Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Students will select a specific area of emphasis within food science and complete degree requirements by writing a thesis. The coursework required depends on these choices, although some courses are required for all students. The emphasis areas are: 

  • Food Biochemistry 
  • Food Chemistry 
  • Food Microbiology/Fermentation 
  • Sensory Science 


Heat Transfer in a Freezing Potato


All students develop a broad background in food biochemistry, chemistry, processing and microbiology through the core courses. In addition, each student takes sufficient advanced coursework in their area of emphasis to develop a specialized advanced knowledge base.  These specialized graduate courses are designed to build upon their undergraduate courses.

Students are encouraged to take additional courses throughout their residence. The academic adviser, with the assistance of the major professor, will help each student form their course plan. Sufficient research (299) units must also be taken so that an acceptable dissertation can be written. All courses are described in more detail in the UC Davis catalog.

Core Courses

The following four core courses are required of all Ph.D. students:

Course Quarter Title
FST 201 Fall Chemistry and Biochemistry                                   
FST 203 Winter  Food Processing
FST 204 Spring   Advanced Food Microbiology

Area of Emphasis Courses

  • Food Biochemistry, Food Chemistry and Food Microbiology/Fermentation

These Area of Emphasis will include at least 15 units of graduate courses (not including variable unit courses or seminars). 6 units should be appropriate graduate courses in the Food Science department; core courses do not count towards this requirement. 9 units should be appropriate graduate courses from a basic scientific discipline. Graduate courses from Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbiology, Nutrition, Physiology, Psychology and Statistics sections are appropriate to fulfill this requirement. The selection of these and other courses for the area of emphasis will be made in order to provide the student with a set of focused courses within their area or emphasis.
  • Sensory Science

The following courses will be required for the Sensory Science emphasis (in addition to the core courses, variable unit courses and seminars): FST 107A, FST 107B, FST 217, FST 227 and FST 207 or VEN 225, one graduate course in physiology or nutrition (3/4 units), one graduate course in statistics (3/4 units, and one course in psychology (3/4 units, upper division or graduate, excluding statistics courses). The academic adviser should be consulted for a list of appropriate courses.

Seminars/Oral Presentations

In order to advance to candidacy, students must also take a minimum of six units of Seminar. Three units can be obtained by taking FST 290 for two quarters and FST 291 once; however, numerous other departments and graduate groups offer suitable seminar classes. In addition, the student must give at least one oral presentation to advance to candidacy. FST 291 satisfies this requirement, but other seminar programs which require a presentation can also satisfy this requirement.

Advancement to Candidacy

Before they are officially admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, students must complete their required coursework and pass the qualifying exam. After the qualifying exam is successfully completed, students must file an application for advancement to candidacy with the dean of Graduate Studies.

Click here for more information about the Qualifying Examination


Upon advancement to candidacy, the student will then complete the requirements under Plan B of Davis Graduate Studies by carrying out a research program under the direction of a major professor, who must be an active member of the Food Science Graduate Group, and by submitting an acceptable dissertation. The preparation of the dissertation will be under the guidance of a Dissertation Committee of three members, recommended by the Executive Committee and appointed by Graduate Studies. Students are encouraged to suggest a committee drawn from their Oral Examination Committee, after consultation with their academic adviser. The major professor will serve as the chairperson. The candidate will organize annual meetings with the committee to review the research program, and will provide documentation of the meeting to the Chair of the Graduate Group by October 1 of each year, until the dissertation has been completed and signed by the committee members. An exit seminar will be presented before the dissertation is signed.