Graduate Programs

For students with undergraduate preparation in food science, nutrition, or other science-based curricula. A thesis is required. Research areas vary with faculty expertise and interest. Graduates are prepared for further study in doctoral programs or for responsible positions in the nutrition and food industries.

Graduate Education Handbook - Policies and Guidelines AY 2019-20

MS Food Science 

According to a report published by the California League of Food Processors in January 2015, food and beverage processing is California’s third largest manufacturing sector, responsible for a total of 760,000 jobs. The MS food science program integrates the disciplines of chemistry, microbiology, product development and processing/engineering, to prepare qualified graduates for food-related careers in industry, government, and academia.

The Food Science and Nutrition Department has a team of motivated, supportive and experienced food science faculty to prepare you to be successful in your professional career. Most of our faculty members have an interest in applied research and the research performed in our department is often done in collaboration with the food industry.

Students need to take a minimum of 45 credits to graduate from the program and write an MS thesis. Depending on the student’s research interest, many electives can be chosen as described in the curriculum tab.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the MS food science program will:

1. Apply fundamental principles of food science in research and required coursework

2. Formulate, design, conduct, and interpret food science research

3. Integrate theoretical food science principles and statistical design and analysis principles with practical applications to address real-world issues

4. Assess the implications of sustainability in food science

5. Effectively communicate discipline-specific information in written and          oral forms to scientific and non-scientific audiences

6. Exhibit leadership and ethical reasoning

Admission Criteria

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in food science or a related field such as physical or biological science, chemistry of engineering.

Applicants who lack the required preparatory coursework in basic sciences must complete these courses (either before being admitted or once admitted).  Basic sciences courses include the following:

  • General Chemistry:

        CHEM 127 General Chemistry for Agriculture and Life Science I

        CHEM 128 General Chemistry for Agriculture and Life Science II

  • Organic Chemistry:

        CHEM 216 Organic Chemistry I or

        CHEM 312 Survey of Organic Chemistry

  • Biochemistry:

        CHEM 313 Survey of Biochemistry and Biotechnology

  • Nutrition: 

        FSN 210 Nutrition

Students can check the Cal Poly course catalog website to determine similarity with courses they might have taken in previous institutions.

They can also submit their request to the graduate coordinator of the MS Food Science program, who will be able to confirm the similarity of the course(s). Once admitted, if a student is lacking some of these courses, the student’s committee will determine what courses the student should take, for a maximum of 12 units, based on his/her background and the type of research he/she will be focusing on.

The admission committee looks for evidence of intellectual potential by reviewing performance in university coursework, considering GRE/TOEFL scores, and carefully reading the candidate's statement of interest and letters of recommendation. The candidate's statement and recommendation letters should highlight the applicant's potential for performing independent, thoughtful research. That can be done, for example, by describing the candidate's previous research experience in an academic or industrial setting, or by describing the student's ability to think beyond class assignments in a coursework setting. The candidate's statement should include a description of the student's future research interests, as well as their motivation for pursuing graduate education.

Candidates should also mention to what extent they are relying on financial support from mentoring faculty to cover their stipend and tuition.

Cal Poly Graduate Education/Admissions:

The University offers funding opportunities for MS students including Teaching Assistantship and Graduate Assistantship. Once accepted in the program, you must discuss these opportunities with your major professor.

Application Process

To be considered, students should complete an application for Graduate Admission via  The deadlines for application are specified at

Program specific requirements must be submitted via Cal State Apply. These include:

o   Statement of purpose

o   Transcript(s) from the institution granting bachelor’s degree

o   Curriculum Vitae

o   Three letters of academic and/or professional recommendation.

o   Results from Graduate Record Examination (GRE standard test); quantitative, verbal and writing scores should be at the 50th percentile or higher for consideration.

o   Language proficiency requirement. This requirement does not apply if country of citizenship is listed on Cal Poly Admissions website:

All applicants who do not speak and write English as their primary language are required to complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), taken within the last 2 years with a minimum score of 550 (paper version), 213 (computerized version), or 80 (internet based). Submit scores electronically to Institution Code: 4038. 

*For USDA National Needs Fellowship applicants, make sure that your statement of purpose includes a description of your interests in the area of agricultural and food waste and why you are interested in an MS focusing on that topic.

Cal State Apply:

Cal Poly application deadlines:

Curriculum and Other Requirements

To complete the MS in food science, students must list in their Formal Study Plan 45 units of committee-approved coursework (including degree-required and elective coursework).  At least 60% of the units on the Formal Study Plan must be at the 500 level.  A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for coursework in the Formal Study Plan.  All students must meet the university’s current Graduation Writing Requirement.  In addition, all students must pass an oral defense of the thesis and satisfactorily complete the written thesis.

