Human Nutrition M8205 Biochemical and Physiological Basis of Nutrition I Human Nutrition M8205 Biochemical and Physiological Basis of Nutrition II
Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies G4150, Microbioal Molecular Genetics Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies G4020, Biological Sequence Analysis
Pathology G4500, Cancer Biology I Genetics and Development G4027, Principles of Developmental Biology
Pharmacology G8001, Principles of System Pharmacology  
Biochemistry G4250, Molecular Biophysics  

Second-year students take additional courses, if needed, participate in research and seminars, have an initial meeting with their DRAC and complete the Qualifying Examination.

Third year students meet once or twice a year with their DRAC, in anticipation of preparation and submission of the dissertation. Ideally, at the end of the fifth or sixth year the research is completed and the dissertation is defended and deposited with the University.

Instruction and thesis research are carried out under the guidance of the NMB PhD Program Training Faculty and the direct guidance of the Training Committee of the NMB Program. In addition, an individual three-member DRAC advises each doctoral candidate.

Our on-line application for Fall 2020 admission will be available mid-September. Your completed application should be received no later than December 1, 2019. Click here to access the online application:

For questions about the application process, please email us at GSASatPandS [at] or call (212) 305-8058.

For Information on the NMB doctoral program, please email the Institute of Human Nutrition at nutrition [at] or call 212-305-4808.

The Aptitude (General) GRE is required and of one advanced subject GRE is also recommended but not required.

International applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

A personal interview will be offered for those whose applications are under active consideration.

Special Admissions Requirements: 

  1.  General GRE is required and results of one subject GRE are also recommended.
  2. A personal interview, if possible.
Deadline for Fall Admission: Monday, December 1, 2019
GRE General: Yes
GRE Subject: Recommended
Degree Programs: Full Time