Skip to main content

Doctor of Physical Therapy/PhD Engineering Dual Degree

The Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences, in coordination with the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, offers a unique dual-degree program that awards graduates a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT) from the Feinberg School of Medicine as well as a PhD from the McCormick School of Engineering and The Graduate School.  This dual-degree program marries two disciplines for one clear benefit: improved rehabilitation therapies and technologies for patients with movement disorders.

Graduates from the DPT/PhD program are expected to become new leaders in engineering, rehabilitation sciences, physical therapy and device development for the study and restoration of human function in the academic, governmental, healthcare and industry environments  Their scientific and engineering contributions will be relevant to physical therapist patient care, making a significant impact on rehabilitation-related healthcare costs.

How to Apply

Applicants to the program should hold or be pursuing a degree in engineering or related quantitative discipline. Applicants are required to apply to each program separately, and acceptance into the dual degree program is contingent upon acceptance into both programs. Applicants are encouraged to make contact with the admissions office early in the process for assistance. Please follow the links below to explore the requirements for the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and engineering programs:

Dual Mentorship

The DPT/PhD program is based on a dual mentorship model where students receive advice from both an investigator focused on quantitative research and an investigator with experience in more clinically applied research.

Select faculty from Northwestern University carrying out research on movement and rehabilitation sciences participate in the program as mentors. Faculty are based in several departments, including the Feinberg School of Medicine departments of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Neuroscience and the McCormick School of Engineering departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.


 Year 1

Three laboratory rotations starting in the winter quarter and required engineering graduate coursework. The rotations and coursework will be selected with the help of an appointed preceptor and graduate committee.

 Year 2

Dual mentors will be chosen by the student (one mentor with an engineering background; one mentor with a clinical and biology background) with the assistance of the preceptor in the beginning of the fall. Students will continue their coursework and start their PhD research. Students in the BME program are expected to take the qualifier exam for PhD candidacy at the end of the second year.

 Years 3-6

DPT coursework with ongoing doctoral-level research; research that leads to completion of master's degree–level project and strong proposal for doctoral-level project.

 Years 6-7

Doctoral-level research completed and clinical involvement to acquire advanced clinical problem solving skills; special courses in motor control physiology, engineering in the research lab (programming and measurements), rehabilitation engineering, special topics and tutorials.


The department supports two new, qualified students entering the DPT/PhD program per year.  Funding for first year students is provided by McCormick School of Engineering and The Graduate School.  A National Institutes of Health training grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering provides support (tuition and stipend) for up to two years during the PhD portion of the program. This funding is limited to U.S. citizens and residents.  In addition, the Feinberg School of Medicine provides tuition support and a stipend for the DPT portion of the program.

Contact Us

Complete our information request form to get in touch and find out more about the DPT/PhD program.

Follow PTHMS on FacebookInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn