Skip to main content

PhD Student Handbook

This handbook is not a contract and all information is subject to change at any time at the sole discretion of the Program, School, and/or University.

PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017

Table of Contents

 

 

Overview of the Program

This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in Physical Rehabilitation Science is aimed at training researchers capable of advancing the field of physical rehabilitation in order to improve the lives of people with functional impairments. Drawing on links with key departments within the School of Medicine and two sister Universities, the program offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary learning experience leading to a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physical Rehabilitation Science under the Graduate Program in Life Sciences (GPILS).

Program Philosophy

This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

The complex and highly integrated systems of the human body have traditionally been studied in isolation, under both normal and pathological conditions. While this approach has been highly successful in elucidating basic mechanisms of health and disease, the dynamic interactions of the body’s organ systems are often left unappreciated. Since a significant percentage of the population has some degree of physical disability, scientific and medical communities must implement a holistic approach to studying the causes and amelioration of function impairment and physical disability. We believe that the adverse consequences of chronic systemic disease, congenital defects, trauma-related damage, or progressive decline in tissue viability can be reduced through intensive research focused on a plethora of topics addressing the mechanisms and management of chronic systems disorders. We further believe that a relevant translational approach (from laboratory bench to clinical patient care) will help facilitate an understanding of the integrated functions of these systems. Over time, this new information will increase the ability of medical personnel to accurately diagnose disabling disorders and prescribe appropriate preventative or corrective counter measures.

To ensure that acceptable numbers of rehabilitation researchers are trained and available to meet society’s needs, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science offers a formal program of interdisciplinary study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physical Rehabilitation Science. This program draws on internationally recognized research expertise found within the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, and other basic science and clinical departments within the School of Medicine, as well as programs throughout the University of Maryland System. The program is focused on critical areas of research that help prevent or dramatically reduce the many forms of disability that restrict significant numbers of individuals from functioning fully and freely in their surroundings.

Research Faculty

This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

Our faculty members pursue a variety of research areas, most of which are well-funded by internal and external sources, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Examples of their ongoing research include:

  • Understanding the neuromotor bases of age-associated balance dysfunction and falls.
  • Evaluating novel rehabilitation approaches for fall prevention among older adults.
  • Investigating neuromotor deficits underlying balance and locomotion disorders in Parkinson’s disease. Development of therapeutic approaches for enhancing posture and locomotion coupling.
  • Investigating neuromotor mechanisms and rehabilitation of posture and movement impairments after stroke.
  • Testing innovative stroke rehabilitation techniques. PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017 4
  • Investigating underlying neuroplasticity and mechanisms of stroke recovery.
  • Investigating the mechanisms and motor-related rehabilitation of children with cancer.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the faculty research profiles at http://pt.umaryland.edu/PTRS-Research/

Admissions

Please note that the information below is the admissions information for the traditional Physical Rehabilitation Science PhD Program only.

If you are looking for the admissions information for the DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program please see the following: http://pt.umaryland.edu/Student-Information/Prospective-Students-test-page/DPT-Program-and-Dual-Degree-Options-Test-Page/#dptphdadmissions.

Criteria

  • Evidence of academic accomplishment (e.g. GPA, typically over 3.5)
  • Minimum of Bachelors Degree in a relevant discipline, field of study or profession (e.g. biology, engineering, exercise physiology, exercise science, kinesiology, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy)
  • Previous course work in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and statistics.
  • TOEFL scores required for submission typically are: 550 for paper-based tests, 213 for computer-based tests, 80 for the internet-based tests. IELTS test takers must score no less than Band 7 (total).
  • GRE scores of ≥ 308 (1200) for combined verbal (160) and quantitative (148), and over 4.0 for the writing section.
  • Statement of research interests and career goals.
  • Letters of reference

Procedure

The department seeks individuals who will bring their scholarship, motivation, and commitment to the program. Applicants must have a complete application on file in the Admissions Office to be reviewed for admission. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until March 15 of each year. All applications must include:

  • Statement of research interests and career goals (1-2 pgs).
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Official transcripts from all schools attended.
  • Three letters of reference written by individuals familiar with the candidate's academic and work experiences.
  • Official GRE scores. You may contact the GRE at (866) 473-4373 or online at http://www.gre.org for more information. Our institution code is 5848 and our department code is 0619.
  • Official TOEFL scores are required when a student's first language is not English. TOEFL information is available at http://www.ets.org/toefl. Our institution code is 5848 and our department code is 48.
  • International applicants must provide two official native-language transcripts (or mark sheets) and two official transcripts translated into English from each college or university attended. Documents must list subjects, grades, and class rank. Students whose universities issue only one set of official records must provide certified, notarized (raised seal), copies of those records.

