Nutritional Sciences: Physiology and Metabolism

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Science (BS)

The Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology offers three undergraduate major program specializations: Physiology and Metabolism, Dietetics, and Toxicology leading to a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. NOTE: The Nutritional Science - Dietetics major specialization is in the process of transitioning to a graduate program following the ACEND guidelines which will require a graduate degree for participation in the required dietetic internship for licensure. Students graduating after Spring 2023 are encouraged to pursue the Physiology and Metabolism specialization in the major, as described below.

The Physiology and Metabolism and Toxicology specializations offer ideal preparations for health-related careers such as medicine, pharmacy, optometry, and dentistry. The curricula include many courses required for professional school admission. NST graduates who have entered health-related professional schools report appreciation for the in-depth preparation afforded by these specializations.

Now is an exciting time to explore the sciences of nutrition and toxicology. The media have highlighted many questions about the role of diet in development and aging, the safety of genetically modified foods, links among diet, cancer, and chronic diseases, and the problems of global malnutrition.

The curriculum, driven by NST faculty research, covers a breadth of topics including functions and mechanisms of nutrient actions to the benefits and hazards of chemical agents, cultural and socio-economic determinants of human diets, and development of programs and policies to address human and environmental health and safety.

Overview of Specialization

The Physiology and Metabolism specialization provides a strong foundation in the biological and chemical sciences. The advanced course work focuses on the biochemistry and physiology of nutrients, phytochemicals, and diet-borne toxicants. The Physiology and Metabolism specialization addresses the following topics: nutrient absorption, distribution, and metabolism; functions of nutrients in human health and disease; cellular and molecular regulatory mechanisms by which humans respond to changes in diet; dietary patterns related to health and disease; conceptual and technical processes of nutrition research.

Admission to the Major

Advice on admission for freshmen and transfer students can be found on the Rausser College of Natural Resources Prospective Student website. Freshmen students apply to the Nutritional Science B.S. major and then declare their specialization in Physiology and Metabolism once they have completed the required subset of prerequisites for this major specialization. Freshmen applying to Rausser College may also select the Rausser College undeclared option and declare the major by the end of their fourth semester. Transfer students may apply directly to the major and indicate their intended specialization through the UC application.

Information for current Berkeley students who would like to declare the major after admission, including information on a change of major or change of college, please see Rausser College's Change of College page.

Rausser College Honors Program

The honors program is individual research, NUSCTX H196, for two semesters under the supervision of a faculty member. The supervised independent honors research is specific to aspects of the Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology major, followed by an oral presentation, and written thesis report. Acceptance in the Rausser College Honors Program is required through an application process. Students who are interested in the Honors program should apply during their junior or senior year. Students must have a 3.6 grade-point average (GPA) in order to be eligible for the honors program.  Please visit Rausser College's Honors webpage to learn more.

Minor Program

The department offers a minor program in Nutritional Sciences. The course work for the minor addresses topics in Human Nutrition and Nutrient Function. Elective options range from Nutrition in the Community to Metabolic Regulation to Medical Nutrition Therapy. The minor is best suited for students already pursuing a bioscience degree: a background in chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and biochemistry is necessary to be prepared to do upper division work in this field.  Visit the Nutritional Sciences minor page for information regarding how to declare the minor.

Other Minor offered by the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology


Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

All students must complete R1A & R1B (or equivalent Reading and Comprehension course) before the end of their Sophomore year.

NOTE: The curriculum has been revised effective Fall 2016. Students admitted prior to Fall 16 and following the previous curriculum should refer to the 2015-16 Guide

The Rausser College of Natural Resources (CNR) Undergraduate Handbook serves as a guide to the academic policies and information that students need in order to be successful while completing their coursework at Berkeley:

Physiology and Metabolism Specialization

For Breadth, you are required to take 14 additional units of course work in American Cultures, Arts & Literature, Historical Studies, International Studies, Philosophy & Values, Social & Behavioral Sciences, or Foreign Language. Please refer to the L&S seven course breadth categories here:

Lower Division Requirements

Select one sequence from the following:
Analytic Geometry and Calculus
and Analytic Geometry and Calculus
and Introduction to Statistics
and Calculus
and Introduction to Statistics
Methods of Mathematics: Calculus, Statistics, and Combinatorics
and Methods of Mathematics: Calculus, Statistics, and Combinatorics
Complete all of the following:
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory
Chemical Structure and Reactivity
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory
Chemical Structure and Reactivity
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory
PHYSICS 8AIntroductory Physics4
NUSCTX 10Introduction to Human Nutrition3
or NUSCTX 10S Introduction to Human Nutrition: Managing Life
Introduction to Human Physiology
and Introduction to Human Physiology Laboratory
General Biology Lecture
and General Biology Laboratory

