MS in Nutrition

The MS in 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 - this is a NEW OPTION FOR DIETETIC INTERNSHIP STUDENTS! (Master of Science in Nutrition PLUS Dietetic Internship)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Apply fundamental principles of science in nutrition research, professional practice, and required coursework.
  2. Explain, analyze, and interpret fundamental scientific concepts in the specific area of nutrition and dietetics.
  3. Apply appropriate methodology to nutrition research or issues in professional practice through the design, conduct, and defense of a culminating experience.
  4. Apply critical thinking skills to the analysis of published nutrition and dietetics literature and the design/interpretation of a culminating experience.
  5. Show independent and creative thinking skills in the formulation, design, conduct, and interpretation of nutrition and dietetics culminating experiences.
  6. Demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills while addressing issues in nutrition and dietetics.
  7. Work productively, respectfully, and professionally as part of nutrition and dietetics research or other professional teams.
  8. Exhibit leadership, ethical conduct, and community values when working with peers and professionals in nutrition and dietetics.

Admission Criteria

Thank you for your interest in the MS in nutrition at Cal Poly! 

Our program offers multiple program options and experiences for our students, including the option to work with a faculty advisor to develop strong research research and/or professional practice applications. Our unique Nutrition Graduate Group (NGG) model enables MS nutrition students to have faculty supervisors from many different disciplines on campus, including nutrition, food science, public health, kinesiology, psychology and child development, social sciences, and statistics.

Applicants to the traditional MS in nutrition (non-MSDI program option) 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 for our traditional MS program, 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.

Applicants interested in the MSDI program option have a different application process. This program option offers students the choice between a thesis or a professional project as a culminating experience. Additionally, this program option is a cohort-model and applications are due once a year at 11:59pm Pacific Time on February 1. For more information visit the dietetic internship program website.

Most applicants with undergraduate degrees in nutrition are eligible to apply for the traditional MS in nutrition 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 PLUS Dietetic Internship, please visit the Cal Poly Dietetic Internship webpage for application and admission details. Applications for this program are due by 11:59 pm Pacific Time on February 1.

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

MS Nutrition Coordinator: TBD for AY 2023-24, please contact the FSN Dept:

MSDI and DI Director: Kari Pilolla,

DPD Director: Corinne Kohlen,

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

Shannon McClorry, PhD - Metabolomics, Iron Deficiency, Infant Development

Kari Pilolla, PhD, RD - Nutrition and Exercise for Health, Wellness, and Performance 

Scott Reaves, PhD - Sports Nutrition, Molecular Nutrition

Angelos Sikalidis, PhD - Diabetes


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

Alison Ventura, PhD - Family Health, Nutrition

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: Angelos Sikalidis, PhD

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

Examples of current and past thesis topics (2020-now):



Nutrition Blended BMS Program

The FSN Department is offering a Blended BMS Program in nutrition - 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 NS program is for students from both the Applied Nutrition and the Nutrition Science concentrations.



The program is open to nutrition undergraduate students pursuing the BS degree in nutrition, 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 the following courses and recieved a grade of a B- or better:

  • CHEM 127 (General Chemistry for Agriculture & Life Science I)
  • CHEM 128 (General Chemistry for Agriculture & Life Science II) 
  • BIO 161 (Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology) 

Blended Program Application Process

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

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

Submit the FSN Nutrition BMS Program Application and required documents in one email to the Blended Program Coordinator, Angelos Sikalidis, 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, Angelos Sikalidis.

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 nutrition, in order to be granted a BS in nutrition and an MS in nutrition 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 nutrition student that meets the eligibility requirements should submit the following forms (printed format and pdf by email) to the Nutrition Blended Coordinator, Dr. Angelos Sikalidis, at

•Food science BMS application: FSN Nutrition BMS Program Application

•Recommendation Form: Recommendation Form for NS 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

As part of their undergraduate requirements, BMS students will complete a senior project in addition to a graduate thesis. Although the student can align their culminating experience objectives for the senior project and graduate thesis, they must each have their own course numbers with their own learning objectives and deliverables. 

Advisors for the blended Nutrition students will tenure track faculty from four departments:

  • Nutrition
  • Animal Science
  • Kinesiology and Public Health
  • Biological Sciences

Food Science and Nutrition

Dr. Anna Cahn - Community Nutrition

Dr. Shannon McClorry - Iron Deficiency Anemia, Metabolomics

Dr. Aydin Nazmi - Food Security, Epidemiology, Public Health

Dr. Kari Pilolla - Functional Foods, Exercise Physiology

Dr. Scott Reaves - Sports Nutrition

Dr. Angelos Sikalidis - Type 2 Diabetes

Animal Science

Dr. Mark Edwards - Comparative Nutrition

Dr. Rodrigo Manjarin - Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Kinesiology and Public Health

Dr. Suzanne Phelan - Gestational Diabetes and Maternal Health

Dr. Alison Ventura - Obesity Prevention; Parent-Child Interactions

Biological Sciences

Dr. Jean Davidson - Genetics; Gut Microbiome

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