Equal Opportunity: The University of Maryland, Baltimore is an equal opportunity institution with respect to both education and employment. The university’s policies, programs, and activities are in PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017 5 conformance with pertinent federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, religion, age, ancestry or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and handicap.

Tuition and Fees

Graduate Student Tuition, Health and Fees

Assistantships

Graduate research or teaching assistantships are available and awarded on a yearly basis. Each assistantship includes a stipend, tuition remission for up to 10 credits per semester (20 per year) and benefits. Students making satisfactory progress are typically supported for the duration of their graduate studies up to five years. The stipends are in line with NIH guidelines, and accordingly, students are expected to spend 20 hours per week on research, teaching, or a combination of the two in addition to full-time studies for their PhD. Generally, assistantships are awarded April 1 each year, but students who apply earlier may be granted an assistantship, depending on availability and student qualifications.

Physical Rehabilitation Science Curriculum

This information applies to the PhD Program only.

Please see our PhD Curriculum page

Pre-doctoral trainees in Physical Rehabilitation Science (PRS) are provided with an in-depth regimen of coursework that articulates with independent study preparation and a programmed sequence of research that culminates in a final dissertation. The PRS PhD curriculum has two objectives, which provide:

  1. A sound foundation in the intellectual tools required for all human movement scientists in the areas of statistics, research design, and laboratory methods and techniques
  2. Advanced research training in Neuromotor Control and Rehabilitation, which is the program’s primary area of focus. This knowledge area consists of two facets: neuromotor science and motor control and behavior.
    • Neuromotor science refers to knowledge about brain anatomy and physiology in relation to movement and disorders of movement function.
    • Relevant techniques for research might include brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, direct transcranial cortical stimulation, startle probes, peripheral nerve stimulation or electroencephalography, each of which is available to the trainees.
    • Motor control and behavior refers to knowledge about the principles of interaction between neural/physiological, biomechanical and behavioral systems underlying the learning and development of movement function and dysfunction that can inform rehabilitation assessments and interventions.
    • Relevant techniques for research might include physiological and biomechanical analyses, adaptation and learning paradigms, computational modeling, and clinical assessments of movement function.

Typically a student will seek to study with a particular advisor (usually a full-time departmental faculty) based on the student’s prior knowledge of that advisor’s research focus and the advisor’s interest in advising the student. The primary advisor is both academic and research advisor for the student. Subsequently, a student may change to another research advisor if the student’s interests develop in a different direction. This research advisor may be outside the PTRS department, in which case, the original advisor typically remains as the academic advisor. Courses for the first two semesters as a graduate student are chosen in consultation with the primary advisor. Prior to the start of the second year, students will convene a plan of study committee to formulate the remaining coursework and laboratory affiliations. If an advisor is new to advising, a senior graduate faculty will typically act as a secondary adviser. A secondary advisor may also be appointed for content expertise. The advisors may choose to act as co-advisors in this case.

Plan of Study

Milestones and Evaluation

This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

A formal evaluation of the PRS student begins with the plan of study meeting at the beginning (DPT/PhD) or end (PhD) of the first year (see Guidelines for Plan of Study Meeting‌). The second formal evaluation is the comprehensive/qualifying examination at the beginning of the second year (DPT/PhD) or third year (PhD). The comprehensive exam consists of 4 separate written sessions which will be completed within a week and on a schedule agreed to by the advisor and student, followed by an oral discussion with the student and examination committee within approximately two weeks. Approximately six months after passing the comprehensives, the student must submit a dissertation proposal, the third formal evaluation, and successfully present an oral defense of the proposal before the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is formed around faculty expertise pertinent to the student’s dissertation research (see Comprehensive Examinations and Advancement to Candidacy). Following the successful defense of the proposal approved by the committee, the student is officially admitted to doctoral candidacy. The final formal evaluation is the defence of the dissertation. In addition to these formal methods of evaluation, an annual review of the student's progress is conducted by the PhD Program Director or an independent faculty if the PhD Director is a primary, secondary or co-advisor of the student.

