Doctoral Degree Requirements

Back to Top

Degree Requirements
Minor in Nutrition for doctoral students
Doctoral Preliminary Written Exam
Doctoral Preliminary Oral Exam
Doctoral Final Oral Exam
Example Schedule for the Nutrition Doctoral Degree
Important Deadlines for Doctoral Degree Completion
Time Limit for Earning the Doctoral Degree

Degree Requirements

The doctor of philosophy is primarily a research degree. Consequently, it’s heavily focused on the research project and less on coursework. The following research areas are available in the program:
• Human Nutrition
• Nutritional Biochemistry
• Public Health Nutrition

The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 50 credits. If you have a MS in Nutrition from UMN, the Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 48 credits (14 Graduate Level Nutrition credits and 6 credits outside the major will have already been completed and can be used toward the Ph.D. requirements).

14 Graduate Level Course Credits in Nutrition

• NUTR 8621, Presentation Skills (Fall, 1 credit) Should been taken the first fall semester. This is an orientation class taught by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

• Graduate Nutrition core series*

NUTR 5625 - Nutritional Biochemistry (Fall, 3 credits)
NUTR 5626 - Nutritional Physiology (Spring, 3 credits)
NUTR 5622 - Vitamin and Mineral Biochemistry (Spring, 3 credits)

• Two 8xxx level courses (2 credits each) from the following list:

NUTR 8620, Advances in Nutrition (Spring)
NUTR 8620 Advances in Nutrition (Fall)
NUTR 8611 Nutrition and Cancer (every other Fall)

12 Graduate Level Course Credits Outside the Major

• Must include one graduate level Statistics course.
• Students enrolling Fall semester 2015 and later must include one graduate level research methods course (at least 2 cr.). Students can select from a list of recommended courses already offered across the university in consultation with their adviser. View this page for the current list of courses.
• Other courses may be from any field but must be at the 5xxx or 8xxx level. (Exceptions: 6xxx Public Health courses are allowed)

24 Doctoral Thesis Credits (NUTR 8888)

Transfer Courses

The graduate level courses taken at another institution that are determined to be equivalent may be substituted for program courses based on faculty approval and Graduate School guidelines. Students must submit a Graduate Degree Plan form, in consultation with their adviser, to ensure that their course plan fulfills the minimum graduate education and program requirements. A copy of the form is found here. Proposed use of transfer credit from other institutions is also included on this form.

For information regarding transfer credits policy visit this website.

Additional Doctoral Degree Requirements
• The 14 graduate level course credits in Nutrition must be taken on an A/F basis (except NUTR 8621). Biostatistics should also be taken on an A/F basis but the other required courses outside the major can be taken S/N.
• Maintenance of a 3.0 GPA
• In addition to the academic requirements, students are expected to obtain teaching experience. All PhD Nutrition graduate students are expected to assist in teaching a course three times.
• Passage of a preliminary written exam
• Passage of a preliminary oral exam (taken after passage of the preliminary written exam)
• Passage of a final oral exam
• Completion of a doctoral thesis

Back to Top

Minor in Nutrition for doctoral students

Taking the following coursework will complete a minor in Nutrition for Ph.D. students in other doctoral programs:
• NUTR 5625 - Nutritional Biochemistry (Fall, 3 credits)
• NUTR 5626 - Nutritional Physiology (Spring, 3 credits)
• NUTR 5622 Vitamin and Mineral Biochemistry (Spring, 3 credits)
• Two 8xxx level courses (2 credits each) from the following list:

NUTR 8620, Advances in Nutrition (Spring)
NUTR 8620 Advances in Nutrition (Fall)
NUTR 8611 Nutrition and Cancer (every other Fall)

Back to Top

Doctoral Preliminary Written Exam

All Ph.D. students take a preliminary written examination when most or all of their coursework is completed, normally prior to the third semester following completion of the M.S. degree or prior to the beginning of the fifth semester in residence for the Ph.D. The written exam is a test of the breadth of general nutrition knowledge, as well as the ability to integrate and communicate knowledge regarding specific topics. The examination is given once yearly, one to two weeks after the end of spring semester. The student must notify the DGS by March 1 if they intend to take the examination. The examination is a take-home exam and students are given one month to complete it. Results are usually available by the end of July. The exam consists of questions in general nutrition and in the student's area of specialization which may be:
• Human Nutrition (includes normal and clinical nutrition)
• Nutritional Biochemistry (includes nutritional biochemistry, molecular biology of nutrients and physiology)
• Public Health Nutrition (students who wish to focus on epidemiology should choose this as their area of specialization)