Upper Division Requirements1

MCELLBI 102Survey of the Principles of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology4
NUSCTX 103Nutrient Function and Metabolism4
NUSCTX 160Metabolic Bases of Human Health and Diseases4
NUSCTX 170Experimental Nutrition Laboratory4
NUSCTX 190Introduction to Research in Nutritional Sciences1
Electives: Select 14 units from the Approved Electives List:
NUSCTX 104Food, Culture, and the Environment2
NUSCTX W104Food, Culture, and the Environment AC3
NUSCTX 108AIntroduction and Application of Food Science3
NUSCTX 110Toxicology4
NUSCTX C114Pesticide Chemistry and Toxicology3
NUSCTX 115Principles of Drug Action2
NUSCTX 161AMedical Nutrition Therapy4
NUSCTX 161BMedical Nutrition Therapy II4
NUSCTX 166Nutrition in the Community3
NUSCTX 193Introduction to Research in Toxicology1
NUSCTX H196Honors Research4
NUSCTX 199Supervised Independent Study and Research1-4
PLANTBI C112General Microbiology4
or PB HLTH 162A Public Health Microbiology
PLANTBI C114Introduction to Comparative Virology4
INTEGBI 117Medical Ethnobotany2
INTEGBI 123ALExercise and Environmental Physiology with Laboratory5
INTEGBI 131General Human Anatomy3
INTEGBI 140Biology of Human Reproduction4
MCELLBI 104Genetics, Genomics, and Cell Biology4
MCELLBI 132Biology of Human Cancer4
MCELLBI 135ATopics in Cell and Developmental Biology: Molecular Endocrinology3
UGIS 192CSupervised Research: Biological Sciences1-4
INTEGBI C144Animal Behavior4
All upper division INTEGBI, MCELLBI, PLANTBI, and CHEM lecture or lab courses also accepted

Students can choose up to 10 units of dietetic courses from the Approved Elective List to count toward the 14 units of upper division biology electives: NUSCTX 104 or NUSCTX W104, NUSCTX 108A, NUSCTX 161A, NUSCTX 161B, and NUSCTX 166

Minor Requirements

Students who wish to minor can complete a minor in Nutritional Sciences or Toxicology. The requirements below are for the Nutritional Science minor; see the Nutritional Science - Toxicology specialization page for details on the minor in Toxicology. Minors have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  3. No more than one course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  4. There are three required courses.
  5. There is a minimum of two upper division NUSCTX electives totaling at least 5 units between the two electives. If two upper division electives are selected that do not total at least 5 units, a third elective will also need to be completed.

No substitutions to the courses listed below will be permitted.

Note: The lower division prerequisites listed below, with the exception of NUSCTX 10 or 10S (CHEM 1A, CHEM 3A, CHEM 3B, and BIOLOGY 1A) are not formal requirements of the minor, but instead serve as recommended preparation for the required upper division minor coursework. These CHEM and BIOLOGY courses are not tracked formally through the minor completion process, but are strongly recommended for success in required courses like NUSCTX 103 and NUSCTX 160, and electives like NUSCTX 110. You can find all NUSCTX course prerequisites on the Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology courses page in this Berkeley Academic Guide

Lower Division Prerequisites

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry3
CHEM 3AChemical Structure and Reactivity3
CHEM 3BChemical Structure and Reactivity3
BIOLOGY 1AGeneral Biology Lecture3

Minor Requirements

NUSCTX 10Introduction to Human Nutrition3
or NUSCTX 10S Introduction to Human Nutrition: Managing Life
NUSCTX 103Nutrient Function and Metabolism4
NUSCTX 160Metabolic Bases of Human Health and Diseases4
Select two or more of the following, for at least 5 units of electives:
NUSCTX 104Food, Culture, and the Environment2
or NUSCTX W104 Food, Culture, and the Environment AC
NUSCTX 108AIntroduction and Application of Food Science3
NUSCTX 110Toxicology4
NUSCTX C114Pesticide Chemistry and Toxicology3
NUSCTX 115Principles of Drug Action2
NUSCTX 121Computational Toxicology3
NUSCTX C159Course Not Available4
NUSCTX 161AMedical Nutrition Therapy4
NUSCTX 166Nutrition in the Community3
NUSCTX 190Introduction to Research in Nutritional Sciences1
NUSCTX 193Introduction to Research in Toxicology1
NUSCTX H196Honors Research4
NUSCTX 199Supervised Independent Study and Research1-4

College Requirements

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required.
  3. A minimum GPA of 2.0 in upper division major requirements is required.
  4. At least 15 of the 30 required upper division units must be taken in a Rausser College of Natural Resources department (except for students majoring in Environmental Economics and Policy; please see the EEP major advisor for further information) (NST-Dietetics has 44 total upper division units required).
  5. A maximum of 16 units of independent study (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, 198, and 199) may count toward graduation, with a maximum of 4 units of independent study per semester.
  6. No more than 1/3 of the total units attempted at UC Berkeley may be taken Pass/No Pass. This includes units in the Education Abroad Program and UC Intercampus Visitor or Exchange Programs.
  7. A maximum of 4 units of physical education courses will count toward the 120 units required for graduation.

