Rehabilitation Science, PhD

Contact Info

Rebecca Warden
Department Program Coordinator
Department of Rehabilitation Science


Note: This program is no longer accepting new students. Click here to learn more about the degrees currently offered at the College of Public Health and the School of Kinesiology.

The PhD in rehabilitation science program at George Mason University engages students to develop as scientists across the spectrum of clinical to translational research. Our nationally and internationally recognized faculty mentor students through active involvement in their own research programs. Students develop a broad understanding of the field of rehabilitation science in addition to specializing in a topic of their choice. Upon graduation, our students are prepared for professional careers in academic, clinical, government, and industry research environments with the tools to develop their own lines of research in rehabilitation science.

Graduates of the PhD in rehabilitation science program will be able to:

  • Explain how an individual’s trajectory toward disability is affected by various physiological and psychosocial factors that influence the processes of disablement and enablement
  • Explicate the linkages among impairments, activity limitations, and restrictions in participation in society and how these factors impact human performance in persons with chronic illness
  • Analyze basic and applied models of human performance and the metabolic, cardiovascular, and respiratory demands of sustained performance
  • Assess psychosocial constructs that underlie how an individual’s attitudes, motivation, and adherence contribute to enablement or disablement
  • Design and conduct research on human performance in individuals with chronic illness that will lead to innovations in the prevention and amelioration of disability
  • Disseminate research findings to multiple audiences (including persons with disabilities, practitioners, and policy makers) on the mechanisms that lead to impairment and functional loss, and interventions that optimize functional performance and promote quality of life
  • Advocate for the contributions of rehabilitation science to the health of society

Curriculum Information

The program curriculum, including short descriptions of the required courses, is available in Mason's University Catalog. The PhD in rehabilitation science consists of 72 credit hours, which include:

  • 30 credits of foundational courses
  • 15 credits of courses in the student’s specialization (described below)
  • 15 credits of electives, chosen in consultation with an advisor
  • 12 credits toward the student’s dissertation preparation and completion

View catalog information for Rehabilitation Science, PhD.


Students choose one of two areas of research emphasis as the focus of their course of study:

Human Movement and Function

Students pursuing this specialization develop knowledge and expertise in the study of impairment and recovery of motor function following injury or illness. Research in this area often addresses human movement across multiple levels of inquiry, from neurophysiology and biomechanics to functional task performance and community mobility, with the aim of enhancing motor recovery and minimizing disability. Using various methods and instrumentation, studies in this specialization generate new knowledge on the genesis and prevention of disability and test treatment strategies that effectively promote motor learning and improve motor control.

Clinical Exercise and Applied Physiology

This specialization focuses on the study of energy transformation in living tissue. This includes describing and measuring metabolic, respiratory, circulatory, and pulmonary interactions, which are necessary for sustaining life and supplying the energy required for participating in physical activity. A detailed understanding of the regulatory systems, such as the muscular, nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, is also essential. Chronic illnesses often disrupt biological processes, or their regulation, thereby limiting participation and often shortening life expectancy. Students in this area conduct research aimed at understanding the mechanisms, consequences, and reversal of physiological impairments that impede the provision and utilization of energy, essential to every aspect of life.


The following sample schedule illustrates how a full-time PhD student might complete program requirements, per semester, over a four-year period.

Year One, Fall Semester

Course Credits
RHBS 650 – Foundations of Rehabilitation Science 3
RHBS 651 – Research Methods I 3
RHBS 710 – Applied Physiology I 3

Year One, Spring Semester

Course Credits
RHBS 652 – Research Methods II 3
RHBS 711 – Applied Physiology II 3
RHBS 620 – Psychosocial Aspects of Rehabilitation 3

Year Two, Fall Semester

Course Credits
RHBS 606 – Clinical Exercise Physiology 3
RHBS 720 – Principles of Clinical Trials 3
RHBS 746 – Movement Control and Learning 3

Year Two, Spring Semester

Course Credits
RHBS 816 – Comparative Effectiveness 3
RHBS 754 – Movement Disorders: Etiology, Assessment, and Analyses 3
RHBS 745 – Metabolic Basis of Disability 3

Year Three, Fall Semester

Course Credits
Specialization Courses/Electives/Directed Research 9

Year Three, Spring Semester

Course Credits
Specialization Courses/Electives/Directed Research 9

Year 4+ (Fall and Spring Semesters)

Course Credits
Specialization Courses/Electives/Directed Research 6
RHBS 998-999 – Dissertation Proposal Development/Dissertation Research 12