 The culminating experience for master’s degree

The thesis is based on independent, supervised research and must be approved by the thesis committee.  The final copy of the thesis must meet the standards explained in the "Formatting Guidelines for Preparing Master’s Theses and Project Reports" available from the Cal Poly Graduate Education Office, online at A copy of the thesis must be received and reviewed by the Thesis Editor in the Graduate Education Office.  An oral defense of the rationale and objectives for the thesis project is recommended, no later than the end of the 2nd quarter of year 1, and an oral defense of the findings of the thesis project is required.  Upon completion of any required corrections, the student submits the electronic thesis/project report to the DigitalCommons@CalPoly, a digital archive for the university.  These steps must be completed before the degree is awarded.  The Master thesis submission process is summarized at

Required Courses (29 units)

Core Courses

Catalog number

Course title


FSN 505

Orientation to graduate research


FSN 599



STAT 513

Applied Experimental Design and Regression Models


SS 501

Research Planning


FSN 564

Chemistry of Food Systems


FSN 575

Advanced Food Safety


FSN 581

Food Science Seminar – Sustainability



Total required coursework



Supervisor-approved electives (400-500 level)

Varies with student’s background and research focus.



Total units needed for graduation



Students should review course prerequisites carefully prior to selection of elective courses within each emphasis area as electives may require additional prerequisite course(s). 

The table below summarizes required courses, which have some prerequisites other than graduate standing.

 Required courses having prerequisites others than only graduate standing

Course Name

Course Number



Applied Experimental Design and Regression Models

STAT 513

Graduate status and one of the following: STAT 217STAT 218STAT 252STAT 312STAT 511, or STAT 542.

A prerequisite option is STAT 217, a course covering the basics of statistics, which most of the students might have already taken in their BS curriculum.  

Advanced Food Safety

FSN 575

FSN 375 or graduate standing; and MCRO 421.

Prerequisite for MCRO 421: MCRO 221 or MCRO 224

Prerequisite for MCRO 221: CHEM 110, CHEM 111,   CHEM 124, CHEM 127, or PSC 102.

Prerequisite for MCRO 224: BIO 161 and CHEM 111,   CHEM 124 or CHEM 127

MCRO 221 is offered all year long and CHEM 127 is listed in our preparatory courses for the MS (See section Admission Requirements). Students could take MCRO 221 in Fall of their first year, then MCRO 421 in Fall of year 2 and FSN 575 in Winter of their 2nd year.

Graduate Faculty

Samir Amin, PhD - Product Development, Culinary

Luis Castro, PhD - Food Chemistry, Flavor Chemistry, Brewing Science

Gour Choudhury, PhD - Food Process Engineering

Stephanie Jung, PhD - Processing, Engineering, Chemistry, Sustainability

Amy Lammert, PhD - Sensory Science, Product Development, Food Polymer Science

Amanda Lathrop, PhD - Microbiology, Food Safety

NO GRE required for Winter and Spring 2023 quarter applicants.

Food Science Blended BMS Program

The FSN Department is offering a Blended BMS Program in food science - for current Cal Poly students only.

What is a Blended Program?

  • Joint (blended) Bachelor's and Master's degree
  • No “formal” application made through Admissions; no application fee
  • Under Title V, a minimum of 225 total units required (BS 180 + MS 45)
  • Blended matriculation is “Graduate”

The Blended FS program is for students from both the Advanced Food Science and the Culinology concentrations.



The program is open to food science undergraduate students pursuing the BS degree in food science (For both Advanced Food Science and Culinology concentrations), with a minimum CPSLO GPA of 3.0 at the time of application to the blended program.

Applications must be approved before the student has completed 170 units toward their undergraduate curriculum requirement. If students reach 170 units for the undergraduate requirement, they are not eligible for the BMS program.

Students must have taken FSN 330 and FSN 364 prior to the quarter they apply to the blended program.                       

Blended Program Application Process

Students seeking to apply to the blended BS and MS degree program (BMS) in food science must complete the following steps:

• Determine if you meet the criteria for admission in the blended program, see FSN Food Science BMS Program Application.

Submit the FSN Food Science BMS Program Application and required documents in one email to the Blended Program Coordinator, Dr. Luis Castro, at, by the deadlines listed in that form.

Once you received notification of acceptance in the program, and the name of your mentor faculty, you will have two weeks to submit the Admission to Blended Programs Approval Form to the Blended Program Coordinator, Dr. Luis Castro.

