Through course work and participation in research, the Doctor of Philosophy program in physical rehabilitation science emphasizes the development of an individual's expertise as a researcher in rehabilitation science. Approximately 20 students are enrolled in the Ph.D. program each year.

Graduates who complete the program are prepared for academic appointments that emphasize research, scholarship, and teaching. They possess:

  • theoretical and scientific knowledge to perform basic, applied, or clinical-level original research that leads to scientific presentations, publication in peer-reviewed journals, and competition for extramural funding through scientific grant writing;
  • breadth of knowledge in exercise physiology, biomechanic, neuroscience, or motor control specialty areas as they relate to impairment, functional limitation, and disability; and
  • theoretical and practical skills required for college or university teaching at the professional entry and advanced graduate levels.

The Doctor of Philosophy with a major in physical rehabilitation science requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. The program is designed to advance a student's ability to independently develop and carry out research that establishes the scientific basis for prevention, evaluation, and treatment of impairments, functional limitations, and disability. The curriculum is flexible enough to accommodate research focusing on basic, applied, or clinical studies in the rehabilitation sciences. Students have access to the program's research laboratories (see Facilities in this section of the Catalog).


Students and their faculty advisor develop an individualized study plan. A preliminary study plan is developed within the first 9 s.h. of graduate study; a final plan is submitted to the Graduate College when the Ph.D. comprehensive examination is scheduled.

To ensure breadth of knowledge, all students complete specific core, research, and scientific specialty area content courses. Elective courses are selected to provide in-depth study of the specialty; they are complemented by an advanced seminar course specific to a student's specialty and taken in preparation for the comprehensive examination.

Students must satisfactorily complete the comprehensive examination, which is taken after all required course work is completed. Doctoral study culminates with 12 s.h. of thesis research and an oral examination.

General Core Requirement

Ph.D. students must complete the following core requirements. In addition to the courses below, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI)—online, web-based training—must be completed before a student enrolls in BMED:7270 Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I and BMED:7271 Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II.

All of these:
PTRS:7812Biomedical Instrumentation and Measurement3
PTRS:7820Seminar in Rehabilitation Science (taken twice)1
PTRS:7880Teaching Practicumarr.
BIOS:5120/IGPI:5120/STAT:5610Regression Modeling and ANOVA in the Health Sciences3
BMED:7270Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I0
BMED:7271Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II0
HHP:3900Writing for Health and Human Physiology3
PSQF:7385/EDTL:7385/EPLS:7385/GRAD:7385/RCE:7385Teaching and Learning in Higher Education3
One of these:
BIOS:4120Introduction to Biostatistics3
STAT:4143/PSQF:4143Introduction to Statistical Methods3

Research Requirement

Students complete at least 24 s.h. from the following. The capstone course PTRS:7900 Rehabilitation Research Capstone Project is recommended but not required for students who enter the program with a master's or doctoral-level degree; however, it is required for students who enter with a bachelor's degree.  

PTRS:7884Practicum in Researcharr.
PTRS:7895Advanced Seminar in Rehabilitation Sciencearr.
PTRS:7900Rehabilitation Research Capstone Projectarr.
PTRS:7927Research in Rehabilitation Sciencearr.
PTRS:7930Critical Thinking in Neuro-Mechanical Systemsarr.
PTRS:7931Critical Thinking in Painarr.
PTRS:7932Critical Thinking in Biomechanics and Human Performance Assessmentarr.
PTRS:7933Critical Thinking in Movement Control/Human Performancearr.
PTRS:7934Critical Thinking in Neural Plasticityarr.
PTRS:7935Critical Thinking in Sports Medicinearr.
PTRS:7936Critical Thinking in Cardiovascular Physiologyarr.
PTRS:7990Thesis: Rehabilitation Sciencearr.

Specialty Content Requirement

Students must complete at least 9 s.h. in their scientific specialty area. Students may choose courses from the following list, but other courses suited to a student's background knowledge and interest area are considered.

Anatomy and Cell Biology
ACB:8401Advanced Human Anatomyarr.
EPID:6900Design of Intervention and Clinical Trials3
Health and Human Physiology
HHP:6130Advanced Skeletal Muscle Physiology1,3
HHP:6150Advanced Clinical Exercise Physiology1,3
HHP:6300Motor Control Seminar1
HHP:6410Advanced Exercise Physiology1,3
HHP:6460Advanced Cardiovascular Physiology1,3
HHP:6470Advanced Physiology of Aging1,3
HHP:6480Advanced Human Pharmacology1,3
NSCI:7235Neurobiology of Disease3
NURS:3460Professional Role II: Research3
Occupational and Environmental Health
OEH:4310Occupational Ergonomics: Principles3
OEH:6310Occupational Ergonomics: Applications3
PCOL:6207Ion Channel Pharmacology1
PCOL:6250Advanced Problem Solving in Pharmacological Sciences1
Physical Therapy
PTRS:5210Kinesiology and Pathomechanics4
PTRS:5206Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics3
PTRS:6250Critical Inquiry I: Evidence-Based Practice2
PTRS:6251Critical Inquiry II: Rehabilitation Research2
PTRS:6253Functional Neuroanatomyarr.
PTRS:7875Analysis of Activity-Based Neural and Musculoskeletal Plasticity3
PTRS:7885Biomechanical Analysis in Rehabilitation3
PTRS:7899Introduction to Pain: Overview of Theories, Concepts, and Mechanisms1
PTRS:7901Clinical Correlates of Pain: Syndromes and Management1
PTRS:7902Molecular, Cellular, and Neural Mechanisms of Pain2
PTRS:7903Rehabilitation Management of Pain1

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College. They should have a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00 and scores at or above the 50th percentile for each section of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test. A minimum of two years of clinical experience may be considered highly desirable, depending on the research interest area.

Applicants whose first language is not English must score at least 100 (internet-based) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Application materials must include a complete Graduate College application form, test scores, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Personal interviews are required of all applicants selected for consideration by the admissions committee. On-campus interviews are preferred, but telephone interviews may be substituted when necessary.

Application deadlines are October 15 for spring semester entry (notification by December 15); March 15 for summer entry (notification by May 15); and May 15 for fall semester entry (notification by July 15).

A number of assistantships are available for Ph.D. students. Faculty advisors provide guidance for students seeking external scholarship support through foundations and federal programs that support Ph.D. training.

The Ph.D. program trains students to obtain positions as professors and researchers in rehabilitation science.