Food and Hospitality Systems Doctoral Degree

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General Requirements

  • The graduate student entering the Ph.D. program must demonstrate proficiency in topics presented in the core courses in the undergraduate degree program at MU. This proficiency may be met by successful completion of a qualifying examination, taken before completion of 18 credit hours toward the requirements of the Ph.D. program.
  • A minimum of 72 credit hours are required beyond the B.S. degree.
  • A proposal for the Ph.D. dissertation research must be presented to the Doctoral Program Committee prior to completion of 18 credit hours of course work toward the Ph.D. degree requirements.
  • The composition of the Doctoral Program Committee will include four faculty members with no more than three being members of the Food Science graduate faculty.
  • Proficiency in a foreign language is encouraged, but is not required.
  • A comprehensive examination (written and oral) should be completed by the candidate as soon as course work requirements are completed. The comprehensive examination must be completed at least seven months prior to the dissertation research defense.
  • Graduate Catalog: Required Courses for PhD

The process of receiving a Doctoral degree in Food Science from MU can be divided into several distinct steps. The student must also conform to any of the requirements and regulations of the MU Graduate School and the University of Missouri system. Applications are accepted at any time during the year.

Initial Steps

Before arriving on campus:

Steps During Provisional Acceptance

Within the first year of study:

Steps as a Ph.D. Student

Steps as a Ph.D. Candidate

Within five years after passing the comprehensive exam:

Minimum Academic Requirements

A prospective Ph.D. student must complete an approved course of study with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a four-point scale or its equivalent. This generally includes a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program from an accredited university or equivalent experience. In rare instances, an exceptional student will be allowed to study for the Ph.D. without first completing an M.S. degree.

In addition, prospective students must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) no longer than five years prior to application to the Ph.D. program. The Food Science faculty prefers prospective Ph.D. students to have received a score of at least 297 on the combined score of the verbal and quantitative sections with neither section being below 143 and a minimum of 3.0 on the analytical writing section on the GRE.

Students who did not attend high school (or equivalent) where English was the language of instruction will be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Generally, the minimum TOEFL score for acceptance into the Food Science Ph.D. program is 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or 80 for the internet-based version and 6.0 on the Academic IELTS. A score of 600 (paper-based) or 250 (computer-based) is recommended.

If the non-native English-speaking applicant has successfully completed one year of full-time post-secondary (college-level) study in a country where English is the native language within the past two years, then TOEFL or IELTS scores may be waived. One year of full-time enrollment is defined as completing the equivalent of at least 24 credit hours over 2 semesters at the undergraduate level or 18 credit hours over 2 semesters at the graduate level. English as a second language, intensive English, and/or remedial English courses cannot be included in the credit hour count.

Please note that although an applicant might have fulfilled the above conditions for a TOEFL/IELTS waiver for admission by the MU Graduate School, each graduate program reserves the right to require an applicant to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score. Please check with your academic program of interest for the program’s TOEFL/IELTS requirements.

Under unusual circumstances, students with less than the minimum requirements may be accepted on probation without financial assistance at the discretion of an individual faculty member in consultation with the director of graduate studies. Students accepted under these conditions will receive a letter informing them of the terms of their probationary status.


Students should assemble the appropriate documents to show that they have met the Minimum Academic Requirements described above. In addition, they must complete a series of application forms for the University and the Food Science program. Details about admission to MU and graduate study may be obtained from the Graduate School site, including a doctoral time line: forms and requirements.

Once the application materials are assembled, all students should send them to:

Graduate Admissions
University of Missouri
210 Jesse Hall
Columbia, MO 65211-1300

Upon receipt of the documents, the application materials will be examined by the Graduate Admissions committee. Each application will be circulated to the Food Science program faculty. Faculty members will decide if they are willing to serve as a mentor for the student.

Students will be informed as to their provisional acceptance to the program usually within two months after receiving a complete application packet. Please note that provisional acceptance will only be given to students with an identified faculty mentor.

Faculty members sponsoring prospective Ph.D. students must be members of the Doctoral Faculty at MU, or identify another faculty member on the Doctoral Faculty to serve as co-chair on the student’s Doctoral Program Committee. Please note that acceptance does not imply that the student will receive financial assistance.

If financial assistance is provided, the acceptance letter will include that information. All the deadlines mentioned in the following paragraphs will be measured from the first day of classes in the first semester in which a student begins their Ph.D. Plan of Study.

Identification of Proficiency Areas

Ph.D. students in the Food Science program are expected to have a general knowledge of food science and to be able to communicate in English.

