The relationship between food, nutrition, and health

Program highlights: Diet and disease, Economic influences on human health, Human health and nutrition, Nutrition and fitness counseling, Nutrition and public health, Nutritional biochemistry, Social influences on human nutrition


The Nutritional Sciences (NS) major provides a thorough foundation in the life sciences and teaches students how the relationship between food and nutrition affects the health and well-being of individuals, families, and populations. In addition to studying nutrition from a molecular level, students study the cultural, political, economic, and social components that determine how people and communities access, afford, are educated around, and make decisions about nutrition. NS majors learn to critically interpret research and apply it to societal issues, government policies, and people’s everyday lives.

The Nutritional Sciences program is offered by the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). The NS program in CHE focuses on the consumption of nutrition and its impact on human health and interactions. Students in CALS combine their work in nutrition with coursework in food systems, agriculture, and the broader life sciences.

Coursework in biology, chemistry, the humanities, social  sciences, and nutritional sciences provides a solid foundation whether a student’s long-term interest is medicine or a related health career, fitness and sports nutrition, dietetics, clinical nutrition, nutritional education and communications, nutritional biochemistry, or nutrition and food in business. This foundational coursework prepares students for a vast set of upper-level courses, and ultimately accommodates a variety of academic opportunities and career paths. Students personalize their program with electives in psychology, human development, statistics, public policy, languages, economics, business, communications, government, and international development.

Faculty in the Division are leaders in their fields and approach their courses and research from a variety of academic backgrounds not limited to biology, economics, medical practice, anthropology, sociology, biochemistry, and public health.

Review our curriculum sheets (updated each year) to better understand how the major is organized.

Social Science Perspectives on Food and Nutrition (NS 2450) teaches students to use theories, concepts, and methods from the social sciences to examine food, eating, and nutrition. The food choice process model is used as a framework to examine the scope of social science aspects of nutrition. As a result, students will be able to explain how social science concepts and theories apply to food and nutrition issues, and explain individual, social, cultural, economic, and historical patterns of food, eating, and nutrition. Students will also be able to demonstrate basic principles and procedures for conducting qualitative interviews and survey research, including protecting human participants in research, to understand food choice.

Nutrient Metabolism (NS 3310) examines the biochemical, physiological, molecular, and genomic aspects of human nutrition. The topics of food sources, digestion, metabolism, and function of nutrients (i.e., carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals) are also covered, as are the metabolic and chronic diseases related to nutrition.

Introduction to Physiochemical and Biological Aspects of Foods (NS 3450) offers a comprehensive introduction to the physical, chemical, and nutritional properties of foods and to the principles and practice of food science and technology. Topics include chemistry and functionality of commodities and ingredients, chemical, physical and biological phenomena that affect food quality, techniques of processing and preservation, microbiology and fermentation, food safety, regulation, and contemporary issues.

Nutrition Communications and Counseling (NS 4250) covers the theoretical basis of effective health promotion communications and develop effective nutrition communication skills through application in a variety of settings. This course provides hands-on experiences in counseling, educational program development, and oral and written communications.

Students learn to put theory into practice, explore career opportunities, and learn more about themselves and the global community through experiential learning.

Students may study abroad, complete off-campus study, or participate in internships or field placements.

Internship and Experiential Learning Examples

Diet Aide, The Canterbury Retirement Home
Food Intern, Northeast Emergency Food Bank
Expanded Food and Nutrition Program Intern, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Intern/Shadowing, Private practice
Precision Nutrition Intern, The Center for Discovery
Volunteer, Los Angeles BioMed at Harbor UCLA Medical Center

Faculty research areas of specialization include malnutrition and health issues in developing countries; the role of diet in reducing the risk of disease; obesity and body weight regulation; the basic biochemistry of cells and sub-cellular components; the relationship of diet and exercise to body composition; maternal and child nutrition; and the design of educational materials.

Undergraduates play a critical role in the development, implementation, and analysis of research inquiries as participants on faculty research teams, as well as independent research projects.

Research examples

  • Potential associations between coffee consumption and academic performance in undergraduate students 
  • Potential influence of childhood parental feeding styles on eating behavior among female undergraduates 
  • Peripheral neuropathy inducted by Vitamin B12 deficiency using mouse models

Honors program

The Honors Program is designed to challenge research-oriented NS majors. During their junior year, each student in the Honors Program participates in a course on professional research in the health sciences and plans an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member. Each student completes a thesis and presents a seminar on the research problem at the end of their senior year.

Nutritional Sciences students prepare for careers in many nutrition-related fields, including medicine/health, research, fitness and sports nutrition, nutrition counseling, clinical nutrition, dietetics, nutritional biochemistry, community nutrition and nutrition education.

Requirements for prehealth professional fields may be completed along with major coursework.
Courses in kinesiology, exercise physiology, and biomechanics of human movement at nearby Ithaca College enable students in the major to complete a minor in Applied Exercise Science and prepare for graduate studies in physical therapy.

Graduate/Professional school

In recent years, graduates have been offered admission to many medical schools, including Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Stanford, University of Chicago, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They have also been admitted to a range of prestigious dietetic internships and graduate programs in public health and physical therapy.

Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)

Our program offers a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) for students interested in becoming Registered Dietitians and aligns closely with the DPD required course work.

Upon completion of the DPD, students receive a Verification Statement, which is essential to move on to advanced studies in Dietetics. 

Sample Career Paths

Cardiac Rehabilitation Nutritionist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Clinical Dietitian, Massachusetts General Hospital
Clinical Research Associate, Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc
Healthcare/Pharmaceutical Consultant, Covance Market Access Services
Nutrition Information Specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Nutritional Epidemiologist, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
Pediatrician, Private Practice
Physical Therapist, Athletico Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy Center