Three questions are to be answered for each of the two examinations (general nutrition and the area of specialization). The student must demonstrate a level of competence greater than expected from examinations written in courses and should demonstrate ability to synthesize material and solve problems.
Students may not discuss questions with other students or look at answers to previous exams.

Scoring
Each answer will be evaluated according to the following scale:
1 -Totally unacceptable performance for a Ph.D. candidate in Nutrition at UMN.
2 - Missed most of the major points in answering the examination.
3 - Just below acceptable performance for a Ph.D. candidate.
4 - Just acceptable performance for a Ph.D. candidate.
5 - Good performance.
6 - Very good performance for a Ph.D. candidate.
7 - Expected performance level of University faculty.
8 - Professional level performance expected of an established expert in the area in question.

Grading
A student must answer three questions in the general nutrition section and three questions in the area of specialization, for a total of six questions. To pass the examination, the student must achieve an average score of 4.0 on five out of six questions. Whenever possible, answers will be given to the author of the question for grading. For each question that has been attempted, the DGS will appoint a secondary grader. Student names are not associated with a particular answer. Answers will be graded by both the author and the secondary grader, and these two scores averaged for the final grade to be used in determining the examination outcome, except where the outcome of the examination is close to a pass or fail. An exam will be re-graded only if the individual's total score for the exam (not individual questions) is below a Pass. A third grader's scoring will be used only in cases where the total score is below a 4.0 but above 3.5. In such a case an average of the three graders' scores for all questions will be used in determining the average score for the examination.

The DGS will notify the student of the examination results, generally by the end of July. Any disagreement with the examination results can follow standard Graduate School grievance procedures. After passing the preliminary written examination, the student may then request a date for the preliminary oral examination, assuming that his or her Degree Plan has been submitted.

If the preliminary written examination is failed, it may be repeated once. The examination must be repeated at the next regularly scheduled offering of the examination.

Plagiarism
Although the written exam is a take-home exam, it is assumed that the work you turn in is entirely your own. If you use another person’s ideas, you must give them credit through the proper use of quotation marks and/or citations. It may be considered plagiarism if you do not do this. Although this may occasionally be unintentional, it is nevertheless unacceptable and considered a serious offense. Any student who plagiarizes will automatically fail the written exam. Please visit this website for a thorough discussion of the definition of plagiarism and University of Minnesota policies.

Back to Top

Doctoral Preliminary Oral Exam

The preliminary oral exam is scheduled at a time in the student's doctoral program when the majority of course work has been completed and the preliminary written exam has been passed. Some effort toward the development of a thesis topic also should have been made, although development to the point of data collection is not intended.

Preliminary Oral Exam Committee
This committee has a minimum of four members, three in the major area, including the research adviser, and one in the minor or in the supporting areas. This committee and its chair are approved by the adviser, committee members and the DGS after considering recommendations from the student and his or her adviser. Generally, the chair of the exam committee will set the specific time-sequence and protocol of the events in the exam. The student should consult with the chair of the exam committee with regard to more specific information about this. University-wide graduate education policy regarding committee membership can be found on this website.

Visit this link to assign members to your preliminary oral exam committee.

Scheduling the Preliminary Oral Exam
The student must have an approved Degree Plan on file prior to taking the preliminary oral exam. The Documentation of Nutrition Program Milestones Form must be approved by the DGS prior to approval of the examining committee (see this form). The student must schedule the exam through the Graduate School at least one week prior to the exam date.

