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University of Pittsburgh    
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Apr 20, 2024
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physical Therapy/Bioengineering, DPT/PhD

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Program Overview

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) - PhD in Bioengineering program combines the entry-level DPT leading to licensure as a physical therapist, with a PhD in Bioengineering that will prepare the student to become an independent researcher. The program will integrate clinical and research experiences, with students receiving mentorship from faculty in the departments of Physical Therapy and Bioengineering. Students should have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering or engineering-related discipline, with a strong interest in physical therapy.

Contact Information

Patrick Sparto, PhD, PT
Co-Director, DPT-PhD Program
Department of Physical Therapy
Bridgeside Point 1, Suite 210
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-3130
Phone: 412-383-6732

Application Process

Applications will need to be submitted through the PT Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) by December 1 for admission to the program the following August. The application is reviewed by faculty in both departments.

Admission Requirements

Students will need to meet the admission requirements of both programs. Applicants must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a field of engineering or closely related (e.g. physics, or applied mathematics, kinesiology). Applicants must demonstrate evidence of exposure to the field of PT through volunteer or work experience. Applicants must submit 3 letters of reference: one physical therapist with whom the student has volunteered or worked for, one academic advisors, and one research supervisor. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required but competitive applicants typically have a 3.5 GPA or greater. Applicants must take the GRE exam; typically, admitted students have GRE scores greater than the 50th percentile.

Prerequisite Coursework (minimum credit hours listed is based on a semester system equivalent)

  • Chemistry I and II sequence with labs - 8 credit hours
  • Physics I and II sequence with labs - 8 credit hours
  • Biology I and II sequence with labs - 8 credit hours
  • *Anatomy (human, vertebrate, comparative or anatomical kinesiology) - 3 credit hours
  • *Physiology (human physiology preferred) - 3 credit hours
  • Exercise Physiology - 3 credit hours
  • Two courses in Psychology: should include a general psychology course and a specialized psychology course such as:  developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, psychology of disability, sports psychology - 6 credit hours
  • Statistics - 3 credit hours
  • English Writing (English composition or an upper-division writing course) - 3 credit hours
  • **Engineering Statics - 3 credit hours
  • **Advanced Mathematics (e.g. calcululs) - 3 credit hours

*A two-course sequence of anatomy/physiology may meet the anatomy and physiology requirements as long as there is a total of 6 credit hours.

**Enrollment in PhD part of the program can be deferred until courses are completed.

Academic Standards

In addition to the University-wide academic rules and regulations as detailed in the General Academic Regulations section of this bulletin, the DPT program is regulated by the SHRS Academic Standards.

Curriculum Overview

Students will follow the typical plan of study for DPT residential students for the initial seven terms (i.e. 2.3years) of the program. Then students will follow the plan of study for PhD students in Bioengineering. Clinical internships and research experiences will be performed throughout the program. At a minimum, the program will take 6 years to complete. After completing the didactic and clinical requirements of the DPT program, the student will be allowed to take the licensing exam. Students are required to write and orally defend a dissertation to complete their PhD degree.

DPT Curriculum

The course requirements for the DPT include the following:

  • Basic Science (Anatomy, Neuroscience, Exercise Physiology, Pharmacology) - 15 credits
  • Clinical Science (Kinesiology, Musculoskeletal PT, Neuromuscular PT, Cardiopulmonary PT, Patient Management, Human Disease, Geriatrics Growth and Development) - 51 credits
  • Critical Inquiry (Research Methods, Evidence-Based Practice) - 9 credits
  • Leadership and Professional Development - 7 credits
  • Clinical Education - 28 credits

Total number of credit hours: 110 credits. Students are required to pass a written comprehensive examination before the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree can be awarded. The written comprehensive examination is a cumulative examination covering the core clinical sciences and focusing on physical therapy practice.

PhD Requirements

The Department of Bioengineering follows university guidelines on students working toward joint degrees like the DPT-PhD in Bioengineering. Typically, we have waived the life science requirement (6 credits) as comparable coursework is covered in the physical therapy curriculum. The remaining course requirements closely follow requirements for the PhD in Bioengineering.

  • Bioengineering Track Courses - 9 credits
  • Graduate Electives - 6 credits
  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics - 3 credits
  • Statistics for Bioengineers - 3 credits
  • Societal, Political, and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering - 3 credits
  • Seminar - 6 credits total - 4 credits must be Bioengineering Seminar
  • Grant Writing in Bioengineering - 1 credit
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research, BIOENG 3997  and BIOENG 3999  - 12 credits of 3999 to be taken after the proposal - 35 credits

Total number of credit hours: 72 credits minimum, which includes 6 credits to fulfill life science requirement but does not include credits from foundational courses if applicable.

DPT/PhD students are also required to complete two teaching practicums before presenting their PhD proposal (comprehensive examination). No more than one practicum can be undertaken in a semester. There is no course registration for this educational experience, and fulfillment is monitored by the department. Students typically take the PhD preliminary exam in the next summer term after they have completed 2 full terms in the program but may be taken after only one term if approved by the Department. The PhD proposal (comprehensive examination) is presented generally at the end of the second year. A final public PhD defense is made by each PhD candidate based on the student’s research work.

Please see the Department of Bioengineering’s PhD Requirements page  for more details.

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