Students admitted to the BMS program must complete their thesis within two (2) years of completing their coursework. Students who do not meet this deadline will be removed from the program.

Program Requirements

Students must fulfill all of the requirements for the MS food science degree, along with all the requirements of the BS in food science, in order to be granted a BS in food science and an MS in food science at the end of their studies.

Additional information about admission and FAQ's: Academic Programs and Planning

Blended Program FAQ's: Blended Programs BMS

Application Forms

A Cal Poly prospective food science student that meets the eligibility requirements should submit the following forms (printed format and pdf by email) to the Food Science Blended Coordinator, Dr. Luis Castro, at

•Food science BMS application: FSN Food Science BMS Program Application

•Recommendation Form: Recommendation Form for FS BMS Admission

After acceptance to the BMS program, submit the following forms:

•Cal Poly BMS application: Admission to Blended Programs Approval Form

•Post-Baccalaureate Change of Objective Form (PBCO): PB Change of Objective

CSU Mentor $55 application fee is waived and no GRE exam is required for the BMS program

Culminating Experience/Faculty Advisors

The culminating experience of a Cal Poly blended student will be a thesis (9) units. The program will allow students to complete a capstone experience that integrates the senior project with the graduate thesis. The blended students will need to submit a senior project, in addition to their thesis.

Faculty advisors for the BMS in food science include all food science faculty from the Food Science and Nutrition Department plus faculty from the Animal Science and Wine and Viticulture Departments. Faculty, mentoring BMS students, will change every quarter, of which the students will be notified.

Food Science and Nutrition

Dr. Samir Amin - Product Development, Culinary

Dr. Luis Castro - Chemistry

Dr. Gour Choudhury - Engineering

Dr. Stephanie Jung - Processing, Engineering, Chemistry, Sustainability

Dr. Amy Lammert - Sensory, Product Development

Dr. Amanda Lathrop - Microbiology, Food Safety

Animal Science

Dr. Ike Kang - Meat Science

Dr. Vincent Yeung - Dairy Science

Wine and Viticulture

Dr. Frederico Casassa - Enology



Food Science Graduate Coordinator: Luis Castro, PhD    

NO GRE required for Winter and Spring 2023 quarter applicants.

Results from Graduate Record Examination (GRE standard test); quantitative, verbal and writing scores should be at the 50th percentile or higher for consideration.


MS Nutrition

The MS nutrition program is designed to prepare graduates for advancement, specialization, and leadership in nutrition or healthcare careers. In addition, graduates will be prepared for further education in professional schools, allied health professions, or doctoral studies in a number of academic areas including public health, animal science, or the social sciences. The interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Nutrition (GGN) allows students to work with faculty from several departments and to choose a research topic from a broad range of themes including human nutrition, animal nutrition, kinesiology, public health, business, or social sciences.

Students are encouraged to select an area of emphasis from the following list:

  • Molecular Nutrition
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Health and wellness
  • Dietetics - Pending approval, this is a NEW OPTION FOR DIETETIC INTERNSHIP STUDENTS! (Master's Degree Dietetic Internship)

Learning Outcomes

  • Master the fundamental principles of nutrition science
  • Demonstrate a high level of technical competency and depth of expertise in the specific area of thesis research 
  • Understand and apply the scientific method to nutrition research through the design and conduct of a thesis research project
  • Apply critical thinking skills to the analysis of published research literature and the design/interpretation of a thesis research project
  • Show independent and creative thinking skills in the planning, design, and conduct of nutrition research
  • Demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills
  • Work productively, respectfully, and professionally as part of a research team and in other group settings
  • Exhibit leadership, ethical conduct, and community values

Admission Criteria

Hello and thanks for your interest in the MS nutrition at Cal Poly. 

We have a thesis-based program that gives students strong research experience under the direct leadership of their faculty supervisor. Our unique Nutrition Graduate Group (NGG) model enables MS nutrition students to have faculty supervisors from, in addition to food science and nutrition, kinesiology, psychology and child development, social sciences, and statistics.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty members to discuss research interests and availability for supervision of MS students. This is an important part of the admission process as it is the practice of the NGG to admit a student only when a faculty member (from any of the above departments) has agreed to serve as the student’s major professor. Students will work closely with their faculty advisor to determine which elective courses beyond the core curriculum are most appropriate. Areas of emphasis may include molecular nutrition, public health nutrition, health and wellness, or others.

Most applicants with undergraduate degrees in nutrition are eligible to apply for the MS program. Applicants with other undergraduate degrees are also eligible to apply, with pre-requisite coursework, see below table for details. Students with undergraduate degrees other than nutrition must discuss their situation with potential thesis supervisors and the NGG to coordinate curriculum requirements and to develop an appropriate study plan.


