PhD in Movement Science

Program Overview

Students pursuing a PhD in Movement Science develop scholarly and research competence, culminating in an original doctoral dissertation contributing to the body of knowledge in kinesiology. The program is designed for students who intend to make their careers as scholars, teachers, researchers, and professionals in exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control, and allied fields.

Each doctoral student works closely with a faculty advisor from the beginning of their degree program. Under their faculty advisor’s guidance, they are expected to take relevant coursework, engage in relevant research experiences (lab rotations, independent study projects, etc.), generate research ideas, and complete a research dissertation prior to graduation. 

A principal goal of doctoral student training is achieving competence as an independent scholar. This entails not only proficiency in research but in the dissemination of knowledge. To achieve this, students learn to guide the learning of others as a Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) or Graduate Student Instructor (GSI). 

Doctoral students and their faculty advisors will form a Guidance Committee, Qualifying Examination Committee, and a Dissertation Committee to provide advice and evaluate student progress at successive stages of the program. 

  • Ph.D. Movement Science Top Five
Top 5 reasons
to Get a Doctoral Degree in Movement Science at Michigan
Diverse community of outstanding students from across the U.S. and around the world
The University of Michigan is one of the greatest research universities in the world
Opportunity for collaboration with other U-M schools and colleges
Funding available in the form of graduate teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships
Internationally-recognized faculty advisors
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PhD Program


Movement Science PhD Curriculum

PhD students choose from a set of core courses in Kinesiology, as well as cognate courses from other units, and complete a minimum of 30 pre-candidacy credits beyond the master's level. Qualifying examinations must be passed before advancing to candidacy, after which the student completes an original doctoral dissertation. A minimum of 50 credits including pre-candidacy and candidacy work must be completed to graduate.

The courses you take will vary, depending on your educational goals.  Courses taken for graduate credit will carry MOVESCI or KINESLGY program codes, and are numbered 500 and above.

Browse only KINESLGY courses in the Course Catalog

Browse only MOVESCI courses in the Course Catalog

Browse entire Course Catalog

Movement Science Graduate Faculty

Our Movement Science graduate faculty are leaders in their fields, and have a variety of interests and specialties. Here's a list:

  • Steven Broglio, PhD: Sports medicine: mild traumatic brain injury prevention, biomechanics, assessment, and treatment, postural control.
  • Susan Brown, PhD: Motor coordination, Aging, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Rehabilitation.
  • Greg Cartee, PhD: Exercise, diet, and age effects on insulin signaling and glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle.
  • Weiyun Chen, PhD: Innovative and technology-enhanced physical activity interventions; determinants of developing physically active habits; impact of physical activities on physical and psychosocial health and brain cognitions.
  • Natalie Colabianchi, PhD: The role of environments and policies in facilitating physical activity behavior in children and adults. She is also interested in physical activity measurement, including accelerometry and direct observation.
  • Deanna Gates, PhD: Biomechanics, rehabilitation, prosthetic and orthotics, control of repetitive movements, nonlinear dynamics.
  • Melissa Gross, PhD: Biomechanics; expression of emotion and mood disorders in body movements; impact of action-based learning activities on student learning outcomes.
  • Rebecca Hasson, PhD: Causes and consequences of childhood obesity in multiethnic populations.
  • Jacob Haus, PhD: Protein metabolism and skeletal muscle function with aging, as well as glucose and lipid metabolism with obesity, diabetes, and aging.
  • Jeff Horowitz, PhD: Regulation of fuel mobilization and oxidation and the impact of this regulation on human health.
  • Lindsey Lepley, PhD, ATC: Therapeutic approaches to combat the negative neuromuscular effects that follow traumatic joint injury; effects of ACL injury on neuromuscular function in a rodent model; ability of exercise to promote muscle and joint health.
  • David Lipps, PhD: Biomechanics; musculoskeletal imaging; injury mechanisms; upper extremity injuries; rehabilitation.
  • Andrew Ludlow, PhD: Telomeres, telomerase, alternative splicing regulation, chromatin biology, miRNAs, RNA biology, diseases of aging, and cancer.
  • Riann Palmieri-Smith, PhD: Neuromuscular consequences of joint injury relating to arthrogenic muscle inhibition; mechanisms of post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
  • Lori Ploutz-Snyder, PhD (Professor and Dean of the School): Integrative exercise physiology. Physiologic adaptations to long term disuse including spaceflight, bed rest and deconditioning, exercise training to maintain physical function in astronauts and clinical populations, fitness thresholds required for optimal physical task performance.
  • Leah Robinson, PhD: 1) Assessment of motor performance and physical activity along with the implementation of evidence-based interventions to maximize physical activity, motor skills, and physical health and development in pediatric populations; 2) The effect of evidence-based interventions on school/academic readiness and cognitive outcomes.
  • Thomas Templin, PhD: Templin’s academic research/ scholarship has focused on role and socialization theory. Specifically, he has examined socialization processes linked to pre-service and in-service teachers alike.
  • Dale Ulrich, PhD: Motor behavior and development in infants and children with Down syndrome and autism; assessment of motor behavior and performance in children; designing and testing interventions to maximize physical activity, motor skill development, community participation, and quality of life in children with Down syndrome and autism.
  • Brian Umberger, PhD: Biomechanics, energetics, computer modeling and simulation, optimal control
  • Michael Vesia, PhD: Cognitive Psychology, Neuropsychology, Cognitive Science
  • Ron Zernicke, PhD: Functional adaptation of bone to physiological stimuli (exercise, disuse, diet, and disease); joint injury and post-traumatic osteoarthritis; biomechanical mechanisms underlying control of normal and pathological movements.

Alumni Spotlight

Jessica Deneweth Zendler (PhD 2013)
Adjunct Research Associate Professor

U-M School of Kinesiology

Jessica Deneweth Zendler

I was drawn to the School of Kinesiology by the opportunity to work with researchers who are leaders in their field.  Beyond the excellence of research that I found in Kinesiology, the flexibility of its academic program, the myriad collaborative opportunities, and the extensive resources have allowed me to advance substantially towards my goal of becoming a successful independent researcher. I am pleased to say that the doctoral program in Kinesiology has more than exceeded my high expectations.

Sean Newsom (PhD 2012)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Colorado Denver

I came to the School of Kinesiology to work with a mentor that was using gold standard techniques to address questions that are of great interest to me. But, it did not take long for me to realize that my resources and opportunities for learning extend far beyond the walls of my own lab.  It is great to know that as a doctoral student, my success is limited only by my desire to take advantage everything this School and the University has to offer.

Leah Ketcheson (PhD 2014)

Research Fellow, University of Michigan

Throughout my PhD in Kinesiology, I have always felt well supported and mentored. The School of Kinesiology is big enough to have access to all the resources we need and small enough to maintain a true sense of community. The professors are genuinely concerned about your success as a student and have a way of making you feel like their only student. However, what is most unique about Kinesiology is that the professors continue to mentor and advocate for their students long after graduation. Among students there is a culture of collaboration, where relationships continue well beyond graduation.

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Forms & Bulletins

The Graduate Bulletin contains a wealth of information, including requirements for admissions, coursework, doctoral candidacy, and more. The Policies and Procedures page includes a wider selection of Bulletins, plus forms required for progress towards your PhD degree.