It now is clear that nutrients function in ways that extend well beyond their traditional roles as structural elements, biochemical cofactors and sources of energy. This view has been reflected in continuing interest in functional foods and nutriceuticals, but includes the additional realization that specific organic macronutrients interact to regulate cellular function at all levels of organization from gene expression to membrane structure to host defense. Coupled with this enhanced appreciation of the functional roles of macronutrients, unprecedented opportunities are afforded by recent progress in genetics and genomics. Nutrition is the safest and most effective means to modify and manipulate genome structure, function and stability. Thus, nutritional sciences are uniquely positioned to reap the full benefits of this new knowledge and the associated technologies. The expansion into the post-genomics era also has heralded a revitalization of interest in the integrative nature of biology. These technical and conceptual developments offer a considerable challenge to those concerned with the training of the next generation of nutritional investigators.
The aim of this program was to prepare students to be full and active participants in the new frontiers of nutrition research by equipping them with the necessary technical capabilities and by educating them in interdisciplinary, integrative approaches to nutrition research. Research training concentrated on protein and amino acids or lipids and short chain fatty acids and their roles in intestinal, hepatic or skeletal muscular function.