Part of the mission of the Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Scienceis to develop new knowledge that aids in the advancement of human health. This is the central focus of the faculty’s research.

Ongoing investigations cover a variety of topics (e.g., pain, neuromuscular plasticity, fatigue, gait) in a number of patient populations including spinal cord injury, stroke, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and ACL injury. The work is accomplished through basic, applied, and/or clinical approaches, and is funded by a variety of sources including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, industry, and several prominent research foundations (e.g., the Foundation for Physical Therapy, International Association for the Study of Pain, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation). A unique feature of the program is its integration with both the Carver College of Medicine and the Graduate College, fostering broad collaborations that span departments and disciplines such as neuroscience, pharmacology, anesthesia, internal medicine, engineering, orthopaedics, and radiology.

The following research laboratories are directed by Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science faculty members: 

Human Movement Control/Performance Laboratory

Director: Richard K. Shields, PT, PhD 

Neuromuscular Biomechanics Laboratory

Director: Laura A. Frey Law, PT, PhD 

Neurobiology of Pain Laboratory

Director: Kathleen A. Sluka, PT, PhD 

Human Integrative and Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory

Director: Darren P. Casey, PhD

Applied Neuroplasticity Laboratory

Director:  Stacey L. DeJong, PT, PhD

Human Performance and Clinical Outcomes Laboratory

Director:  Jason M. Wilken, PT, PhD

Movement, Imaging & Rehabilitation Laboratory

Director:  Ruth L. Chimenti, DPT, PhD


The PhD Program in Physical Rehabilitation Science is focused on preparing students for a career in research and teaching. In addition to discovering new knowledge, the Program offers an exceptional opportunity for graduate students to train and conduct their own original research under the mentorship of an experienced faculty member.