Master's Degree in Nutrigenomics and Personalised Nutrition

Academic year 2019-20 | 60 credits | 35 places

New student profile and admission criteria

Graduates from health science programmes can access the Master's degree programme in nutrigenomics and personal nutrition, specifically those with bachelor's degrees (or licentiate or associate degrees) in biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, food science and technology, oenology, pharmacy, nursing, medicine, human nutrition and dietetics, chemistry, veterinary studies, or some other possible studies, as can students with foreign degrees in these areas. The Studies Committee will consider admission for holders of other degrees depending on their previous education.

The Studies Committee is responsible for making the decision on whom to admit to the programme. The Committee will consider the following criteria with the following weights (as percentages):

  • Students' academic transcript, weighted according to previous studies (80%);
  • A letter of intent written by the applicant (10%); and
  • Other degree-related academic merits that students can provide (e.g., knowledge of English, specific training courses, etc.) (10%).

Academic and professional goals

This Master's programme is the first officially recognized programme in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition in the world. It provides students with the knowledge that is most requested by businesses and research institutions in the new fields of health and nutrition, and it ensures that graduates will have the greatest possibility for achieving professional success. This postgraduate programme aims to train researchers and professionals in 21st-century food and nutrition sciences, covering knowledge on metabolism, gene-nutrient interactions (nutrigenomics), and food with the goal of improving nutrition and health and focusing on personalized nutrition. It includes training in molecular nutrition; the design of new foods with positive health effects within the context of functional foods; aspects related to food technologies, food safety, and their possible repercussions on public and individuals' health; and new developments in the field. The Master's programme offers students two possible pathways from which to choose: one is research focused and includes a research project, the other is business-career focused and includes an internship in a collaborating company that is a leader in the field of nutrition.

The research-based pathway in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition offers an education that will allow professionals to be able to conduct themselves properly in the world of basic and applied research within the field of nutrition. Furthermore, it will provide them with training in the most cutting-edge sectors of the field; this includes knowledge about and how to use post-genomic era technologies and ideas related to systems biology and personalized nutrition. This pathway is recommended for those students who wish to pursue a future in research at either public or private institutions. The education provided in this pathway will allow students to acquire all of the knowledge and abilities needed to be able to design, begin, and then carry out research work and studies that will lead to doctoral degrees.

The business-career pathway in development and innovation in nutrigenomics and functional foods also provides an education related to state-of-the-art research and nutrition, but with a decidedly career-oriented character that will allow students to acquire the knowledge and abilities needed to be able to independently handle themselves in the business world related to nutrigenomics, personalized nutrition, molecular nutrition, and food safety in the field of new and functional foods.

The Master's degree programme in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition was designed based on the inter-university doctoral programme in nutrition and metabolism, whose quality has been (and continues to be) backed by Spain's Ministry of Education with their distinguished Quality Award, which has been given to the programme since it was first created in 2003. Furthermore, the Master's programme has support from specialists from the European Network of Excellence in Nutrigenomics Research, the NuGO (the European Nutrigenomics Organization, www.nugo.org), which is internationally recognized and the most renowned in Europe for matters dealing with Nutrigenomics; the CIBER (Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red) Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition, an initiative headed by the Health Institute Carlos III (www.ciberobn.es); and the European BIOCLAIMS project (bioclaims.eu), led by Dr Andreu Palou, head of this Master's programme. These scientific networks are made up of the best specialists in the field and their members include a large number of the professors of this Master's programme.

The Master's degree programme in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition is an official public study programme that fully conforms to European Higher Education Area guidelines and provides access to doctoral level studies.

Structure of the study programme

This Master's degree programme offers a total of 93 ECTS credits. Of these, students must take at least 60 (one academic year). Two specializations are offered. 30 credits are mandatory and are common to both specializations; they provide a comprehensive education in the basic foundations that Master's and doctoral students will need to graduate, and they include knowledge on molecular, metabolic, and experimental topics. The remaining required credits are split into two different specializations, and from them students must choose either nutrigenomic research and personalised nutrition or development and innovation in nutrigenomics and functional foods. These two specializations correspond to research-oriented and career-oriented profiles, respectively, but both open the doors to doctoral studies.

The nutrigenomic research and personalised nutrition pathway offers an education that covers the knowledge and application of post-genome era technologies and the application of concepts related to biological systems and personalized nutrition.

The development and innovation in nutrigenomics and functional foods pathway also provides an education related to cutting edge research and nutrition, but with a more career-oriented focus that allows for students to acquire knowledge and abilities that allow them to easily enter the professional world of nutrigenomics, personalized nutrition, molecular nutrition, functional foods, and food safety. Although this pathway is more business focused than the other, it still allows graduates to continue their studies in doctoral programmes and complete a doctoral dissertation, as a doctoral level education is also important for those who wish to pursue a career in the business world.

