This is the first version of the 2023-24 General Catalog. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

Through coursework 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.

Learning Outcomes

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. Students must maintain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.00.

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 coursework 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 and BMED:7271.

All of these:
PTRS:7812Biomedical Instrumentation and Measurement3
PTRS:7820Seminar in Rehabilitation Science (taken twice for 1 s.h. each)2
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
PSQF:7385/CSED:7385/EDTL:7385/EPLS:7385/GRAD: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 27 s.h. from the following. The capstone course PTRS:7900 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:7826Scientific Writing in Rehabilitation Science2
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 Activity-Based Plasticityarr.
PTRS:7934Critical Thinking in Neural Plasticityarr.
PTRS:7935Critical Thinking in Movement Sciencearr.
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 Integrative Physiology of Exercise1,3
HHP:6460Advanced Cardiovascular Physiology1,3
HHP:6470Advanced Physiology of Aging1,3
HHP:6480Advanced Human Pharmacology1,3
NSCI:7235/NEUR:7235Neurobiology of Disease3
NURS:3460Professional Role II: Research3
Occupational and Environmental Health
OEH:4310Occupational Ergonomics: Principles3
PCOL:6207Ion Channel Pharmacology1
PCOL:6250Advanced Problem Solving in Pharmacological Sciences1
Physical Therapy
PTRS:5210Kinesiology and Pathomechanics4
PTRS:5206Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics3
PTRS:6224Activity-Based Neural and Musculoskeletal Plasticity in Health Care4
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: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. They should have a cumulative grade-point average 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). Acceptable scores for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Duolingo English Test (DET) also may be submitted.

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 Oct. 15 for spring semester entry (notification by Dec. 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.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

Physical Rehabilitation Science, Ph.D.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
72 s.h. must be graduate level coursework; graduate transfer credits allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a
First Year
Any Semester
Introduction to Biostatistics
or Introduction to Statistical Methods
BMED:7270 Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I b 0
PTRS:7812 Biomedical Instrumentation and Measurement c 3
PTRS:7820 Seminar in Rehabilitation Science d 1
Research course e 3
Research course e 2
BMED:7271 Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II b 0
BIOS:5120 Regression Modeling and ANOVA in the Health Sciences 3
PTRS:7820 Seminar in Rehabilitation Science d 1
Research course e 3
Second Year
Any Semester
PSQF:7385 Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 3
PTRS:7880 Teaching Practicum 1
Research course e 3
Specialty Content course f 3
Specialty Content course f 3
Research course e 3
Specialty Content course f 3
Third Year
Any Semester
Comprehensive Exam
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 3
Research course e 1
Fourth Year
PTRS:7990 Thesis: Rehabilitation Science e 6
PTRS:7990 Thesis: Rehabilitation Science e 6
Final Exam g
 Total Hours72
Students must complete specific requirements in the University of Iowa Graduate College after program admission. Refer to the Graduate College website and the Manual of Rules and Regulations for more information.
Online, web-based training on the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) must be completed before enrolling in BMED:7270 and BMED:7271.
Typically offered during fall semesters of even years.
Take twice for a total of 2 s.h.
At least 27 s.h. of research content courses are required, but students typically take more to fulfill degree requirements. The capstone course PTRS:7900 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. Work with faculty advisor to determine appropriate research coursework and sequence.
Students must complete at least 9 s.h. in their scientific specialty area; work with faculty advisor to determine appropriate graduate coursework and sequence.
Dissertation defense.