Criteria for the review of student progress and performance

This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

  • Maintenance of satisfactory GPA: All PhD students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA overall (4.0 maximum). Students earning a letter grade of “C” must meet with their advisor and plan of study committee to determine an appropriate response that may include retaking the course and requiring a minimum grade of “B”. In such cases the student transcript will include both the letter grade of “C” and the grade for the retake of the course. Two semesters of below 3.0 will typically be cause for dismissal.
  • Performance in the laboratory: Students must learn laboratory skills, techniques and theory, as well as laboratory maintenance and management functions. These abilities are seen as crucial to a successful career in research and are monitored by the advisor.
  • Student Research: From the beginning, the student is expected to engage the research process at all levels, including data collection, reduction and analysis, research design, and publication. Aspects of this criterion are monitored by the student’s mentor(s) and include number and quality of research proposals, quality of data collection and analysis, number of primary and secondary manuscript and abstract submissions, number of submissions published, and other products in which the development involved the student’s effort and provide evidence of continuous scholarship.
  • Progress on the Plan of Study: Maintenance or amendment of this timeline is monitored by the advisor and the student’s Plan of Study Committee. Minor amendments such as course switches are approved by the advisor, while more extensive amendments or those that affect academic progression must be approved by the Plan of Study Committee.
  • Research Agenda: Prior to the dissertation phase of the program, the student engages in his/her own research to develop preliminary information leading to proposing a hypothesis or identifying a dissertation question. The advisor will ensure that the student’s research is focused and aimed at accomplishing this objective.
  • Dissertation Phase: The advisor and student work together to ensure that the student maintains the appropriate timeframe for completion of the comprehensive examination as well as the PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017 8 dissertation proposal and defense. It is recognized that there is often a need to modify these timeframes due to the nuances of conducting research and the frequent need to conduct additional experiments or analyses. The dissertation committee is charged with ensuring the quality of the student’s dissertation, while the advisor/s and student are charged with ensuring the maintenance of the timeline.

PhD Progression Benchmarks

This information applies to the PhD Program only. Please note the progression benchmarks listed below are not relevant to the PhD portion of the DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program. Please see the Goals and Expected Outcomes of the PhD part of the DPT/PhD dual degree option for the benchmarks associated with that dual degree option.

Based on a 4-5 year program

Benchmarks for Year 1

    1. Writing a review paper in an area of interest as part of a three credit Physical Rehabilitation Science Core Curriculum. Good quality papers turn into publications and/or provide background and significance sections for future grants, but the primary purpose of this exercise is to evaluate writing competence.
    2. Writing an abstract for a poster presentation at a local, regional or national conference based on research in which the student has contributed. Contributing to the design and presentation of the poster.
    3. Participating in data collection, reduction and analysis of at least one research project led by their mentor.
    4. Determining a research path with goals and hypotheses. It is recognized that this plan (goals/hypotheses) may change but the student must demonstrate the capacity to identify and defend an acceptable research project.
    5. Determining a “Plan of Study” with the advisor and secondary/co-advisors.
    6. Discussion with mentor on the need to complete any optional workshops that are designed to complement formal coursework. 

    Determination of Progress for Year 1 (in addition to ongoing mentoring by advisor/s)

    Plan of Study Approval

    1. This will be an oral presentation with a minimum of five (5) graduate faculty present including the primary mentor, other mentors if appropriate, the PhD Program Director (or other senior member), an external faculty member (defined as not primary in the PTRS department) and as PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017 9 many other PTRS graduate faculty as are available.
    2. Presentation will include:
      1. Review of PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form‌ (percentage of time spent, etc.).
      2. A presentation by the student of Benchmark #4 above including the plan of study.
      3. Written documentation of Benchmarks #1 and 2 above.
      4. A discussion of Benchmark #3 above led by the student including student concerns and impediments to progress.
    3. The plan of study committee will discuss, evaluate, and agree on plan of action with the student for the next year. The faculty mentor will document this plan in the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form‌. Plan will also include a decision on progress. Decision will be one of the following:
      1. Plan is approved and student proceeds with plan.
      2. Student has to revise and re-convene with the committee within one month.
      3. If student fails the repeat, they will be dismissed from the PhD program.
    4. If student passes, the plan will include:
      1. Abstracts to be submitted / meetings to attend.
      2. Courses and workshops to take, techniques to learn.

    Faculty mentor will forward the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report to all attendees to approve and sign. Completed and signed original will be maintained in Program Coordinator’s office in the student’s file.

    Benchmarks for Year 2

    1. Writing two abstracts for presentations, at least one of which should be a national conference with a goal of one being an oral presentation.
    2. Contributing to the writing of at least one research paper for publication.
    3. Completing mandatory and elective courses based on the "Plan of Study."