Cal Poly equivalent

General chemistry

CHEM 127 and 128

Organic chemistry

CHEM 212

General biochemistry

CHEM 313

Introductory biology

BIO 161

Introductory nutrition

FSN 210

Nutrient metabolism 

FSN 331, 332, & 333 (lab)

Be sure courses from other institutions are appropriate equivalents (use if using transfer courses from another CA public institution).


*If interested in the Master's Degree Dietetic Intership, please visit the Cal Poly Dietetic Internship page for application and admission details.

Applications are accepted until April 1, but candidates are strongly encouraged to submit by mid-January. As a relatively small, non-cohort program, it is important that candidates connect with NGG faculty, discuss potential areas of research, include these considerations in their statement of interest, and submit applications early.

DPD information

If you have a nutrition undergraduate degree, but have not completed the DPD (Didactic Program in Dietetics) track and are interested in doing so at Cal Poly, this is usually possible with the addition of a few classes to the MS curriculum.

Our MS program does not currently offer a formal dual MS-DPD track for graduate students without a nutrition undergraduate degree. However, enrolled students may take DPD courses alongside their MS courses, but this should be carefully planned in conjunction with the student’s supervisor upon matriculation. Some of the 400 level DPD courses may be able to count as electives in the MS nutrition, the number of DPD courses left to complete depends on what the applicant has already taken. If the applicant has completed all of the sciences, survey of economics, general psychology, pre-calculus algebra and a basic nutrition course, that leaves about 16 classes, most are 4 quarter units each, to take in addition to the MS curriculum. The handbook attached includes a DPD course list for your information. The DPD requirements total approximately 115 quarter units at Cal Poly however many of the lower division science and other courses can be found at other universities and community colleges.

Students admitted to the MS nutrition interested in completing the Didactic Program in Dietetics must submit official transcripts to the DPD Director for evaluation of courses that meet the DPD requirements after which the student, their Advisor and the DPD Director will work together to integrate DPD requirements with MS requirements.

Important financial information

The MS is composed of 45 units. State/federal student aid/loan programs will only cover up to 125% of the required number of units to graduate.

As such, it is vital that students needing to take more than 56 units while at Cal Poly be prepared for the financial implications of their route of study.

Information regarding individual FSN courses is available in the Cal Poly Course Catalog (link below).

Application Process for the MS in Nutrition ONLY (not the Master's Degree Dietetic Internship)

All applicants must submit

  • A statement of purpose
  • 3 letters of reference

For applicants with degrees from outside the US, all of the above applies, plus:

  • Your international credentials must be evaluated by one of these agencies: AACRAO, ACEI, WES or IERF
  • Proficiency in English must be demonstrated by taking TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) within the last 2 years with an internet score of 80 or greater or ELTS (International English Language Testing System) must be taken within 2 years with a score of 6.0 or greater
  • TOFEL or ELTS is required to issue an I20 visa

Aydin Nazmi, MS Nutrition Coordinator:

Kari Pilolla, DI & MSDI Director:

Corinne Kohlen, DPD Director:

FSN Department office:

Cal Poly Graduate Education office:

MS nutrition program information:

FSN Department website:

FSN catalog of courses:

Cal Poly application deadlines:

CSU Apply application:

Career Opportunities

The anticipated career paths of MS nutrition graduates include jobs in public health, community nutrition, clinical nutrition, food industry, food service and management, and postsecondary education. The MS also prepares students for clinical science fields as well as PhD programs in a broad range of areas.


Graduate Faculty

Food Science and Nutrition

Anna Cahn, PhD, RD, CLEC - Community Nutrition, Food Insecurity, Disease Prevention

Aydin Nazmi, PhD - Public Health Nutrition, Social Epidemiology, Chronic Disease Etiology and Epidemiology

Kari Pilolla, PhD, RD - Cardiometabolic Health, Sport Nutrition, Community Nutrition

Scott Reaves, PhD - Sports Nutrition, Molecular Nutrition

Angelos Sikalidis, PhD - Diabetes


Marilyn Tseng -  Nutrition Epidemiology, Public Health Nutrition, Immigrant Health

Alison Ventura, PhDFamily Health, Nutrition

Biological Sciences

Christopher Kitts, PhD - Microbial Ecology

Animal Science

Mark Edwards, PhD - Comparative Animal Nutrition

Social Sciences

Dawn Neil - Human Behavioral Ecology, Nutritional Anthropology, Ecology of Obesity, Urban Anthropology


Nutrition Graduate Coordinator: Aydin Nazmi    




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