Rehabilitation Science

The PhD program in Rehabilitation Science is a specialized curriculum in orthopedics & clinical biomechanics. The curriculum is an interdisciplinary endeavor of the departments of Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy.

Please review the details regarding our newly revised program. Please contact Dr. Ben Kivlan at (412) 396-5545 or by email with any questions you might have regarding the program.

Mission Statement

The Mission of the PhD program in Rehabilitation Science at Duquesne University is to prepare outstanding Orthopedic/Sports Medicine rehabilitation practitioners to become leaders in their respective fields as educators and scholars who are capable of completing and communicating unique independent research that contributes to the advancement of their profession.

Graduates of the program will be prepared to initiate a career in academia.

Program Information

The Duquesne University Rehabilitation Science Ph.D. program offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to advance research in rehabilitation sciences. With a focus on evidence-based practice, students engage in cutting-edge research and collaborate with expert faculty to contribute to the field of rehabilitation science.

Program Type





3 years

Required Credit Hours

Minimum of 72 credit hours


Rehabilitation Science - Ph.D.

Applicant Eligibility

  • Applicant eligibility is subject to discretion of the Program Director.
  • An entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy degree or a masters degree in athletic training, occupational therapy, physical therapy or related field.
  • Recommended to have a license to practice physical therapy, athletic training or respective discipline (e.g. Occupational Therapy; Physician Assistant) in Pennsylvania or be eligible for a license to practice in Pennsylvania
  • Two years of professional experience.

Additional Requirements

  • Submission of a professional statement that details the applicant's educational and career goals.
  • Prospective students must identify a faculty member within the department of Athletic Training or Physical Therapy whom they wish to server as their Faculty Advisor.
  • Three letters of recommendation detailing your qualifications to enter advanced graduate education, qualifications as a clinician and your abilities/potential for research.
  • GRE score of 297 or higher.
  • Official copies of all undergraduate and graduate college transcripts sent directly from the institution(s) to Duquesne University.
  • If English is a foreign language for the applicant, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS is required. The student must score a minimum of an: 80 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS to be considered for Admission. The TOEFL or IELTS must be taken within one year of application. Scores must be received directly from the testing service.
  • If your undergraduate and/or graduate degrees are from an institution located outside of the United States, you must use a transcript credential evaluation service to obtain a course-by-course report. The official reports must be sent directly to Duquesne University from the organization you order through and will qualify as official transcripts. 

Research Methods: This course provides an overview of foundations of research design and the uses and interpretation of results. Content includes: reviewing the literature; developing research problems/questions; hypothesis testing; experimental, quasi-experimental and other research designs; and evaluating research studies.

Research Methods & Design: This course provides an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches to research design and methodology. Through the use of specific research cases, students will analyze the practical problems faced by a researcher and the solution he or she selected. Students will also learn to evaluate the researcher's solutions and consider alternatives.

Statistics I: This course is an introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics. Topics addressed in this course include: basic statistical and research concepts, graphical displays of data, measures of central tendency and variability, standardized scores, normal distribution, probability, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, sampling distributions, correlation, simple linear regression, and t-tests.

Statistics II: The major topics focused upon are analysis of variance and multiple regression. Specific areas include: one-way ANOVA, factorial ANOVA, post-hoc analysis, model assumptions, repeated measures analysis, analysis of covariance, and regression procedures. In addition, the evaluation of model assumptions and power analysis will also be discussed.

Statistics III: Major topics focused upon are preliminary data screening, multivariate analysis of variance and covariance, multiple regression, factor analysis, discriminant function analysis, and logistic regression.

Qualitative Research: Study of philosophical and methodological foundations of qualitative inquiry combined with practical experience of working on a project. Content includes: theoretical principles and models; data collection and interpretation; and examining qualitative research studies.

Clinical Outcomes and Evidence Based Practice Research: This course will analyze the theories and methods behind developing, conducting, and interpreting research related to clinical outcomes and evidence-based practice. Current literature will be appraised and areas of future research will be outlined and explored. Potential projects will be developed and systematically critiqued.

Theories of Teaching and Learning: This course provides the student opportunities to analyze assumptions about knowing, teaching, and learning; to study theories of human learning and their relationships to motivation, development, and teaching; and to reflect on and project your own teaching and learning practice based on theoretically sound principles.

Technology and Education: This course provides the student an overview of technology in the classroom. The course is based on an examination of the pedagogy of teaching digitally and how technology serves as another teaching strategy for the classroom. Use of computers, networks, video, and distance learning tools will be discussed. The impact of school-related legislation will include copyright laws, censorship, standards, and school board interaction. A review of the various leadership roles available in the field of instructional technology will be conducted.

Psychology of Learning: Several theoretical mechanisms of learning and cognitive processing are examined. The goal of the course is to establish the practical utility of the major learning theories.

