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   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 110CHEM 111,   CHEM 124CHEM 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

Food Science Graduate Coordinator: Luis Castro, PhD    

NO GRE required for Winter, Spring, and Fall 2023 quarter applicants.

Examples of current and past thesis topics (2019-now):

Some successes of our current Food Science master's students:


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): (will be available April 12th).

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


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