The overall structure of the courses can be found in the subjects section on the webpage of the Master's degree in nutrigenomics and personalised nutrition.

  • Module 1 covers the basic foundations that future graduates in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition are required to have. 
  • Modules 2A and 2B correspond to the different specializations that students must choose from and which correspond to research-based or career-focused profiles, respectively:
    • Module 2A: Nutrigenomic research and personalized nutrition. This pathway is recommended for students who wish to pursue a future in research and innovation, both in public and private institutions.
    • Module 2B: Development and innovation in nutrigenomics and functional foods. This pathway has a decidedly career-oriented focus that allows students to acquire the knowledge and abilities that will serve them in the nutrigenomics, personalized nutrition, molecular nutrition, functional foods, and food safety businesses.

Via the contents that will be covered throughout the Master's programme, students will acquire a series of competences which are detailed hereafter (G indicates a generic competence, E indicates a specific competence):

 Competences  Generic (G)  
The ability to organize and plan activities in the field of research  G1
The ability to apply critical, logical, and creative thinking to research  G2
The ability to incorporate scientific advances into professional practice  G3
The ability to work independently and with initiative  G4
The skill and flexibility to solve problems effectively  G5
The ability to develop hypotheses and design studies to verify them  G6
The ability to analyse data and draw conclusions from research results  G7
The ability to do interdisciplinary work  G8
Respect for intellectual integrity and ethics  G9
The ability to value and participate in work groups  G10
The ability to collect and summarize the research and professional literature of the discipline  G11
The ability to critically analyse relevant literature  G12
The ability to articulate knowledge in oral and written presentations  G13
Advanced understanding of the overall context in which this speciality is carried out  G14
The ability to carry out work in English (the internationally recognized language in the discipline)  G15
Learning from the possibilities and capabilities offered by ITC (information and communication technology) in the field of study  G16

Appreciation of the fact that an advanced level of knowledge provides leadership abilities in the discipline

 G17
An understanding of the value that the acquired knowledge has for the community  G18
The ability to get involved in issues facing modern society  G19
The ability to analyse the risks and benefits of nutrients and other components of foods  G20
 Specific (E)  
An understanding of the molecular basis of the interactions of nutrients with the genome and their expression  E1
An understanding of the relationship between nutrition and the state of health  E2
An understanding of the relationship between diet and diseases  E3
Application of knowledge in the field in order to promote health  E4
An in-depth understanding of the field of nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition and their impact on society  E5
The knowledge and ability to apply the idea of systems biology  E6
An understanding of the bioactive and functional components of foods  E7
Knowledge about energy metabolism regulation and the influence of the functional components of foods  E8
An understanding of the complexity of the metabolism of nutrients  E9
Integration of knowledge about the main metabolic pathways and the role that nutrients play in both health and disease  E10
The ability to properly design experimental studies and apply them to the field of nutrigenomics and molecular nutrition  E11
The proper application of statistical analyses in the field of nutrigenomics  E12
Knowledge about the sources of financing for research, advancement, and innovation in the field of study  E13
Application of specific laboratory techniques related to the field of molecular nutrition and nutrigenomics  E14
Knowledge about the latest advances in the field of nutrigenomics, personalized nutrition, and molecular nutrition as well as the acquisition of the abilities needed to keep oneself up-to-date on these matters  E15
An understanding of how businesses in the sector and their R&D departments work  E16
The ability to easily fit into a work environment in the fields of nutrigenomics, personalized nutrition, molecular nutrition, and functional foods  E17
The ability to fit into an environment related to food safety and the implications that they have on the field of new foods  E18
Knowledge about the composition of foods and the effects of modifications stemming from human manipulation  E19
An understanding of the foundation of food laws  E20
Knowledge about intellectual property rights in the field  E21
Knowledge about the market in the field of nutrition  E22
An understanding of the various fields of knowledge that make up nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition  E23
Knowledge about the basic foundations of chronobiology and the states of control  E24

Specification of the characteristics of the internship and Master's thesis (or training course stage)

Students must take one practicum-type subject if they are on pathway 2A (Research Project) or 2B (Placements at Companies in the Sector) (see subject factsheets for more information). Students must undertake extensive practical work under the supervision of a lecturer with a doctoral degree on the Master's (for the Research Project), or of a tutor at one of the collaborating companies on the Master's (for Placements at Companies in the Sector) alongside a lecturer with a doctoral degree on the Master's (who shall also monitor students whilst they do their placements).