Bioinstrumentation: This course provides the student with the knowledge and skills necessary to become proficient with several pieces of instrumentation commonly employed in biomechanics laboratories for orthopedic research.

Grant Writing: This course provides the student an opportunity to gain an introductory experience with the process of grantsmanship. The experience includes but is not limited to developing a long term research agenda, meeting with and identifying the role of the Office of Sponsored Research at Duquesne University, identifying appropriate funding sources and the writing & submission of a grant proposal.

Directed Research: This laboratory-based course gives the student an opportunity to gain experience in conducting a faculty-driven and directed-research project. Additionally, the course serves as a means by which the student gains in-depth and first-hand experience with investigative techniques that are used in biomechanical and orthopedic research.

Supervised Research: This laboratory-based course gives the student an opportunity to gain experience in conducting a student-driven research project which is supervised by a faculty member. This course will expose and involve the student in all aspects of the research process with a small scale (faculty-approved) project.

Scientific Writing: This course gives the student experience in the process of scientific writing and the tasks associated with and related to this skill. Ultimately, it is the intent of this course to create a manuscript that could be submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. To facilitate this goal, the student will be required to assist the instructor with the writing related to an ongoing research project.

Physical Modalities: This course provides the student with content on advanced topics in the physical modalities that are used to treat patients in clinical practice. The indications, contraindications and evidence to support the use of the modalities is also presented and discussed during class meetings. This course provides the student with opportunities to make sound and justifiable clinical decisions based on a patient's medical history in the selection or discontinuation of specific modalities. Course activities and assignments develop clinical reasoning skills that rationalize and justify modalities as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

Integrative Biomechanics of the Lower Extremity: This course requires the student to integrate the anatomy, biomechanics, and pathology of the hip, knee, foot and ankle and develop a comprehensive understanding of the structures and functions of the lower extremity. The student will examine how these segments interact with one another to influence the function of the entire lower extremity and ultimately influence the examination, evaluation and therapeutic interventions of lower limb pathologies.

Cadaver Anatomy I & II: These courses examine the anatomical details of a specific joint or region of the human body. The joint or region studied in these courses is determined by the student, his or her designed program, Faculty Advisor, Program Committee, and the course instructor. The student participates in human cadaver dissection of the specific joint or region of interest. The dissection approach is determined by the goals of the student and agreed on by the course instructor. In addition to cadaver dissection the student is expected to review and discuss current literature pertinent to his or her dissection.

Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries: This course requires the student to explore the epidemiology and etiology of injuries to the major joints of the human body as well as the effectiveness of intervention programs aimed at preventing these injuries. The student also is required to complete assignments which detail his/her perception of how injuries occur to the major joints. This perception is based on objective findings and an evidence-based rationale.

Musculoskeletal Biomechanics: This course requires the student to examine the responses of musculoskeletal tissues (bone, skeletal muscle, tendon, ligaments, cartilage) to stress and injury. Additionally, the student will investigate the repair process for these tissues and the factors that influence this process.

Orthopedic and Biomechanics I: This course requires the student to explore the biomechanics of normal and abnormal human motion. Through examination of the spine, upper extremity and lower extremity the student explores various mechanisms of joint stability (static & dynamic), mobility and how these elements become integrated into human function. The student will apply these biomechanical concepts to physical assessment, surgical procedures, and current best practice interventions.

Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: These courses require the student to delve into the biomechanics, physical assessment, imaging and rehabilitation of specific body segments. Updates in surgical procedures and post-operative rehabilitation will also be explored. While these courses primarily have a clinical theme, the underlying intent of this content is to provide substance by which the student becomes familiar with the reliability/validity and the sensitivity/specificity of the techniques used to arrive at a diagnosis. The courses will also investigate the available scientific research related to the effectiveness of conservative and surgical interventions for common orthopedic conditions. A main outcome of these courses is to identify a list of unanswered research questions that may assist the student in identifying potential research questions.

Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Shoulder 3 credits
Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Elbow 3 credits
Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Wrist & Hand 3 credits
Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Hip 3 credits
Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Knee 3 credits
Orthopedics and Biomechanics II: Ankle & Foot 3 credits

Teaching Practicum: The teaching practicum requires the student to integrate and apply educational knowledge and theory in a classroom setting. The student will use appropriate educational methodology for the course content. The student will incorporate evaluation tools that complement the learning material. The student will design course content and demonstrate sound teaching skills. The student will be required to integrate instructional technology, and exhibit strong interpersonal skills and appropriate use of constructive criticism. The course will be team-taught by a content expert in orthopedics and clinical biomechanics and a content expert in education.