    Determination of Progress for Year 2

    1. Student completes PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form and presents summary presentation of accomplishments from previous year to PhD Director (or other graduate faculty if deemed appropriate).
    2. Student discusses any concerns, impediments to progress if benchmarks are not accomplished.
    3. Graduate Faculty will discuss, evaluate, and agree on plan of action with the student for the next year. The faculty mentor will document this plan in the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form.
    4. Faculty mentor will forward the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report to all attendees to approve and sign. Completed and signed original will be maintained in Program Coordinator's office in the student's file.

    Benchmarks for Year 3

    1. Contributing to the writing of at least one additional research paper for publication with a goal of being first author.
    2. Writing two abstracts for presentations, at least one of which should be a national conference and at least one of which should be an oral presentation.
    3. Completing mandatory and elective courses based on the "Plan of Study."
    4. Take comprehensive examination in two parts (written and oral) with approximately 2 weeks between each. The comprehensive exam consists of 4 separate written sessions which will be completed within a week and on a schedule agreed to by the advisor and student, followed by an oral discussion of the examination topics with the student and examination committee within approximately two weeks (See Guidelines for Advancement to Candidacy). The committee may decide that the written exam is failed and the student must re-take. Otherwise the student proceeds to the the Oral discussion. After the Orals, the decision will be one of the following:
      1. Pass
      2. Pass with contingency that needs to be resolved within 6 months
      3. Re-take within 6 months.
      4. Failure to pass the contingency or the repeat will result in dismissal from the PhD program.
    5. Approximately 6 months after passing the Comprehensive Exam, write and defend a dissertation proposal in grant format. Defense of the Dissertation Proposal. The dissertation committee consisting of minimum of five (5) graduate faculty present including the primary mentor, secondary or co-mentor (if one exists), the PhD Program Director, an external faculty member (defined as not primary in the PRS department) will convene to evaluate the proposal. Their decision will be one of the following:
      1. Pass and proceed to Candidacy.
      2. Re-take within 6 months.
      3. Failure to pass the re-take will result in dismissal from the program.

    Determination of Progress for Year 3

    1. Student completes PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form and presents summary presentation of accomplishments from previous year to the PhD Director (or other graduate faculty if deemed appropriate).
    2. Student discusses any concerns, impediments to progress if benchmarks are not accomplished.
    3. Graduate Faculty will discuss, evaluate, and agree on plan of action with the student for the next year. The faculty mentor will document this plan in the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form.
    4. Faculty mentor will forward the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report to all attendees to approve and sign. Completed and signed original will be maintained in Program Coordinator’s office in the student’s file.

    Benchmarks for Year 4/5

    1. Writing at least two abstracts for presentations at national or international conferences.
    2. Writing and submitting a grant for pre-doctoral funding where feasible.
    3. Write up two-three papers (as first author) for the dissertation at least one of these submitted for publication before graduating.

    Determination of Progress for Year 4/5

    1. Student completes PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form and presents summary presentation of accomplishments from previous year to the PhD Director (or other graduate faculty if deemed appropriate).
    2. Student discusses any concerns, impediments to progress if benchmarks are not accomplished.
    3. Faculty mentor will forward the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report to all attendees to approve and sign. Completed and signed original will be maintained in Program Coordinator's office in the student's file.

    Successfully defending and submitting the dissertation

    This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

    All graduate school requirements for dissertation standards, deadlines for submission to the graduate school, and committee formation must be followed (See most recent Graduate School Catalog (p 21-25) located at http://www.graduate.umaryland.edu/policies/). The committee must include members of the Graduate Faculty with at least three regular members and at least one member outside the primary faculty of the department. See Graduate School Procedures. The dissertation must be previewed by two readers who are members of the dissertation committee (arranged by the advisor) at least fifteen working days prior to the planned defense. All other committee members must receive a final copy of the dissertation at least 10 working days prior to the defense. Decision will be one of the following:

    1. Pass
    2. Pass with contingency that needs to be resolved within 6 months
    3. Re-take within 6 months.
    4. Failure to pass the contingency or the repeat will result in dismissal from the PhD program.

    Policy on Academic Performance and Satisfactory Progress

    This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

    The PRS doctoral program follows all policies as outlined by the Graduate School at the University of Maryland.

    Purpose: Satisfactory academic performance and progress within the University of Maryland Baltimore’s doctor of philosophy (PhD) programs is a shared responsibility of the University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School (UMBGS), the Doctoral Programs, and graduate students. This policy specifies the elements of satisfactory academic performance and progress for students in UMBGS PhD programs.