Visit this link to schedule your preliminary oral exam:

General Emphasis of the Preliminary Oral Exam
The goal of the preliminary oral exam is to assess the student's ability for critical thought related to nutrition in the context of a presentation of a research topic. The preliminary oral exam is a challenge for innovative scientific thinking and typically not a test of the breadth of general nutrition knowledge, which is a goal of the written exams. Since the preliminary written exam does not include questions in the minor or supporting areas, students may expect broad questions related to these. The general assessments in this Ph.D. oral exam are:
• Comprehension of nutritional science as it is related to the proposed thesis topic.
• Problem solving ability.
• Communication/oral skills.

Preliminary Oral Exam Proposed Research Summary
A written Proposed Research Summary will be provided to each examiner two weeks before the scheduled date of the preliminary oral exam. The exact length and format of the Research Summary will be determined after discussions among the student and their adviser and committee chair. It is generally recommended that the written summary should be a brief (5-10 pages plus references, double-spaced) to assist the examiners in understanding what the student proposal is for their thesis research, and why they feel the project is significant. It may include ongoing thesis research and should cover the following:
1. Research hypothesis
2. Background and nutritional significance
3. Proposed research methods
4. Preliminary data, or proposed data to be collected, its interpretation and its significance

Oral Presentation
The student is expected to prepare a 15-20 minute oral presentation with power point slides. The material presented is generally the same as that in the Research Summary. The exact length and format of the student’s oral presentation will be determined after discussions between the student and his or her adviser. In order to allow for sufficient time for questions from the committee members, it is recommended that no more than about 30 slides be prepared.

If the preliminary oral examination is failed, it may be repeated once, at the discretion of the examining committee. After successful completion of the preliminary written and oral exams, the student is officially considered a Ph.D. candidate.

Back to Top

Doctoral Final Oral Exam

The final oral examination is a defense of the thesis and is scheduled upon completion of the thesis.

Exam Committee
The make-up of the doctoral final oral examination committee is agreed upon by the student and adviser and submitted to the adviser, committee members, DGS, the College and the GSSP for approval. This committee may be composed of the same examiners as the preliminary oral exam, or it may be different. Students must obtain agreement from examiners prior to listing them as committee members. There are a minimum of four members, three from the major area and one from the minor or supporting areas. The chair of the doctoral final oral examination committee may not be the candidate’s adviser or co-adviser. These members are suggested members and the DGS, as well as the Graduate School, are not obligated to constitute the committee as suggested by the student and adviser. Visit this link to assign members to your final oral exam committee.

Notify the adviser and other members of the Final Examination committee at least two weeks in advance that the dissertation will be delivered on a particular date. All Examining Committee members must have at least two weeks to read the dissertation after it has been delivered.

General Emphasis of the Exam
The final oral examination consists of a public seminar in which the candidate presents the thesis and to which the scholarly community is invited. It will be publicized by the program coordinator. (Contact Nancy Toedt, the Graduate Program Coordinator 2 weeks before the exam with the date, time, room and title.) The examination is limited to the candidate’s thesis subject and relevant areas. A closed meeting between the candidate and the appointed examining committee immediately follows the thesis presentation. The total exam will not exceed three hours. Upon request, students may also do a presentation at the department seminar near the completion of their degree.

The final oral examination must be scheduled through the Graduate School at least one week in advance of the exam date.

Visit this link to schedule your final oral exam.

Visit this link for administrative policy on doctoral degree completion.

Back to Top

Example Schedule for the Nutrition Doctoral Degree

Fall Semester 1
NUTR 8621, Presentation Skills, 1 credit (students should take this course their first fall semester)
NUTR 5625 - Nutritional Biochemistry, 3 credits
PUBH 6450, Biostatistics I, 4 credits
Begin thesis literature review
Begin thesis research

Spring Semester 2
NUTR 5622 - Vitamin and Mineral Biochemistry, 3 credits
NUTR 5626 - Nutritional Physiology, 3 credits
Fulfill 1st Teaching Assistant (T.A.) responsibility
Update literature review as needed throughout
Take Written Preliminary Exam

Fall Semester 3
NUTR 8620, Advanced Topics, 2 credits
Research Methods Course (at least 2 credits)
Submit Degree Plan and Assign members to Oral Preliminary Exam Committee (if successfully passed the written prelim exam)
Fulfill 2nd T.A. responsibility
Submit abstract for presentation at national/international meeting