For full details around all requirements, please see our Student Handbook:

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing and critical thinking all majors in the College require two semesters of lower division work in composition. Students must complete a first-level reading and composition course by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

Foreign Language: EEP Majors only

The Foreign Language requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. It may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Quantitative Reasoning: EEP Majors only

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Undergraduate Breadth

Undergraduate breadth units provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. Breadth courses are built into RCNR major requirements and each major requires a different number of breadth courses and categories. The EEP major is the only RCNR major that requires the entire 7 course breadth as outlined by Letters & Science. Refer to the major snapshots on each RCNR major page for for additional information.

High School Exam Credit

RCNR students may apply high school exam credit (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-Level Exam) towards many College and Major Requirements. See AP Exam Equivalency Chart and Higher Level IB Exam Equivalency Chart in the RCNR Student Handbook for more information.

Units Requirements

Students must complete at least 120 semester units of courses subject to certain guidelines:

  • At least 36 units must be upper division courses, including a minimum of 15 units of upper division courses from a Rausser College of Natural Resources department (NUSCTX, ESPM, PLANTBI, ENVECON).
  • A maximum of 16 units of Special Studies coursework (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, or 199) is allowed towards the 120 units; a maximum of four units is allowed in a given semester.
  • A maximum of 4 units of Physical Education from any school attended will count towards the 120 units.
  • Students may receive unit credit for courses graded P (including P/NP units taken through EAP) up to a limit of one-third of the total units taken and passed on the Berkeley campus at the time of graduation.

Semester Unit Minimum

All RCNR students must enroll in at least 12 units each fall and spring semester.

Semester Unit Maximum

To request permission to take more than 20.5 units in a semester, please see the major advisor.

Semester Limit

Students admitted as freshmen must graduate within 8 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students admitted as transfer students must graduate within 4 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students who go on EAP and UCDC can petition for additional semesters. Summer session, UC Extension and non-UC study abroad programs do not count towards this semester limit. Students approved for double majors or simultaneous degrees in two colleges may be granted an additional semester. RCNR does not limit the number of total units a student can accrue (no unit cap).

Senior Residence Requirement

After the term in which you achieve and exceed 90 units (senior status), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence at the Rausser College of Natural Resources over at least 2 semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units taken while the student is a member of RCNR. At least one of the two terms must be a fall or spring semester. Senior residence terms do not need to be completed consecutively. All courses offered on campus for the fall, spring, and summer terms by Berkeley departments and programs and all Berkeley online ('W') courses count. Inter-campus Visitor, Education Abroad Program, UC Berkeley Washington Program, and UC Berkeley Extension units do not count toward this requirement.

Students may use Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence Requirement, provided that six units of coursework are completed.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in a fall, spring or summer UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program may meet a modified Senior Residence Requirement by completing 24 of their final 60 semester units in residence (excluding UCEAP). At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after senior status is reached. International travel study programs sponsored by Summer Sessions and education abroad programs offered outside of the UC system do not qualify for modified senior residence.

Most students automatically satisfy the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless students go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through University Extension during their senior year. In these cases, students should make an appointment to see an advisor to determine how they can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Grade Requirements

  • A 2.0 UC GPA is required for graduation
  • A 2.0 average in all upper division courses required of the major program is required for graduation
  • A grade of at least C- is required in all courses for the major

Student Learning Goals

Nutritional Science and Toxicology Learning Goals

  1. To provide preparation in critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills.
  2. To provide insight and in-depth information on the interaction of natural and man-made toxicants with people and their impact on human health and disease (depth).
  3. To provide strong academic preparation for successful contributions to research, education, industry and government, and/or participation in advanced studies in health and biosciences (breadth).
  4. To inspire students to advance the health and well-being of citizens (value).

Major Map

Major Maps help undergraduate students discover academic, co-curricular, and discovery opportunities at UC Berkeley based on intended major or field of interest. Developed by the Division of Undergraduate Education in collaboration with academic departments, these experience maps will help you:

  • Explore your major and gain a better understanding of your field of study

  • Connect with people and programs that inspire and sustain your creativity, drive, curiosity and success

  • Discover opportunities for independent inquiry, enterprise, and creative expression

  • Engage locally and globally to broaden your perspectives and change the world

  • Reflect on your academic career and prepare for life after Berkeley

Use the major map below as a guide to planning your undergraduate journey and designing your own unique Berkeley experience.

