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Degrees Offered

Doctor of Philosophy

Joint Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy

Apply here.

Doctoral Program

Exercise physiology is the comprehensive study of the biophysical, biomechanical and biochemical processes that contribute to movement production and disease progression. Advances in exercise physiology research have provided the foundation for human enhancement and medical treatment. The focus of the program is to promote student innovation and foster the development of independent thought. Students and faculty interact in a collegial fashion facilitating open inquiry and collaborative science.  

The philosophy of the program is to provide flexibility in coursework to support the student’s research interest in accordance with the selected track. The student and faculty mentor will define an individualized curriculum to address specific requirements for accomplishing the dissertation research. The program fosters a high degree of collaboration among faculty with interests in clinical medicine and basic research. Completion of the doctoral degree is realized when the student successfully disseminates the research results in peer-reviewed journals, national/international conferences, and to the dissertation committee. Typically, five years are required to realize this goal.

Students entering the Exercise Physiology doctoral program have the ability to select a specialization in one of three research tracks: 1) Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases (CMD); 2) Muscle Pathophysiology (MPP); and 3) Rehabilitation Science and Engineering (RSE).

  • Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases (CMD): Cardiovascular and respiratory function/dysfunction are studied at cellular, molecular, genetic and whole organ level in human and animal models that mimic chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, stroke, and environmental exposure. Mitochondrial dysfunction, vascular remodeling, blood flow disruption, exercise and metabolic dysfunction are specific interests.
  • Muscle Pathophysiology (MPP): Muscle function and dysfunction are studied under conditions of aging, cancer, disuse and obesity at the cellular, molecular, genetic and whole organ levels.  Mechanisms contributing to dysfunction and therapeutic interventions are tested utilizing appropriate pre-clinical and clinical experimental models.
  • Rehabilitation Science and Engineering (RSE): The research focus is on enhancing the understanding of the basic processes associated with sensorimotor control of reaching movements, balance, and locomotion after central or peripheral damage using tissue engineering, neurophysiology, biomechanics and computational neuroscience methodologies.

Current areas of scientific inquiry among the faculty in exercise physiology include the following:

  • Aging and repetitive use injury in skeletal muscle
  • Cancer cachexia and muscle wasting diseases
  • Mitochondria dysfunction in pathophysiological states
  • Metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus
  • Control of movement in health and disease
  • Development of assisted technologies and wearable devices
  • Assessment and enhancement of human performance
  • Microvascular dysfunction in disease states
  • Physiologic basis of angiogenesis in pulmonary and skeletal muscle tissue
  • Stem cell biology and mechanical signal and tissue regeneration
  • Mechanisms of stoke and post-stroke recovery

 Upon completion of the doctoral degree, the student will be capable of undertaking a career in a traditional research setting (academic, industrial, government, etc…). The acquired training will also prepare students for careers outside of a traditional research setting. Students will be periodically exposed to diverse opportunities for career development.

Program Director

A photo of John Hollander.
John M Hollander, PhD
West Virginia University
Professor, Assistant Dean for Professional Programs, Human Performance - Exercise Physiology