Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Wellness (PhD)

Academic Programs / Graduate Degrees / Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Wellness (PhD)

HeaOptNHP, Kinesiology, Science, Transdisciplinary, exercise, fitness, health, lifestyle, therapy

Program Description
Degree Awarded: PHD  Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness

The graduate faculty mentors of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions offer a PhD degree in physical activity, nutrition and wellness. The mission of the program is to foster research which will promote healthy lifestyles intended to reduce the physical, social and economic costs of unhealthy living. While many healthy lifestyles are studied, the emphasis is on physically active living and sound nutrition.

Students are challenged to integrate disciplinary information from the exercise and nutrition sciences in combination with health promotion research and practice. Thus the doctoral program in physical activity, nutrition and wellness is uniquely designed to train scholars to conduct high impact, transdisciplinary health promotion research that explores issues that contribute to health through chronic disease risk reduction, quality of life promotion and enhancement of well-being.

Program graduates are prepared for research careers. The majority (70 percent) have procured postdoctoral research fellowships, research faculty positions in research intensive universities, or have obtained research positions in nonprofit industry, government or for-profit private sector research institutes. About 30 percent of graduates secure clinical or teaching-intensive positions upon graduation.

Students are to tailor a course of study in either: nutrition and health; or physical activity and health. Within these areas, students are expected to focus their study in a specific thematic area. There are eight thematic areas to choose from:

  1. chronic disease prevention
  2. energy balance, metabolism and physiology
  3. epidemiology, surveillance and measurement
  4. health communication, health technology and information
  5. lifespan, aging and special populations
  6. movement control and injury prevention
  7. behavioral aspects of nutrition and physical activity
  8. public health, community and health policy.

The program requires full-time residency and typically is completed within four years of full-time study after the master's degree. Students work with an approved mentor from the beginning to the end of the doctoral program. A mentor is selected by mutual agreement between student and mentor based on mutually compatible research interests and funding availability.

Students are actively engaged in research at every stage of the program through participation in research internships, independent research experiences, research seminars and colloquia, and dissertation research.

At a Glance
Degree Requirements

97 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Credit hour requirements are distributed as follows:

previously awarded master's degree (30)
core (6)
required research course (12)
elective research courses (17)
professional development (5)
area of focus (theme) (15)
dissertation (12)

Examples of areas of focus include:

  • chronic disease prevention
  • energy balance and metabolism
  • epidemiology, surveillance, measurement
  • lifespan, aging, special populations
  • metabolism, physiology and health
  • nutrition behavior change strategies
  • public and community health policy
  • strategies physical activity
  • technology and health promotion

Courses in the focus or thematic area are determined by the student and supervisory committee. Up to three but not more than nine credit hours in the focus area may be taken from a program outside the Nutrition, Exercise Science and Health Promotion programs.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must submit the online graduate admission application.

In addition to meeting the Division of Graduate Education requirements, applicants must have successfully received a master's degree prior to admission to the program, and it is preferable that a data-based research thesis has been completed.

Applicants must include the following materials with the online application:

  1. GRE scores (verbal, quantitative and writing)
  2. letter of intent indicating research or scholarly interest, primary program area, statement of career goals and name of a potential faculty mentor from the list of approved faculty mentors
  3. professional resume
  4. three letters of recommendation
  5. teaching or research assistantship application
  6. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score*
  7. writing sample (six to 10 pages)

*An applicant whose native language is not English, regardless of current residency, must submit a TOEFL score unless the requirements for an exception have been met.

Prerequisite courses: Students may only be admitted if the following prerequisite undergraduate course topics or their equivalent have been completed prior to starting the program:

  • exercise physiology
  • human anatomy
  • human nutrition
  • human physiology
  • upper-division nutrition

Students should also have completed a graduate-level statistics and research methods course.

It is expected that students admitted to the program will have a strong disciplinary foundation in physical activity and wellness, health promotion, exercise science or nutrition science. Individuals lacking background in these areas will be required to make up deficiencies before admission. Other requirements may be necessary depending on the area of study and will be determined by the mentor and executive committee.

Admission decisions are based on the compatibility of the applicant's research interests and career goals with the purpose of the degree program, previous academic training, GPA, GRE scores, recommendations, available funding and a match of research interests with available mentors.

It is expected that doctoral students will spend a minimum of three years in full-time residence. The intent is to involve and embed the student in ongoing research as well as class study. Thus, all doctoral students are to be full-time students and hold part-time appointments (20 hours per week) as teaching or research assistants. As such, to be accepted into the program, funding must be available and students must have the expertise, experience and willingness to teach courses or laboratories in the exercise and wellness or nutrition undergraduate curriculum or be a research assistant as funding allows.

Please see the program website for application deadlines and admission terms.

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Division of Graduate Education and the College of Health Solutions.

Contact Information

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