Initial English Language Proficiency

All International Ph.D. students are required to take the SPEAK Exam.

Food Science Proficiency

While a basic goal of the Ph.D. program is to provide students with highly specialized skills in a particular subdivision of Food Science, the faculty believes that it is important that Ph.D. students understand the breadth of the discipline as well.

The faculty has identified three “proficiency areas” in Food Science. The table below lists these areas and classes taught at MU that cover these areas.

Courses Covering the Proficiency Area
Chemistry and Analysis FS 309/7310, Laboratory Food Chemistry and Analysis or
FS 305/7315, Food Chemistry and Analysis
Engineering/Processing BE 310/3180, Principles of Biological Engineering II or
FS 330/7330, Principles of Food Processing or
BE 351/7160, Food Process Engineering I
Microbiology FS 372/7370, Food Microbiology and
FS 373/7375, Food Microbiology Laboratory

Successful Ph.D. students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in all of these areas. There are three options for demonstrating proficiency:

  1. Successful completion of an appropriate course at MU in the proficiency area (within five years prior to starting the Ph.D. program.)
  2. Including an appropriate course from MU, or an alternate course approved by the Doctoral Program Committee (see step 4, below), in a student’s Plan of Study.
  3. Passing the proficiency exam in the area.

Proficiency exams will be given as needed by arrangement with the adviser or the director of graduate studies. An exam, taking about one hour to complete will be offered in each area. These exams will be somewhat like the “final” examinations in each of the classes. Students wishing to take the proficiency exam in processing may choose a specific commodity area (such as dairy or meats).

Successfully completing any or all of these exams will satisfy the proficiency requirement in the area(s). It is recommended that the student attempt to fulfill at least some of the proficiency requirements by examination in order to make best use of their time while working towards the Ph.D. degree.

Students failing the proficiency exam will have to take an appropriate course to show proficiency in the area prior to the comprehensive exam. Note that problems courses, readings and research hours cannot be used to fulfill proficiency requirements. In summary, each student must show proficiency either by examination or successfully passing a formal course in all three areas.

Selection of a Doctoral Program Committee

Students, in consultation with their primary faculty mentor, need to select faculty members to serve as their Doctoral Program Committee within twelve months of starting the course of study.

An acceptable Doctoral Program Committee must include at least four graduate faculty members. Of these members there must be:

  • At least three graduate faculty members from the Food Science program, including your adviser who must be a Doctoral faculty member.
  • At least one graduate faculty member from MU, but outside of the Food Science program.

Other members of the Doctoral Program Committee may come from outside the MU graduate faculty with special permission of the graduate dean. These members are usually individuals with specialized expertise critical to the success of the student’s research program. The chair of the committee will be the student’s principal faculty mentor (major adviser).

The members of the Doctoral Program Committee, led by the major adviser will actively participate in the education of the student. This committee is responsible for:

  • Evaluating the student’s completion of proficiency requirements.
  • Developing the Plan of Study.
  • Conducting the annual review (see Reasonable Rate of Progress).
  • Reviewing and approving the research proposal.
  • Conducting the comprehensive examination.
  • Guiding the research activities.
  • Overseeing the writing and defense of the dissertation.
  • Maintaining high standards of scholarship and ethical behavior.
  • Administering correction and disciplinary actions when necessary.

At this point, the student should submit a completed Qualifying Examination Results and Doctoral Committee Approval Form (D-1) (PDF) to the Graduate Coordinator. The Coordinator will submit the completed form to the director of graduate studies and the graduate dean.

Development of the Plan of Study

The Doctoral Program Committee and the student will prepare a Plan of Study. This generally should be done within the first 12 months after entering the program. The sooner the Plan of Study is prepared, the easier it is to complete in a reasonable length of time.

The Plan of Study includes a list of the formal courses, readings, problems, research hours and seminars that the students will use to fulfill the requirements for the doctoral degree. MU requires a minimum of 72 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree for the Ph.D. If approved by the student’s Doctoral Program Committee, this may include 30 hours from an M.S. degree or graduate credit earned at MU or another institution.

A minimum of fifteen hours (exclusive of research, problems or independent study courses) must be at the graduate level. In addition, there will be a minimum of four hours of seminar and at least six hours of research. Enrollment in Research Methods is strongly recommended.

Classes chosen to fill the Plan of Study may include those needed to fulfill proficiency areas if approved by the student’s Doctoral Program Committee. Other courses should be chosen to strengthen the student’s ability to do research in their specific area. Once the Plan of Study has been developed, the student should submit the Plan of Study for the Doctoral Degree Form (D-2) (PDF) to the graduate coordinator. The coordinator will submit the completed form to the director of graduate studies and the graduate dean.

