Popular masters degree in nutrition sciences returns

by Monika Guttman
After a year-long hiatus, USC is once again accepting applications for the popular masters degree in nutrition sciences.

Carol Koprowski, newly-appointed coordinator of the degree program, said no new students were admitted to the program last year after the departure of Mark Meskin, the program's former director. "We were getting a number of requests for applications, but until January or February, we didn't even know if there would be a program," she said.

It was decided to keep the masters program as part of the Department of Cell and Neurobiology, but there will be some changes, she said. Plans are in the works to have the program jointly administered by Cell and Neurobiology and the Institute for Prevention Research, and to change the degree to a masters in preventive nutrition. "The focus will be on looking at nutrition in its role as a lifestyle factor in disease prevention," she said. "We're starting to offer courses looking at behavioral theories related to nutrition and epidemiology related to nutrition."

Another change will be to offer courses in research methods, such as research design, how to measure the nutritional status of an individual or community, or which tools are appropriate for studying a given ethnic group. "The program was not set up to be a research degree, but we want to make that an option for people if they decide to go on to a Ph.D.," said Koprowski.

In addition, the program will offer special topic courses like drug-nutrient interaction and geriatric nutrition.

The degree is geared towards those who have already been working in a nutrition-related field, said Koprowski. It is ideal for those wishing to pursue a career in the health care industry, government agencies, academia or the food industry.

Koprowski said the shift in emphasis to a preventive perspective is "the logical next step for this program." Market forces, such as large HMO's looking for research on preventive nutrition programs and their implementation, for example, are one catalyst. And medicine in general right now believes "that you can take steps to make the most of your health. You might not be able to prevent a disease, but you can take steps to reduce risk and you're involved in the process. A big part of that process is nutrition."

Anyone interested in finding out more about the degree program can check out the web site at: www.usc.edu/go/ipr/ms.htm#apply.