The student will complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of coursework (excluding dissertation credits) including a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework taken on the Duquesne University campus. Total program is a minimum of 72 credit hours. The specific blend of coursework will be dependent upon the details and scope of the current undertaking as well as the past educational and professional experiences of the student.

1. Research Design and Statistics

Research Methods* 3 credits
Statistics I* 3 credits
Statistics II* 3 credits
Statistics III* 3 credits
Qualitative Research* 3 credits
Clinical Outcomes & Evidence Based Practice Research 3-6 credits

2. Anatomy Courses

Specialized Topics in Anatomy I* 3 credits
Specialized Topics in Anatomy II 3 credits

3. Concentration Courses

Orthopedics & Biomechanics Overview* 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Upper Limb & Shoulder 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Upper Limb & Elbow 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Upper Limb & Wrist and Hand 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Lower Limb & Hip 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Lower Limb & Knee 3 credits
Orthopedics & Biomechanics of the Lower Limb & Ankle and Foot 3 credits
Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injury 3 credits
Musculoskeletal Biomechanics 3 credits
Integrative Biomechanics of the Lower Limb 3 credits
Physical and Therapeutic Modalities 3 credits
Bioinstrumentation 3 credits
Seminar in Orthopedics & Sports Medicine* 1 credit
Supervised Research* 1-3 credits
Directed Research* 1-3 credits

4. Independent Study Courses

Independent Study I 1-3 credits
Independent Study II 1-3 credits
Independent Study III 1-3 credits

5. Electives

Neuroscience 4 credits
Scientific Writing 3 credits
Grant Writing 3 credits
Motor Learning** 3 credits

6. Education Courses

Theories of Teaching & Learning* 3 credits
Technology and Education 3 credits
Psychology of Learning 3 credits
Teaching Practicum I* 3 credits

7. Dissertation Courses

Dissertation I* 9 credits
Dissertation II* 9 credits

*Required Course

**Course available through Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education

Comprehensive Academic Project

The Comprehensive Academic Project (CAP) is intended to serve a role similar to that of a traditional comprehensive or qualifying examination. The CAP is an academic experience that requires the student to demonstrate his or her depth and breadth of knowledge relevant to his or her specific concentration of study in Orthopedics and Clinical Biomechanics. The CAP will take place after all required course work is completed but before the dissertation proposal. The CAP will consist of both a written and an oral component. To proceed to candidacy, the student must pass both written and oral portions of the CAP. The written component consists of a typed manuscript written by the student in journal format, which describes a formal supervised or directed research endeavor the student experienced during his or her studies within the Rehabilitation Sciences Ph.D. program at Duquesne University. The required quality of the paper must be at a sufficiently high enough level that it may be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal with a reasonable chance of being accepted. The oral component must consist of a public presentation to members of the student's Program Committee and will be open to Duquesne University faculty, and students. The general format of the oral presentation is that of a professional podium presentation followed by questions and answers. The specific project selected for the CAP must be approved by the student's Program Committee prior to commencement of the project. The CAP serves as a measured directive that assesses the student's capability to successfully complete a dissertation. A Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Science will be issued to all students who have successfully completed all program requirements up to and including the CAP.


Every student is required to complete a written dissertation and to successfully orally present and defend his/her completed dissertation. Every student working on a dissertation must maintain continuous enrollment (register each semester either for credit or for continuous registration) until the dissertation is complete. Students are strongly encouraged to become intimately familiar with dissertation format, procedures and deadlines by visiting the library's website for electronic theses and dissertations


PhD students derive maximum benefits from the program when they maintain full time study status of 9 credit hours per semester. The minimum residency requirement is two contiguous semesters (excluding Summer term) of full time study. The residency requirement must be met before the student is eligible for the comprehensive academic project.

Statute of Limitations

  • Students are expected to complete all course work and the comprehensive academic project within 5 calendar years from the date of first registration in the doctoral program.
  • All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within 8 calendar years of enrollment. (Example: If first registration is August 2010, the eight-year limit expires August, 2018).

Advanced Standing

A maximum of 18 credits may be transferred into the PhD program. For credits to be considered acceptable, they must stem from a related post-entry level degree and be approved by both the student's program advisor and the PhD Program Director.

Please provide all relevant documentation (i.e. syllabi and transcripts) to support your case related to the coursework / credits under consideration.

  • Grades earned on transferred work must be equivalent to a "B" or better.
  • Courses taken on a pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis will be considered on a case by case basis.
  • The program does not accept transfer credit for non-credit courses, including lifetime learning seminars and programs, or courses taken for Continuing Education Units.
As funds permit, tuition stipends may be made available to PhD students and doctoral candidates who demonstrate normal or better progress towards fulfilling degree requirements. Further, depending upon the student's area of focus and qualifications, additional funds may be available in the form of a graduate assistantship. Assistantship possibilities include but are not limited to teaching and scholarship related activities.