Preparation of a Research Proposal

Each student will prepare a research proposal following a standard format similar to those required by NIH, NSF or USDA. The subject of the proposal will be determined in consultation with the student’s faculty adviser and the Doctoral Program Committee.

The student will submit a copy of the proposal to each member of the Doctoral Program Committee. If the proposal is unacceptable to the committee, the student will be informed of the deficiencies within two weeks after submitting the proposal to the Doctoral Program Committee. The proposal will be revised and resubmitted until the Doctoral Program Committee is satisfied.

Failure to successfully complete a research proposal will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. program. The research proposal must be presented to, defended to, and accepted by the Doctoral Program Committee within 18 months after starting the doctoral program.

Completion of the Plan of Study

A student must substantially complete the course work outlined in the Plan of Study (exclusive of research, problems or readings courses) to the satisfaction of the Doctoral Program Committee and the MU Graduate School before being declared ready to take the comprehensive examination.

In some unusual circumstances, it may become necessary to change a Plan of Study after it has been developed by the student and the Doctoral Program Committee. Any substitutions, deletions or modifications of a student’s Plan of Study must be approved by the Doctoral Program Committee.

The student’s academic adviser should inform the graduate program coordinator, in writing, of any necessary changes as soon as possible to assure that the proper paperwork is filed with the graduate dean.

Successful academic progress on the Plan of Study includes an acceptable grade point average (GPA). For graduate work, the Food Science program faculty and the MU Graduate School require all students to maintain at least a cumulative 3.0 GPA (on a four-point scale). A student receiving a cumulative or semester GPA of less than 2.0 is subject to immediate dismissal from the Food Science program and MU.

Students falling below a 3.0 cumulative GPA in any semester will be put on academic probation for the following semester. If at the end of the first probationary semester the student’s cumulative GPA is greater than or equal to 3.0, the probationary status is removed. If the cumulative GPA has not reached 3.0, the student is allowed one more probationary semester.

Failure to achieve a cumulative 3.0 GPA in two successive probationary semesters will result in the immediate dismissal of the student from the Food Science Ph.D. Program. Unsatisfactory academic performance may also result in a student being dismissed from the University.

The MU Graduate School has a comprehensive policy covering the requirements and procedures to be followed when it becomes necessary to dismiss a student. They also have developed procedures for appeal of any decision by the Food Science program. Students should consult the MU Graduate School for further details.

Completion of a Written and Oral Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination will be conducted by the Doctoral Program Committee as specified by the MU Graduate School. This examination is designed to measure the student’s knowledge of food science and related areas. In addition, students are expected to show the ability to think clearly and critically and to express themselves adequately in both written and spoken English.

Students must be enrolled in MU at the time of the comprehensive exam. In addition, MU must be officially in session (fall, winter or summer semesters) when the comprehensive exam is administered. The entire exam, both written and oral sections, must be completed within 30 days. The comprehensive exam must be completed at least seven months before the final defense of the dissertation.

After completing the written section of this exam, it is the student’s responsibility to make an appointment with each committee member to go over the results of the written exam. Frequently, the written exam will serve as the basis for the oral exam.

After completion of the written exam, the student, in consultation with their major adviser and Doctoral Program Committee should schedule the oral exam. The oral exam is designed to determine whether the student can think quickly and clearly and express themselves in English. The oral exam generally takes two to three hours. The student will be expected to defend their answers on the written portion of the comprehensive exam as well as any other areas the committee wishes to explore.

At the end of the oral examination, the Doctoral Program Committee will determine if the student has performed adequately to become a Ph.D. candidate in the Food Science program. For the comprehensive examination to be successfully completed, the Doctoral Program Committee must vote to pass the student on the entire examination, both written and oral sections, with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote.

Two or more dissenting or abstaining votes will result in a determination that the student has failed the comprehensive examination. A report of this decision must be sent to the MU Graduate School and the student no later than two weeks after the comprehensive exam is completed.

Expect the comprehensive exam to be the most difficult exam you will ever take. The exam will consist of a written and an oral section. Your major adviser will be responsible for organizing the written section of the exam. Each of your committee members will be allowed to ask questions in their area of expertise or any area in food science of their choice. You should expect to take from four to 48 hours to complete each individual exam section. Generally, you should expect to complete the entire written exam within 14 days.

Failure on either the written or oral section of the exam constitutes failure of the entire comprehensive exam. If a failure is reported, the committee must also include in the report an outline of the general weaknesses or deficiencies observed in the student’s work.

