Nutrition Department Overview


The Department of Nutrition is recognized as a global leader in research and training, and is unique in that it is the only nutrition department in the U.S. that is situated in both a school of public health and a school of medicine.

We engage in innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that encourage collaborations across disciplines and capitalize on both these schools’ historical approaches to health; and thus our department has an unusual breadth of scientific and policy approaches, literally spanning from cell to society and moving from discovery to delivery. The work of our faculty and students is carried out throughout North Carolina and spans the globe to communities and populations in China, India, Malawi, Spain and The Philippines, to name a few.

We live in a time in which nutrition is a pivotal factor in changing the trajectory of public health around the globe. Critical public health issues—from food insecurity to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer—can be touched by nutrition research, from the cellular level to epidemiology, interventions and public policy. Our faculty train students in nutritional sciences, clinical nutrition, and public health to become global leaders in their fields. Our areas of focus are balanced by a commitment to research that improves the health of minority and underserved global populations. We continue to expand our reach and challenge ourselves to uphold our mission to improve health through nutrition in North Carolina and around the globe by giving our students a unique and purposeful experience and education that will translate into successful careers in academia, industry, government, and nongovernmental agencies.

The Practice and Continuing Education (PACE) Division supports students during their training to become Registered Dietitian; furthers the practice of nutrition through services within our practice component; and provides professional continuing education to current practitioners.

National Research Council's Top Ranking

The Nutrition Department at UNC-Chapel Hill ranked at the top among U.S. Nutrition Departments in the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) report. This was the first such ranking of doctoral training programs in Departments of Nutrition. A program summary score was based on characteristics such as publications, grants, financial support for students, graduation rates, breadth of faculty backgrounds, student activities and diversity.

Nutrition's rich history at UNC

The Department of Nutrition of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was established in 1946 with the aid of a grant from the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation. Support from the U.S. Children’s Bureau enabled the first three students to complete a one-year Master’s of Public Health program in 1951. From 1951 to 1972 students admitted to the graduate program in public health nutrition were required to have an undergraduate degree in food, nutrition, dietetics or home economics.

With greater public interest in nutrition, increasing numbers of graduates from diverse baccalaureate programs started to seek careers in public health nutrition, and the Department began to recruit into the program persons with a broad educational base in the arts, humanities and behavioral sciences. In 1972 the Master’s Program in Public Health Nutrition added a two-year track to admit students with undergraduate degrees in the basic sciences, behavioral sciences and humanities.

The Doctor of Public Health degree was offered in 1977 but with the growing popularity of the PhD program this program was discontinued in 2009. In 1991 the Department was approved to grant the Doctor of Philosophy degree, with specialization in nutritional biochemistry, nutrition epidemiology or nutrition intervention and policy.