The practicum subject comprises nine credits and is closely linked to the Master's Thesis (TFM - six credits). A report must be submitted for assessment on the work and learning undertaken during the practicum, including the results and scientific discussion thereof (see TFM subject factsheet). Said report shall be presented at a public viva defence examination before a panel approved by the management body for the Master's. The panel may, where applicable, include members from the business sphere or visiting lecturers. The panel assesses the submitted report and its defence. In order to perform this assessment, the panel has a scoring guide containing the different items to consider and the possible marks awarded for each one (you may consult the rubric at this link).

Programme background and degrees allowing access

An important thing to consider about these studies is their background: they are adapted from the doctoral programme in nutrition and metabolism, organized by the UIB, to the new official regulations regarding postgraduate studies established by Royal Decree 56/2005 and later by Royal Decree 1393/2007. The doctoral programme in nutrition and metabolism has been widely successful; this is evidenced by the fact that it has been awarded the high quality doctoral programme seal by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture every year since the recognition was created in 2003, and that the University of Barcelona and the Rovira i Virgili University have and continue to collaborate with the programme.

Academic, scientific, and professional relevance and interest 

Now, in the 21st century, the science of nutrition incorporates knowledge about metabolism, food, and the interactions between genes and nutrients (nutrigenomics) in order to improve people's diets and health and to offer increasingly personalized nutrition. These Master's and doctoral level studies aim to train professionals who are specialized in the field, from researchers who contribute to discovering unknown properties of nutrients and components of foods and later disseminating those findings, to professionals who contribute to the design of new foods with positive health effects within the field of functional foods and the aspects related to food technologies and who understand the field of food safety and related laws and regulations, to professionals dedicated to researching molecular nutrition. It is important to consider that society raises new questions related to these fields every day, and it constantly demands greater advances in these fields and thus more qualified professionals.

Additionally, it should be noted that there is a series of indicators that highlight the scientific, academic, and professional relevance of these studies and the teaching staff:

  1. The significant number and relevance of publications from research groups involved in the project.

  2. These studies are supported by specialists from the European Network of Excellence in Nutrigenomics Research, the NuGO (the European Nutrigenomics Organization). Backed by a European Commission label as a "Network of Research Excellence" and by the scientific merits of its members, the NuGO is a unique network in this field, and members of the UIB's own research group participate in the group and coordinate this study programme (the research group headed by Dr Andreu Palou). The existence of this organization in the European context highlights the significant level of interest that the topics of nutrition and nutrigenomics (the basis for the contents of this Master's programme) are generating.

  3. Other indicators of the scientific, academic, and professional importance of these studies and the teaching staff are the major projects that the director of studies, as lead researcher and in collaboration with his research group, and the recognition of the group in CIBER (Centros de Investigación Biomédica en Red [Networked Biomedical Research Centres]) within CIBER Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition. It should also be considered that, in the 2004-2007 National Plan for Scientific Research, Development, and Technological Innovation, approved by Council of Ministers agreement of 7 November 2003, and in Spain's 2010 Ingenio Programme, which serves as a tool for promoting R&D in public policies, they establish the need to bolster high-level research in biomedicine and health sciences carried out by the National Health System via the development and empowering of stable networked research structures. With this objective in mind, a policy for strengthening and empowering these structures was created with the legally binding inclusion of research groups into CIBER, in areas of interest to the National Health System.

  4. Additionally, the group and its lead researcher participate in many research projects, both nationally and internationally. Of note is project AGL2006-04877/ALI "Functional nutrigenomics and obesity. The effect of the components of breast milk and specific nutrients during early postnatal development on resistance to obesity and their metabolic complications in adulthood" and the project "Identification and prevention of dietary- and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants (IDEFICS)" (subsidised by the 6th Framework Programme created by the European Union), among others.

  5. Researchers involved in the Master's and doctoral programmes have a wide range of experience in carrying out research projects with international partners, which over the years has led to the creation of international research projects and networks for scientific collaboration (such as, BIOCLAIMS, "Bioactive food components, mitochondrial function and health, COST FA0602", "Red temática de investigación cooperative G03/028", "Dietary lipids as risk factors in development (DLARFID). Mechanistic issues. QLRT2001001832000/C324/11", "Body weight control and energy expenditure. Functional food and nutrition technology, COST action 918", "Metabolic integration and energy control. Regulation of energy balance from brown adipocytes to whole animals, Human Capital and Mobility-Network, ERBCHRXCT940490"), the publication of original articles in high-impact journals, and the exchange of researchers, both those studying and experienced PhD holders.

