Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition - PhD



Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition - PhD



Domestically and globally, poor diet and lack of physical activity are the greatest contributors to the burden of disease and mortality. Globally, obesity rates are on the rise, often alongside severe undernutrition in developing countries. Overweight and obesity, along with other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular heart disease and Type II diabetes are largely attributable to lifestyle related behaviors, including insufficient physical activity, increased sedentarism, and poor nutrition.  We also have an aging population, whereby a healthy diet and physical activity become critical to live more healthfully for longer.

The PhD in Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition (EPAN) at GWSPH has been created as an actionable program with a fundamental and deep core appreciation that both nutrition and physical activity together are powerful in fighting many of the most significant public health problems of our time.  We strive to uniquely integrate both disciplines given their unique but often have synergistic impacts on health.

This multidisciplinary program provides a rigorous educational opportunity with a curriculum grounded in science and includes the use of sound methodological approaches and innovative thinking that leads to the advancement of knowledge that can be translated into real-world health applications in the fields of physiology and nutrition. Scholars in the doctoral EPAN program will have the opportunity to more fully integrate or specialize their focus in exercise physiology or applied nutrition through their elective coursework and dissertation research.

The program further provides scholars with opportunities to focus on health from laboratory to more community-based approaches. Ongoing research includes nutritional and physical activity epidemiology focused on aging and cancer, physiological and metabolic adaptations to dietary factors and exercise, chronic disease prevention and management, physical activity and dietary interventions, and community-based programs and interventions focused on physical activity and nutrition in children and youth. The program takes advantage of the strengths of the GW academic environment, including wet labs, applied nutrition and physiology labs, along with our location in Washington, D.C., where students and faculty have the opportunity to translate knowledge into real-world impact. 

GWSPH Doctoral programs admit students for the Fall term each academic year. Applications will be accepted beginning in August and are due no later than December 1st for the next matriculating cohort beginning in the following Fall term.  Find GWSPH graduate admissions information here.

GWSPH is committed to support the highest standards and practices of diversity and inclusion in all of our processes, systems and interactions throughout the application and student experience.  

The PhD program will accept students every year.  Applications will be accepted beginning mid-August and are due no later than December 1st. Applications will be reviewed following the December 1st deadline and those applicants selected for an in-person interview (video conference if remote) can expect to be contacted no later than mid-February.

Our admissions process and requirements:

  • Master's Degree from accredited graduate program is required
    • Applicants with a graduate degree in exercise science, nutrition, public health, or a related discipline will be highly encouraged; however any major is acceptable as long as applicants show requisite knowledge and skills
  • Typically an A average in graduate coursework 
  • International students must provide language test results from the TOEFL or IELTS that are no more than 2 years old if they have not received a post-secondary degree from a US institution
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Interview

Prerequisite expectations (what we are looking for):

  • General Biology and Chemistry (with labs)
  • Human or mammalian physiology 
  • Graduate level statistics or biostatistics course is a required prerequisite

Highly Preferred:

  • Biochemistry (this will be discussed with student's research mentor prior to admission)
  • Exercise Physiology and/or Nutrition Science
  • Strong GRE score taken within 5 years of the matriculation date

In addition, we will thoroughly examine the research background of our applicants and give preference to students who have worked on research teams/laboratories or otherwise demonstrated research interest and aptitude. 

PhD Course Requirements

PUBH 6421 | Responsible Conduct of Research (1 credit)
PUBH 8099 | PHD Seminar:  Cross Cutting Concepts in Public Health (1 credit)
PUBH 8416 | Study Design and Evaluation (3 credits)
PUBH 8418 | Applied statistical Analysis* (3 credits)
PUBH 6080 | Pathways to Public Health** (0 credits)

*PUBH 6862 Applied Linear Regression Analysis may be taken in place of PUBH 8418 Applied Statistical Analysis. 

**For students without a prior public health degree, find FAQs for PUBH 6080 on the Advising page here.

PHD CORE TOTAL: 8 credits

Program-Specific Course Requirements 

EXNS 6202 | Advanced Exercise Physiology (3 credits)
PUBH 6619 | Fundamentals of Nutrition Science (3 credits)
PUBH 6611 | Nutrition Assessment (2 credits)
EXNS 6810 | Advanced Metabolism (3 credits)
EXNS 8108 | Lab Techniques in Human Physiology (2 credits)
EXNS 8110 | Seminar in Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition (2 credits)


Tailoring Coursework (Electives)

Electives may be selected to focus specifically on individual areas of interest in accordance with advisors support.  Focus areas may include: epidemiology, exercise physiology, applied nutrition, social/behavioral interventions.  See program guide for examples of suggested courses.  For students entering with a relevant MS degree in physiology or nutrition, some core courses may be waived and additional tailoring courses can be taken in their place.


Course Descriptions

Comps and Dissertation


All  PhD students are required to pass a Comprehensive Examination, which typically occurs following the Spring semester of Year 2.  Comprehensive exams must be successfully completed within three years of matriculation to the PhD program.



PUBH 8435 | Dissertation Proposal Development (2 credits)
EXNS 8999 | Dissertation Research ( 9-12 credits)


Course Descriptions

Non-Academic Requirements

Professional Enhancement

Students in the PhD program must participate in eight hours of Professional Enhancement. These activities are pre-approved by an advisor and may be Public Health-related lectures, seminars, and symposia related to your field of study.

Professional Enhancement activities supplement the rigorous academic curriculum of the SPH degree programs and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. You can learn more about opportunities for Professional Enhancement via the Milken Institute School of Public Health Listserv, through departmental communications, or by speaking with your advisor.  Students submit a completed Professional Enhancement Form to the Office of Student Records which is required documentation to be cleared for graduation.

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Training

All students are required to complete the Basic CITI training module.  This online training module  will help new students demonstrate and maintain sufficient knowledge of the ethical principles and regulatory requirements for protecting human subjects - key for any public health research.

Academic Integrity Quiz

All Milken Institute School of Public Health students are required to review the University’s Code of Academic Integrity and complete the GW Academic Integrity Activity.  This activity must be completed within 2 weeks of matriculation. Information on GWSPH Academic Integrity requirements can be found here.

Past Program Guides

Students in the PhD in the Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition program should refer to the guide from the year in which they matriculated into the program. For the current program guide, click the "PROGRAM GUIDE" button on the right-hand side of the page.


PhD students will contribute to timely and important research questions grounded in rigorous methods spanning laboratory science and community-based methods, quantitative and qualitative analyses, effective communications to the scientific community, students and general public, ultimately concluding with scientific publications in their area of expertise.

Our faculty at the Milken Institute School of Public Health are involved in a national profile of strategic research and serve as mentors to students across departments based on areas of specialized interest. These key faculty in the Exercise and Nutrition Sciences department will be directly associated with the PhD, Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition program:

Dr. Jennifer Sacheck, Program Director

Dr. Matthew Barberio

Dr. Loretta DiPietro

Dr. Karina Lora

Dr. Kim Robien

Dr. Emily Smith

Dr. Allison Sylvetsky

Dr. Sameera Talegawkar

Dr. Amanda Visek