    Please see the details as outlined in: Academic Performance and Satisfactory Progress in University of Maryland Baltimore PhD Programs. Information on UMBGS policy and procedures for appeal of probation or academic dismissal are also available at that site.

    Guidelines for Plan of Study Meeting

    This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

    The following represent guidelines formulated by Graduate Faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science regarding the Plan of Study meeting for PhD Students. Deviations from below may occur and are viewed on a case-by-case basis.

    1. This meeting should take place near the beginning (DPT/PhD) or end (PhD) of the first year. The exact time would depend partly on the student’s progress and direction.
    2. The meeting should include the student’s academic advisor and research advisor (if different). It should also include the Program Director (or other senior member) and at least two other members of the Departmental PhD Program Committee. Finally, it should contain at least one member who is outside the department. Minimum number is 5. There is no maximum number.
    3. The meeting itself is run by either the student’s advisor or the Program Director but typically the former.
    4. Before the meeting, the student contacts his/her primary mentors to plan and go over the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report.
    5. In the meeting itself, the student does a presentation (about 30 minutes) reviewing their progress and in particular emphasizing the future plan as far as possible (see below). This can be verbal rather than a PowerPoint presentation. Committee members are free to make comments and ask the student and/or advisors questions. The idea is to ensure a good plan of study for each student based on their needs and interests as well as the departmental requirements.
    6. Presentation will include:
      1. Review of PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form including documentation and discussion of benchmarks 1-3.
      2. A presentation of the student’s intended research path with goals and hypotheses. It is recognized that this plan (goals/hypotheses) may change but the student must demonstrate the capacity to identify and defend an acceptable research project.
      3. The plan of study.
    7. The plan of study committee will discuss, evaluate, and agree on plan of action with the student for the next year. The faculty mentor will document this plan in the PRS Annual Doctoral Student Report form.

    Comprehensive Examinations and Advancement to Candidacy

    This information applies to both PhD Program & DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program.

    Advancement to candidacy occurs once a student successfully proposes and defends their dissertation. The pre-requisite for dissertation proposal and defense is successful completion of the comprehensive examination. The following guidelines are established for the timetable and format of the comprehensive examinations and advancement to candidacy for Physical Rehabilitation Science Doctoral Degree. These guidelines provide consistency within the program while at the same time recognizing the need for individual variation across different areas of sub-specialty/cognate, advisors and students.

    1. Students may sit for examinations after they have completed the Foundation of Rehabilitation Science Core Courses and a minimum of 40 credits of their total coursework.  Students of the DPT/PhD dual degree option of the DPT Program may sit for exams where indicated on their curriculum plan. The scheduling of the examination is initially set at the student’s plan of study meeting. It may be postponed if the student/advisor believe this is necessary.
    2. The composition of the candidacy examination will consist of a minimum of four faculty: the academic advisor, the research advisor or co-advisor (if different/present) and other graduate faculty. At least two of the faculty must be from the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science (minimum 1) and/or the Graduate Faculty of the Physical Rehabilitation Science Program. At least one must be from outside the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and/or the Graduate Faculty of the Physical Rehabilitation Science PRS Student Handbook, updated 3/2017 13 Program. The latter person should be selected by the student and academic advisor and, typically, would be someone who has had a role in teaching the student.
    3. The written examination will be comprised of four separate sessions (between 2-5 hours each) to be completed within one week with a closed-book format. Two sessions will be devoted to a comprehensive understanding of specific areas of the research concentration. The remaining sessions are typically devoted to interdisciplinary knowledge, cognate areas and tools knowledge. For these two sessions, the students may have knowledge of the specific questions 48 hours in advance if this is agreed upon by the student and committee.
    4. An oral discussion will follow the written examination to provide any clarification of responses or additional information that the committee deems necessary. The oral exam should be no more than 2 weeks after the end of the written examinations. Any exceptions to these procedures should be submitted to the program director for approval. All students will receive general feedback from the advisor on written answers prior to the oral discussion meeting.
    5. A decision on passing will be made immediately after the oral discussion meeting based on a consensus of the committee. Students who fail the comprehensive examination may retake the entire examination within 6 months. Students who do not reach an acceptable standard in part of the examination (contingent pass) will be offered a chance to remediate within 6 months in a format agreed upon by the committee.
    6. Approximately six months after passing the comprehensives, the student must submit a dissertation proposal and successfully present an oral defense of the proposal before a dissertation committee.