Rehabilitation Science (PhD)

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Degree Offered: PhD
Program Leadership:
Richard Souza, PT, PhD, Program Director
Myriam Chaumeil, PhD, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair
Admissions Inquiries:
Mike Tressel, Admissions and Recruitment Specialist

Program Description

The Rehabilitation Science PhD program at UC San Francisco is offered in collaboration with faculty from both UCSF and San Francisco State University (SFSU). The program employs an innovative approach that addresses the broader perspective of basic and clinical sciences in the areas of musculoskeletal and neurological rehabilitation. This program takes advantage of the highly interdisciplinary nature of UCSF and the diversity at SFSU to expand the learning opportunities and enrich the collaborative science research experience for graduate students. Backed by the outstanding faculty in physical therapy at both institutions, as well as the state-of-the-art research facilities and clinical expertise at UCSF, the program is a preeminent center of learning and discovery in rehabilitation science at the doctoral level.

Specialization Areas

A central goal of the program is to capitalize on the highly interdisciplinary nature of rehabilitation science and offer an academic program that integrates multiple disciplines. PhD students select one of the following specialized training areas:

Musculoskeletal Biomechanics

Musculoskeletal biomechanics is one of the foundational sciences of rehabilitation science. Within this specialization, new investigators are trained on the latest advancements in musculoskeletal biomechanics and are prepared for careers in research in academia and industry.

Clinically Informed Neuroscience

The clinically informed neuroscience track offers either a clinically-focused pathway which addresses neural injury and neurodegenerative disease, or a laboratory-based translational research pathway that utilizes clinically relevant models of neurodegeneration to address mechanisms underlying activity-based restoration of function.


The Rehabilitation Science PhD program is offered by the UCSF Graduate Division, administered by the UCSF School of Medicine, and delivered by faculty members in the UCSF School of Medicine and at San Francisco State University. The program office is located at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Visit the program website for more information.

Admission Requirements

A bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in physical therapy, neuroscience, exercise physiology, biomedical engineering, or a related rehabilitation science or professional field is required. Additionally, applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or greater (or its equivalent).

Because of the broad and varied interests of PhD in Rehabilitation Science applicants, prerequisite courses vary depending on each applicant’s area of study. The majority of applicants are expected to have previous research experience through their undergraduate training or in post-graduate work. Recommended coursework includes the following areas:

  • Biology 
  • Chemistry
  • Physics 
  • Mathematics (through calculus)
  • Statistics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

Note that applicants are not required to be a physical therapist or possess an academic degree in physical therapy.

CV and Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit their CV and a Statement of Purpose (3 to 5 pages) discussing their background, interests, research goals, purpose in applying for graduate study, and plans for the future. Applicants must indicate what they hope to gain from being a doctoral student in rehabilitation science, how their interests fit with those of the program’s faculty, and any other pertinent information supportive of their application and qualifications.

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation from individuals who know the applicant well and can speak to their ability to succeed in graduate school.

Learning Outcomes

The objective of this program is to develop independent investigators in rehabilitation science with an innovative, multidisciplinary approach. The methods and strategies used for dissertation work will vary depending on the student focus and needs. The core curriculum is designed to provide broad training in rehabilitation science. Elective and lab activities will be tailored to create an individualized plan for each trainee.

Additional Information

Program Faculty

Career Outcomes