  6. Researchers involved with this study programme also have extensive experience with business contacts which has led to various opportunities for collaboration contracts (which are normally renewed yearly) that are signed with the research group. In recent years, such contracts have been signed with businesses such as Flora-UnileverMercadonaCognisCorporación Alimentaria Peñasanta SA (Central Lechera Asturiana)Puleva Biotech, Natraceutical, and Casa Tarradellas, among others. These collaborations have had positive repercussions on the Master's and doctoral programmes as they have allowed collaborative agreements to be set up in which businesses actively participate in accepting and authorizing students to carry out their internships. 

  7. The notable presence in highly prestigious European foundations and institutions, such as the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI; a foundation that includes major worldwide food companies: Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Danone, etc.) and the FIAB (the Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Companies). Presence in official institutes should also be noted, such as the AESAN (the Spanish Agency for consumer Affairs, Food and Safety) whose Science Commission was presided over by professor Palou and in which programme professor Dr Catalina Picó now participates, and the SCF (Scientific Committee on Food) between 1997 and 2002 which continued as a scientific panel on nutrition (diet, nutrition, and allergy products) for the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and in which professor Palou also served as vice president. Both institutions (the AESAN and EFSA) represent the main official governmental institutions on matters related to food safety in Spain and the European Union, respectively. Another example of our presence in the scientific field related to the topics covered in these Master's and doctoral programmes is the fact that professor Palou's group made up part of the organizing committee of the 3rd International Conference on Nutrigenomics, which under the title of "from Nutrigenomics to Personalized Nutrition", was carried out in Palma de Mallorca In November of 2005.

Other participating institutions, companies, and public and private bodies

  • There is an agreement between the "Master in Nutrigenomics and Personalised Nutrition" (UIB) and the "Master in Nutrition and Metabolism" (URV-UB), allowing to share specific subjects, using telematic tools, among others, and specially highlighting the use of videoconference. (Complete protocol of collaboration).
    • Rovira i Virgili University (URV)
    • University of Barcelona (UB)
  • The following leading companies and institutions in nutrition and the human diet:
    • Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER) Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition. CIBER is an initiative pertaining to the Institute of Health Carlos III (Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality).
    • Corporación Alimentaria Peñasanta, SA
    • Biosearch life (previously Puleva-Biotech)
    • Unilever
    • PASCUAL
    • IBABSA
    • Biópolis
  • Other institutions that have shown their support:
    • NuGO (European Nutrigenomics Organization)

To summarize, the Master's and doctoral study programmes in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition offer a specialized education, aimed at training professionals in the field of molecular nutrition with special attention being given to new technologies such as transcriptomics, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and systems biology, as these areas are fundamental for new professionals in the world of nutrition. Also of increasing importance is having knowledge about issues related to food safety and quality as well as functional foods. The need for these professionals stems from the interest that society is placing on having a better quality of life through proper personalized nutrition based on the new knowledge of gene-nutrient interactions and the application of new diagnostic tools based on early markers of diseases. Additionally it is increasingly evident that, aside from applying nutritional concepts to the general public, the use of personalized nutrition is ever more relevant as it allows one to go more in-depth with regard to the nutritional and metabolic characteristics of small groups and populations, and even individuals.

Final Exam

Specified in the "Evaluation criteria and exams" and "Structure of the study programme" sections of this descriptor (for information on the characteristics of the internship and the Master's thesis).

 

Evaluation criteria and exams

Specific assessment criteria are defined for each particular subject in the Master's programme, and they can vary depending on the type of subject and the specific objectives the subject aims to reach. More information can be found in the subjects section. However, in general, the following assessment methods are used (in some subjects, students can choose which kind of assessment they would like):

  • Turning in and defending a request for a hypothetical project concerning topics covered in the class,
  • Defending and/or turning in theoretical work (tutorials and work that can be done individually or in a group),
  • Mid-course exams (for example, two exams with one multiple choice section and one short answer section that involves interpreting experimental data),
  • Final exam (exam with one multiple choice section and one short answer section that involves interpreting experimental data),
  • Etc.

Also, for information on the nature of the internship and Master's thesis, see the "Structure of the study programme" section.

 

Study programme leadership

Co-director of the degree programme:

Dr. Andreu Palou Oliver
Category
CU
Telephone
971 17 3170 - Fax: 971 17 3426
Location
Office num. Q. 30, ground floor Mateu Orfila building, Universitat de les Illes Balears, ctra. Valldemossa, km 7,5, 07122, Palma.

Co-director of the degree programme:

Dr. Ana M. Rodríguez Guerrero
Category
TU
Telephone
971 25 9617 - Fax: 971 17 3426
Location
Office num. Q.11, ground floor Mateu Orfila building, Universitat de les Illes Balears, ctra. Valldemossa, km 7,5, 07122, Palma.

Related web pages:

Molecular biology, nutrition, and biology laboratory - LBNB  (http://palou.uib.es).