View the Nutritional Sciences Major Map PDF.


In the Rausser College of Natural Resources, we provide holistic, individual advising services to prospective and current students who are pursuing major and minors in our college. We assist with a range of topics including course selection, academic decision-making, achieving personal and academic goals, and maximizing the Berkeley experience.

If you are looking to explore your options, or you are ready to declare a major, double major, or minor, contact the undergraduate advisor for your intended major. Visit our website to explore all of our advising services.

Rausser College Undergraduate Advising

260 Mulford Hall


Related Courses

Faculty and Instructors


Gregory W. Aponte, Professor. Health and nutrition, nutritional sciences, signaling between the gut and the brain, neuropeptides, G-protein coupled receptors.
Research Profile

Ana Paula Arruda, Assistant Professor. Metabolism, obesity, diabetes adipose tissue, liver, organelles, imaging, organelles, electron microscopy.

Danica Chen, Professor. Aging, stem cell, diseases of aging.
Research Profile

William Evans, Adjunct Professor. Aging, diseases of aging.

Marc Hellerstein, Professor. Plant biology, health and nutrition.
Research Profile

Dale E. Johnson, Adjunct Professor. Computational systems, toxicology, network pharmacology.

Sona Kang, Assistant Professor. Epigenetics, chromatin remodeling, gene expression, diabetes, metabolic diseases .
Research Profile

Ronald M. Krauss, Adjunct Professor. Lipid metabolism, diet, genetics.
Research Profile

Dale Leitman, Adjunct Professor.

David Moore, Professor. Hormone signaling, particularly by nuclear receptors. Metabolic regulation in normal and disease states.
Research Profile

Anders Naar, Professor. Gene expression, microRNAs, Mammalian Cell Metabolism, Metabolic Diseases, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, NAFLD/NASH, cancer therapies .
Research Profile

Joseph L. Napoli, Professor. Metabolism, nutritional biochemistry, fat-soluble vitamins, retinoids, retinoic acid, retinol, vitamin A, vitamin D, analytical biochemistry.
Research Profile

Daniel K. Nomura, Professor. Chemical biology, metabolism, toxicology, cancer.
Research Profile

James Olzmann, Associate Professor. Cell biology, organelle biogenesis, lipid droplet regulation, lipotoxicity, lipid storage, cell death, protein quality control, systems biology, metabolic disease, cancer .
Research Profile

Veerle Rottiers, Assistant Adjunct Professor. Metabolism, aging, obesity, genetics, C. elegans.

Andreas Stahl, Professor. Metabolism, obesity, adipose tissue, brown fat, thermogenesis, tissue engineering, diabetes, fatty acid transport, fatty acid, stem cells.
Research Profile

Hei Sook Sul, Professor. Plant biology, health and nutrition, nutritional sciences and toxicology.
Research Profile

Denis Titov, Assistant Professor. Metabolism, aging, systems biology, mathematical modeling, feedback regulation of enzyme activity, nutrition, caloric restriction.
Research Profile

Jen-Chywan (Wally) Wang, Professor. Steroid hormones, glucocorticoids, molecular physiology, Metabolic Diseases.
Research Profile


Susanne Howard, Lecturer.

Karen Johal, Lecturer.

Mary Lesser, Lecturer.

Mikelle McCoin, Lecturer.

Sarah Minkow, Lecturer.

Kristen Rasmussen, Lecturer.

Ashley Reaver, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Nancy Amy, Professor Emeritus. Nutritional science and toxicology, nutrition, cell metabolism, trace elements.
Research Profile

Leonard F. Bjeldanes, Professor Emeritus. Nutritional science and toxicology, diet and cancer, metabolic regulation.
Research Profile

George W. Chang, Professor Emeritus. Microbial biology, health and nutrition, food safety.
Research Profile

Ben De Lumen, Professor Emeritus. Cancer prevention, academic enterpreneurship.
Research Profile

Sharon E. Fleming, Professor Emeritus. Plant biology, health and nutrition.
Research Profile

Janet King, Professor Emeritus.

Isao Kubo, Professor Emeritus. Agriculture, insect biology, pest management.
Research Profile

Angela C. Little, Professor Emeritus.

Barry Shane, Professor Emeritus. Plant biology, health and nutrition, nutritional sciences and toxicology.
Research Profile

Mary Ann Williams, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology

119 Morgan Hall

Phone: 510-642-6490

Fax: 510-642-0535

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

David Moore

127 Morgan Hall

Graduate Student Services

Majabeen Samadi

115 Morgan Hall

Phone: 510-643-2863

Undergraduate Advisor

Jay Sevilla

260 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-642-6730

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