The student and committee members are encouraged to work together to identify steps the student might take to become fully prepared for the next examination. If, at any time, the student believes that the advice given by the committee is inadequate, the student may send a written request for clarification to the committee. A copy of this request should be sent to the MU Graduate School as well. The committee must respond to this request in writing within two weeks and have a copy of the response filed with the MU Graduate School.

A student who fails the comprehensive exam may take a second exam, no sooner than 12 weeks after the first oral exam. Failure to pass the second comprehensive examination will automatically prevent a student from becoming a Ph.D. candidate. This usually results in dismissal from the Food Science Ph.D. program.

Once the comprehensive examination process is completed, the student or the major adviser should prepare the form D-3, Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Results (D-3) (PDF). The D-3 form should be submitted to the graduate coordinator, even if the student fails the comprehensive exam. The coordinator will submit the completed form to the director of graduate studies and the graduate dean.

Completion of a Research-Based Project

Most students will begin their research project shortly after beginning their Program of Study. The research project is a collaborative effort between the student, the major adviser and the Doctoral Program Committee.

A successful project will involve original research and scholarship that will significantly contribute to an increased understanding of Food Science. The project must be a reflection of the student’s own work and must demonstrate a capacity for research and independent thought.

It is expected that students will maintain the highest standards of ethical behavior while engaged in research at MU. Plagiarism or falsification of data will result in a student being immediately dismissed from the program and MU.

Reasonable Rate of Progress

Every Ph.D. student will be evaluated annually for satisfactory progress by their major adviser as required by the MU Graduate School (see termination, dismissals, extensions and appeals).

Satisfactory progress includes adherence to a suitable timeline for completing the Ph.D. as described in this document, and adequate academic performance as described in Completing the Plan of Study (above.) The major professor will inform the director of graduate studies as to the outcome of the evaluation on or before Sept. 1 of each year.

It is important that a reasonable rate of progress towards the Ph.D. degree is required. The doctoral degree must be completed within five years after passing the comprehensive exam. In unusual circumstances, it may be necessary to extend the time required to finish the degree. In these cases, the candidate requiring additional time must submit a request for extension prior to the expiration of the applicable period.

On petition of the candidate and the Doctoral Program Committee, the director of graduate studies in the Food Science program may endorse an extension of time. A request for an extension of time must be submitted to the MU Graduate School for approval.

Students who take more than five years to complete the Ph.D. after passing the comprehensive exam may be required by the Food Science faculty to retake some or all of their course work.

Ph.D. candidates needing additional time to complete their research and dissertation must enroll in at least two hours of research in the fall and winter semesters, and at least one hour of research each summer session up to and including the semester in which they will defend the dissertation.

Preparation of a Dissertation

A dissertation based on original research must be reviewed by the student’s Doctoral Program Committee. The dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the dissertation defense. Specific regulations regarding completing and filing the dissertation are outlined in Guidelines for Preparing Thesis and Dissertations.

Research Exit Seminar

Shortly before the defense of the dissertation, the student has to prepare a seminar on his/her research. The seminar must take place when MU is officially in session and has to be announced at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date and is open to the general university audience.

The members of the Doctoral Committee must attend. The seminar may be scheduled immediately prior to the dissertation defense for convenience.

Submission of Manuscript for Publication

All Ph.D. candidates are required to prepare at least one manuscript, judged acceptable by the major adviser and at least one additional member of the student’s Doctoral Program Committee, for submission to a refereed journal, prior to submitting the Report of the Dissertation Defense Form (D-4) (PDF) to the graduate coordinator.

Defense of the Dissertation

After the dissertation has been presented, a final examination will be conducted by the Doctoral Program Committee. The candidate should be prepared to defend the dissertation and discuss any related areas.

A report of the examination, carrying the signatures of all members of the committee, must be sent to the MU Graduate School before the deadline preceding the anticipated date of graduation. For the dissertation to be considered successfully defended, the student’s Doctoral Program Committee must vote to pass the student on the defense with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote.

All dissertation defenses are open to the general faculty. The Food Science program will announce dissertation defense dates to appropriate colleagues within and outside the Program. The dissertation defense must take place when MU is officially in session and the candidate must be enrolled at MU.

A final copy of the dissertation must be submitted to the MU Graduate School electronically. Specific instructions are provided in the Guidelines for Preparing Thesis and Dissertations.

Finally, the student should assure that the form D-4, Report of the Dissertation Defense Form (D-4)(PDF) is submitted to the graduate coordinator as soon as possible. The coordinator will submit the completed form to the director of graduate studies and the graduate dean.