PhD in Rehabilitation Science

The PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science prepares researchers, educators, and leaders in Rehabilitation Science to contribute to the development of rehabilitation practice, research, and policy. Rehabilitation Science is an interdisciplinary field that includes basic and applied research from health sciences, social sciences, engineering, and related fields. 

Commitment to diversity

The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine is committed to:

  • Cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion; and fostering a climate of respect for patients and their families, as well as our students, trainees, faculty, and staff.
  • Recruitment, retention, and advancement of faculty, fellows, residents, students, and staff from groups under-represented in rehabilitation medicine in an inclusive and equitable environment.
  • Advocacy and outreach to underserved and marginalized populations to improve equity in healthcare outcomes.

Visit our Diversity page to learn more. 

Core Faculty

Mark Harniss, PhD

Mark Harniss, PhD

Many additional faculty members within our department work with PhD students as supervisors, instructors, mentors, and collaborators. Our full faculty list is available here

Graduates of the PhD program will be expected to demonstrate competence relative to the following goals:

  • Understand Rehabilitation Science and biopsychosocial constructs of disability, and apply this information to develop excellence in research, education, service delivery, and policy development and interpretation.
  • Understand the unique role and contribution to Rehabilitation Science of entering disciplines (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, prosthetics and orthotics, rehabilitation counseling, and other rehabilitation-related professions); as well as appreciating integration and synergy across these disciplines.
  • Engage in preparation as a teacher of rehabilitation science and in the student’s respective discipline.
  • Critically evaluate and synthesize research in Rehabilitation Science.
  • Understand research methods relevant to Rehabilitation Science.
  • Design and implement innovative research relevant to Rehabilitation Science.
  • Take a leadership role in team science.
  • Design and deliver scholarly presentations and facilitate effective discussions.
  • Disseminate research and other scholarly products/manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and other venues appropriate to the field of rehabilitation science.
  • Effectively design, implement and evaluate instruction related to a focused area of study and reflecting a Rehabilitation Science perspective.

The PhD in Rehabilitation Science curriculum is founded on a biopsychosocial framework and a commitment to interdisciplinary research and interprofessional practice. Though we expect each student's pathway to be highly individualized, all students will complete specific requirements:

  • A seven-quarter core course series (21 credits)
  • A seven-quarter professional development seminar series (7 credits)
  • Extensive coursework and/or independent study in research methods, including research ethics (minimum of 18 credits)
  • Coursework and practicum experiences in teaching (minimum of 5 credits)
  • Three cognates (areas of study) specific to the student’s individual interests and or goals (minimum of 6 credits each). Each cognate will include a series of courses and/or independent studies.

In addition to these requirements, the curriculum for each student will include 1) an early research experience, including participation in a mentor’s research culminating in the completion of a manuscript and scholarly presentation, 2) completion of the General Examination, and 3) successful defense of the Dissertation. 

Credit from other universities

Credits from other universities cannot be transferred to UW to count towards these requirements; however, some coursework pursued to fulfill these requirements can be adjusted to ensure students are moving beyond their current knowledge and skill set.

The PhD program admits a new cohort of students every other year on even-numbered years. The application deadline is January 15 of even-numbered years for entry into the program in September of that year. Potential applicants may reach out to faculty if they are interested in talking with faculty members to learn about their research. Applicants do not need to have identified a mentor prior to application. Matching students with mentors is completed as part of the application process.

All items are submitted online through the UW Graduate School.

Please schedule and complete an informational meeting with a program representative well before the January 15 application deadline. (We recommend September, October, or November). This informational meeting does not have to be in person but must be completed for your application to be considered. Additional interviews with the PhD Program Core Faculty and/or potential mentors may be scheduled during the application review phase. Please email the program office to arrange a time:

Application requirements

Application requirements are:

  • CV or resume
  • Transcripts from all colleges attended (unofficial, and uploaded to Grad School application)
  • Professional license number, type, state of issue, expiration date (if applicable)
  • Three letters of reference
  • Interview(s) with program representative(s)
  • Letter of application addressing the following points (please refer to application for the complete writing prompt:
    • Why are you pursuing doctoral study in Rehabilitation Science?
    • Describe your short- and long-term career goals.
    • Describe your qualifications and readiness for doctoral study.
    • Describe an area in Rehabilitation Science on which you would like to focus.
    • Describe why you selected the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Washington and why you believe this specific program will help you meet your educational and career goals.

In addition to online materials submitted to the UW Graduate School, the PhD Program may request a copy of official transcripts.

