Department of Nutritional Sciences

All programs in the Department of Nutritional Sciences train students to become leaders in nutrition who are able to integrate the span of knowledge from molecules to organisms to populations with the goal of improving human health.

The Department of Nutritional Sciences offers a breadth of educational, research, and experiential opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students that provide them with the foundational knowledge and skills to pursue careers in research, pre-professional, industry, food systems management, and community settings.

Nutritional Sciences Academic Programs

Undergraduate Program in Nutritional Sciences

Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences

Graduate Program in Nutrition Receives National Ranking

Recently released results from the National Research Council ranks the Penn State Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences among the nation's best.


  • Nearly 70 percent of NUTR students place into post-baccalaureate internships
  • UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – When it comes to acceptance into post-baccalaureate dietetic internships, Penn State nutrition graduates are in a healthy position.

  • Penn State’s Department of Nutritional Sciences (NUTR) students had a 69.4 percent acceptance rate into dietetic internships for the fall 2013 and spring 2014 application periods, exceeding those terms’ goals, and marking the second time in the last five years that acceptance rates hovered around 70 percent. Out of 72 applicants, 50 were matched.

    Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, assistant professor in the department, attributes much of that success to increasing awareness earlier in the program about the competitiveness of internship placements; enhanced guidance of students through the application process; and helping students to identify their strengths and experiences when choosing internships.

    “In terms of the national situation, there are twice as many graduates of dietetics programs as there are available placements in post-baccalaureate dietetic internships,” Coleman-Kelly said. “Therefore, on a national basis around 50 to 52 percent of students who apply for a dietetic internship get accepted. One of the program outcomes that is evaluated by our accreditation agency is our ability to place our students into internships.”

two researchers checking on a lab rat
  • Eating lean beef daily can help lower blood pressure
  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, a growing body of evidence shows that eating lean beef can reduce risk factors for heart disease, according to recent research by nutritional scientists."This research adds to the significant evidence, including work previously done in our lab, that supports lean beef's role in a heart-healthy diet," said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, Penn State. "This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease."
  • Key factor in neonatal zinc deficiency may impact lactation and breast cancer
    Penn State researchers may have found a way to recognize women who are at risk of having low milk zinc levels. It started when her son was just two months old with a diaper rash that would not go away. The blisters eventually spread across his body, including his face. He soon began to suffer from chronic ear infections, unusual for an exclusively breastfed infant who was not in day care. By the time he was six months old, his mother noticed that he was not as active as other babies his age, and he was also failing to gain weight."The pediatrician told me that my son was allergic to my breast milk and that I should wean him onto infant formula," she says. "I refused to stop breastfeeding, because I knew 'breast is best.' Instead, I eliminated all possible allergens from my diet. Only organic foods crossed my lips. Out went cow's milk, all things soy, eggs, gluten, and the dreaded peanut, but nothing helped." That's when the woman contacted Shannon Kelleher, associate professor of nutritional sciences.
  • Nutritional Sciences faculty members, A. Catharine Ross and Barbara Rolls received awards from the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) at the ASN Scientific Sessions and Experimental Biology 2013. Dr. Ross was named a Fellow of ASN, the highest honor the society bestows. Dr. Rolls received the David Kritchevsky Career Achievement Award in recognition of a career devoted to promoting interaction among, support for, and assistance of outstanding nutrition researchers in governmental, private and academic sectors resulting in the application of fundamental knowledge to delivery of better nutrition products and information to the public.
  • Barbara Lohse, PhD, RD has been recognized by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior for having one of the Journal’s top 20 downloaded articles on Elsevier’s Science Direct platform as well as on the Health Advance platform in 2013.
  • Dr. Kathleen Keller is the recipient of the 2013 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award in the College of Agricultural Sciences for her publication "PROP Taster Status Interacts with the Built Environment to Influence Children’s Food Acceptance and Body Weight Status.”
  • Penny Kris-Etherton has been named the 2014 Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement award winner. The award, sponsored by the American Oil Chemists' Society, Health and Nutrition (H&N) Division, is named after Dr. Ralph T. Holman in recognition of his study of essential fatty acids.
  • Faculty members Lynn Parker-Klees, Jackie Vernarelli, and Laura Murray-Kolb received teaching recognition certificates from the Penn State College of Health and Human Development.
  • Gordon Jensen recognized as a top nutrition support therapy researcher
    Gordon Jensen, professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and professor of medicine at Penn State, has been named the 2014 Jonathan E. Rhoads Lecturer by the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.). The Jonathan E. Rhoads Lecture is A.S.P.E.N.’s most prestigious award. It recognizes scholars for their major contributions to the field of nutrition support therapy and their career-long commitments to improving the nutritional statuses of patients. The lecturer is recommended by the A.S.P.E.N.'s board of directors and is invited by the society's president to deliver a lecture at the society's Clinical Nutrition Week conference. This year's conference will be held in Savannah, Ga., on Jan. 18 to 21.
  • Penn State Professor’s Volumetrics diet ranks top for 2014 by U.S. News and World Report
    Collegian Article
  • Penny Kris-Etherton has been appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and she will also receive the Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award from the College of Health and Human Development.
  • Kathleen Keller has been awarded the Greenberg Early Career Professorship.
  • Alison Gernand has been named a BIRCWH Fellow (Building interdisciplinary research careers in women’s health program at Penn State University).
  • Julie Brenneman received the Carol Clark Ford Staff Achievement Award from the College of Health and Human Development.