Spring Semester 4
NUTR 8620, Advanced Topics, 2 credits
PUBH 6451, Biostatistics II, 4 credits
Take Written preliminary Exam if not taken the prior spring semester

Fall Semester 5
Take Oral Preliminary Exam (This may be taken earlier, depending on when the written prelim is taken)
Begin writing publication(s)/thesis
Fulfill 3rd T.A. responsibility
Submit abstract for presentation at national/international meeting

Spring Semester 6
Complete thesis research.
Assign members to Final Exam Committee Complete writing publication(s)/thesis

Outside Major Course Information and Terms Offered
Statistics

PUBH 6450, Biostatistics I (4 credits fall, spring, every year)
PUBH 6451, Biostatistics II (4 credits, spring, every year)
STAT 5021 Statistical Analysis (4 credits, fall, spring, every year)

Research Methods Course: View this page for the current list of courses. Consult with adviser before choosing a course.
Spring Semester: PUBH 6450/6451 MAY conflict with NUTR 5622
Electives must be taken at the 5xxx or 8xxx level. Exception: FScN 4622 (Nutritional Toxicology) and 6xxx Public Health courses are allowed.

Back to Top

Important Deadlines for Doctoral Degree Completion

1. Register every fall and spring semester until your degree is awarded.
2. Complete Annual Student Progress Report in March every year.
3. Complete Graduate Degree Plan in the second year.
4. Complete Preliminary Written Exam at the end of the first or second year.
5. Assign members to Preliminary Oral Exam Committee at least one month prior to exam. Complete Nutrition Milestone Form (view form) at the same time.
6. Schedule Preliminary Oral Exam at least three weeks in advance. Notify the adviser and other members of the Oral Preliminary Exam Committee at least two weeks in advance that the prelim exam proposal will be delivered on a particular date. All Examining Committee members must have at least two weeks to read the proposal after it has been delivered. Notify GSSP of scheduled exam at least one week in advance.
7. Submit Preliminary Oral Exam Report to GSSP.
8. Assign members to Doctoral Final Exam committee at least one month prior to exam.
9. Download Graduation Packet up to one semester before Final Exam.
10. Schedule Final Exam. Notify the adviser and other members of the Final Examination committee at least two weeks in advance that the dissertation will be delivered on a particular date. All Examining Committee members must have at least two weeks to read the dissertation after it has been delivered. Notify the FScN Graduate Program Coordinator of the date, time and room of the public portion of the exam so it can be publicized. Notify GSSP of scheduled exam at least one week in advance.
11. Submit Graduate Application for Degree the first business day of anticipated month of graduation.
12. Obtain signatures for Reviewer’s Report prior to the Final Exam and turn in to GSSP to obtain Final Examination Report Form.
13. Submit Final Examination Report Form no later than the last business day of anticipated month of graduation.
14. After final exam, make corrections or revisions to the dissertation. Submit dissertation within six months of the final exam date to GSSP Office and submit one bound copy of the thesis to FScN Student Services in 225J FScN. For instructions visit the Graduate School website
15. Perform required Departmental laboratory checkout. Turn in keys.
16. Students should schedule an exit interview with the Department Head.

For links to the forms needed for these degree completion steps see:
Doctoral Degree Completion Steps

Back to Top

Time Limit for Earning the Doctoral Degree

All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed and the degree awarded within eight calendar years after initial enrollment to the graduate program. Students who are unable to complete the degree within the time limits described above may petition the program and collegiate unit for one extension of up to 24 months. Students must obtain the approval of their adviser/s and program DGS and submit the petition for an extension at least six months prior to the end of the time limit. If a petition is approved, the student is notified in writing of the expectations for progress and of the month/year of degree conferral. If the petition is denied, the student is notified in writing that he or she will be terminated from doctoral candidacy and from the graduate program upon expiration of the time limit. Under extraordinary circumstances, students may file a second petition for an additional 24 month extension after the first 24 months have expired; however such petitions after the initial extension must be reviewed and approved by the adviser/s, program DGS, and Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education. Students who have been terminated under such circumstances may apply for readmission to the program; however, readmission is not guaranteed. For a petition form visit this website

Back to Top