Eligibility criteria

Prospective students typically have backgrounds in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, rehabilitation counseling, prosthetics & orthotics, medicine, nursing, engineering, or other fields related to Rehabilitation Science.

In addition, all applicants will be required to have outstanding academic records and, in most cases, documentation of clinical expertise and leadership. Factors considered in admission to this degree are:

  • Previous background, including work experience (preferred) and licensure and/or certification to practice (as appropriate) in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, rehabilitation counseling, prosthetics and orthotics, medicine, nursing, engineering, or other field related to rehabilitation science. Applicants with bachelor's, master's, and clinical doctoral degrees will be considered.
  • Undergraduate and/or graduate minimum GPA of 3.0 in their field of study.
  • Letters of reference from both academic and clinical settings (as appropriate).
  • Evidence of certification and licensure to practice (if applicable)

Selection process

The PhD Administrative Core Faculty reviews all applications to the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science and considers potential mentors for the applicants. Selection decisions weigh the strength of an application and the availability of an appropriate program mentor.

Applications received by the application deadline are given first consideration.  If there is space available in the program after this initial round, applications received after the deadline may be considered.

Resident and non-resident tuition for the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science are based on Tier I Graduate Tuition & Fees for the Seattle campus, available from the University of Washington Office of Planning & Budgeting. 

In addition to living expenses, other expenses associated with doctoral study may include books, computer hardware and software, transportation, costs related to conducting dissertation research, and dissertation preparation.

Although we cannot guarantee financial assistance in the form of graduate student appointments to all students, we make every effort to find financial support within the Department’s ongoing teaching and research activities, training grants, and other funding opportunities.  We will also facilitate funding support and graduate student appointments through other campus departments when available and appropriate. Please talk with the program representatives about common funding options.

Please review the information on Fellowships and Assistantships provided on the Graduate School website.

Additional resources for financial assistance include:

Thanks to generous donors, the following funds are also available to assist PhD students.

PhD Education and Training Funds

With deep appreciation to the generosity of donors, the PhD in Rehabilitation Science Education and Training Funds provide support for an array of PhD student-centered needs including travel to conferences, publication fees, research expenses, and related costs. 

  1. Kartin Fund: This fund was named in honor of Deborah Kartin, PT, PhD.  Dr. Kartin, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, was the inaugural Director of the University of Washington PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science.
  2. Wang/Robinson Fund:  The Wang/Robinson endowed fund was initiated by Leilei Wang, PhD, MD, and Lawrence R. Robinson, MD. Dr. Wang, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, and Dr. Robinson, Professor, and the Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine when the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science was established, all co-founded this endowed fund to support students in the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science.
  3. Anderson Fund:  The Anderson endowed fund was established by Marjorie E. Anderson, PhD, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington.  Dr. Anderson served as Director of Rehabilitation Research, Vice-Chair of the Department, and twice as interim Chair, and endowed this fund to support students in the PhD Program in Rehabilitation Science.
  4. McEwen Fund: Established through the generous support of the McEwen Family, this fund helps support PhD students with a research focus on pediatric physical therapy.

Students Completing their Dissertations:

Hoda Farhadi 

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Sujata Pradhan, PT, PhD

Sarah Thomas

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Sujata Pradhan, PT, PhD

Orli Shulein
Orli Shulein

Discipline: Speech-Language Pathology

Mentor: Jeanne Hoffman, PhD 

Originally From: New York

Research Interests: Exploring the biopsychosocial factors influencing early concussion recovery, including perceived injustice, stress, and patient-provider communication. Clinically, she specializes in high-level cognitive-communication treatment of adults with persistent post-concussive symptoms.

2020 Cohort

Reham Abuatiq stands on the waterfront in Seattle on a sunny day.
Reham A. Abuatiq

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Heather Feldner, PT, PhD 

Originally From: Amman Jordan

Research Interests: Pediatric physical therapy, enhancing the involvement and inclusion of disabled children in society, exploring the psychological impact of gross motor disabilities on children.

Niffer Brodsky stands by the water with small dog with very big ears in her arms.
Jennifer “Niffer” Brodsky

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Val Kelly, PT, PhD

Originally From: Bourbonnais, IL

Research Interests: The potential use of technology to improve access to care and provide supplement guided exercise programming to underserved populations. She is specifically curious about the prevention of decline in physical function and secondary health conditions in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders after the transition from pediatric to adult medical care.

Cait Brown
Cait Brown

Discipline: Speech-Language Pathology

Mentor: Carolyn Baylor, PhD, CCC-SLP and Tracy Mroz, PhD, OTR/L

Originally From: New Orleans, Louisiana

Research Interests:  Her research interests relate to investigating the characteristics, outcomes, and value of speech-language pathology utilizing health services research methods. She is also interested in understanding the impact of policy and health economics on clinical practice especially in long-term care and for people living with dementia.

Claire Child
Claire Child

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Beth Brown, PT, PhD 

Originally From: San Diego, CA

Research Interests: Claire Child is originally from San Diego, CA but has lived in multiple states across the US, practicing as a physical therapist in large academic medical centers and specializing in critical care rehabilitation and heart and lung transplantation. Her research interests are in exercise optimization for individuals with advanced cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions and the use of technology and behavioral change strategies to augment physical activity in at-risk populations. Claire previously received a Doctor of Physical Therapy from the MGH Institute of Health Professions and a Masters of Public Health in Health Care Policy and Management from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is an ABPTS board-certified clinical specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy (CCS) since 2014.

Rich Henderson stands in front of a large sculpture.
Rich Henderson

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Chet Moritz, PhD 

Originally From: McKinney, TX

Research Interests: My research interests center around developing and testing neuroprosthetic devices to restore and improve movement following a stroke or spinal cord injury. By integrating advanced technology into neurorehabilitation treatment paradigms, I believe we can promote independence and enhance the quality of life for individuals living with paralysis.

Rachael Rosen sits on a wall with buildings in the background.
Rachael Rosen

Discipline: Prosthetics and Orthotics

Mentor: Brian Hafner, PhD 

Originally From: Redmond, Washington

Research Interests: Evaluating health and mobility outcomes related to prosthetic & orthotic interventions; utilizing big data to improve health equity, reducing disparities, and addressing social determinants of health in people who have or are at risk for amputation. Outside of academia, you can find her hiking to her favorite Alpine Lakes, cultivating her urban garden, skiing, or stand-up paddleboarding.

Alissa Smith
Alissa Smith

Discipline: Speech-Language Pathology

Mentor: Carolyn Baylor, PhD, CCC-SLP

Research Interests: Cognitive-communication disorders and cognitive change associated with post-intensive care syndrome.

Melody (Bishan) Yang stands in a garden on a sunny day.
Melody (Bishan) Yang

Discipline: Occupational Therapy

Mentor: Danbi Lee, OTD, PhD 

Originally From: Guangdong, China

Research Interests: Aging populations including 1) improving the quality of life for people who have disabilities, especially the aging populations; 2) contributing to social and health services for older adults; and 3) assisting older adults in achieving active aging and aging in place.

2022 Cohort

Adam Babitts
Adam Babitts

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Sean Rundell, PT, DPT, PhD 

Originally From:  New Jersey, Maryland, and then Southern California prior to settling down in Washington

Research Interests: My research focus is on prognostic indicators for low back pain with a more specific focus on psychological determinants.  I would like to understand the roles a patient’s perceptions and personality traits play in reaching their goals.

Tyler Barrett crouches in front of a giant W sculpture.
Tyler Barrett

Discipline: Clinical Counseling

Mentor: Mark Jensen, PhD 

Originally From:  Ames, IA

Research Interests:  Tyler's research focuses on psychosocial interventions for chronic pain, and the effect of such interventions beyond pain. He is currently exploring how psychological self-conception and adaptation can aid in chronic pain management and rehabilitation.

Adria Robert Gonzalez
Adrià Robert Gonzalez

Discipline: Physical Therapy / Occupational Therapy

Mentor: Chet Moritz, PhD 

Originally From: I'm Catalan, from Malgrat de Mar a small town in the coast north of Barcelona.

Research Interests: My research interest is in upper extremity rehabilitation for people with diverse neurological conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury. 

Emma Greg
Emma Gregg

Discipline: Occupational Therapy

Mentor: Danbi Lee, OTD, PhD 

Originally From:  Petersburg, IL

Research Interests:  My general research interests are related to neurological rehabilitation. More specifically, I am interested in cognitive changes that occur with acute neurological injuries such as stroke, and how those cognitive changes impact participation and quality of life for people after stroke.

Molly Gries
Molly Gries

Discipline: Physical Therapy

Mentor: Sujata Pradhan, PT, PhD 

Originally From:  Chicago, IL

Research Interests:  My research focuses on measurement of gait and balance changes with aging and pathology.


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UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine  
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Seattle, WA 98104 | 206.543.3600 

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