University of Wisconsin–Madison


Graduate Advisor: Kreg G. Gruben, PhD; David R. Bell, PhD

Synopsis: Biomechanics is the application of mechanics to biological systems. Within the broad field of biomechanics, specific areas of study at UW-Madison include: tissue mechanics, human performance, rehabilitation, and limb dynamics. The program equips students to apply the tools of engineering analysis to biological systems from the cellular to the whole body level, with career objectives in academia, health care, and sports science.  Elective course work within the program allows students to pursue individual interests such as physiological adaptations to mechanical stimuli, or computer modeling. Students generally have the opportunity to teach during their training.

Purpose of MS: The MS degree is designed to provide the necessary foundation for participation in biomechanical research. Course work in biomechanics, statistics, research methods, and motor control form the basis of the formal training, with students also expected to complete a research project summarized in a thesis. Graduates of the program generally pursue further graduate training toward a Ph.D. or careers in industrial or biomedical research.

Purpose of Ph.D.: The Ph.D. degree is designed to prepare students for independent research and teaching. Formal training includes course work in some of the following areas: math, statistics, physiology, mechanics, biomechanics, and motor control. The wide range of biology and mechanics courses offered at the UW-Madison allows the student to tailor a curriculum which fits their individual interests. Students conduct independent research throughout their training which will be summarized in their dissertation. Presentations are also expected to be made at national scientific meetings and in peer-reviewed journals. Graduates generally pursue post-doctoral training and go on to establish independent research programs in an academic or industrial setting.

Laboratory Facilities and Experimental Approaches: Faculty and students in biomechanics employ a variety of approaches directed toward two primary areas of interest: mechanical behavior of normal and healing connective tissues, and intersegmental kinetics during constrained motions. Secondary interests include mechanical assessment of persons with neurological diagnoses, with a goal of evaluating the efficacy of clinical interventions.

The biomechanics laboratories include: a high speed video camera, 200 Hz video recorder, a two dimensional motion analysis system, Kistler and AMTI force plates, Optotrak three dimensional motion analysis system, EMG amplifiers, and a unique system for the evaluation of cycling biomechanics. The primary laboratory (>450 m2) houses equipment for assessing human movement and the secondary laboratory is used for dissection and preparation of tissues.

Graduate faculty sponsorship is necessary for admission to all MS and PhD research tracks in Kinesiology. Faculty reviewers and the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee consider the nature of previous college work, level of achievement, performance on standardized graduate exams, experience, congruence of the program with an applicant’s stated goals, and advising and teaching load of faculty in the identified emphasis area when making admission decisions.

Interested students should contact faculty in their desired track to determine their eligibility for the program.

In addition to the above, for admission to the Biomechanics PhD track:

A Master’s degree, with completion of a thesis or a published research paper in a refereed scientific journal, is required.


As part of the admissions process, prospective faculty advisors will look to insure that students’ previous coursework has prepared them for success in our graduate program. Students may be required to take specific prerequisite courses if there is a perceived gap in preparation. In some cases, with advisor approval, this prerequisite coursework can be completed after admission to the program.

Students lacking certain prerequisite courses may still be considered for admission to the Kinesiology graduate program. These students are said to be admitted with “deficiencies”, and these deficiencies must be made up as a part of the student’s graduate coursework. The admitting advisor or the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee will notify the student of a requirement to take specific prerequisite in the admission letter. Students admitted with deficiencies retain eligibility for financial aid consideration.

A. Required Courses Credits
KINES 618, Biomechanics 3
STAT 571, Statistical Methods for Bioscience I (or equivalent) 4
KINES 951, Seminar-Biomechanics (or equivalent) 2
KINES 991, Research in Physical Activity – Theory and Design 3
KINES 990, Research or Thesis minimum of 2
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology 1

All Kinesiology MS and PhD students in biomechanics are required to register for Seminar in Kinesiology (KINES 900) each semester they are enrolled in the program.

B. Suggested Elective Courses (chosen in consultation with advisor)  
KINES 614, Biological Factors Influencing Exercise Performance 3
KINES 721, Neural Basis for Movement 3
KINES 773, Cardiorespiratory Adaptations to Environment and Exercise 3
KINES 861, Principles of Motor Control and Learning 3
KINES 870, Principles of Measuring Motor Behavior 3
KINES 960, Seminar – Motor Development 2
KINES 961, Seminar – Motor Control 2
Total minimum credits required for graduation (beyond baccalaureate degree) 30

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A. Required Courses Credits
STAT 572, Statistical Methods for Bioscience II (or equivalent) 4
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology (1 cr) **
KINES 951, Seminar-Biomechanics, or equivalent (2 semesters required) 4
KINES 990, Research or Thesis (dissertation with oral defense) Minimum 6

**All Kinesiology MS and PhD* students in biomechanics are required to register for Seminar in Kinesiology (KINES 900) each semester they are enrolled in the program

* includes Dissertations unless registered, instead, for specialization seminar Kines 951; or unless expressly exempted via advisor request to Grad Studies Committee

B. General Field Requirement
At least 2 graduate level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology, at UW-Madison, outside of Biomechanics area 4-6


C. Electives
Chosen in consultation with advisor Remaining Credits

Total minimum credits required for graduation (beyond baccalaureate degree              51

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The department has worked with the Graduate School and effective September 2015, Kinesiology PhD students are exempted from the minor requirement based on the following principles: Disciplines within Kinesiology span the study of cells (e.g. physiology, neuroscience) to behavior (motor control, biomechanics, and exercise psychology) to populations (exercise epidemiology).  As such, students in our program are exposed to broad areas of inquiry.  Breadth in the Kinesiology program is achieved via the General Field Requirement described above.

PhD students may choose, however, in consultation with their advisor, to pursue a minor.  The Graduate School Minor policy is here,, for students wishing to obtain a Minor.

A minimum of nine credits of coursework are required for a minor.  The Graduate School policy includes two variants of the minor: one including two or more departments (a “distributed” minor); and the other a minor within a single department.  NOTE that some departments place limits on the format or content of their minor.  If you pursue a single-department minor, we urge you to seek specific guidance in advance from the minor-granting department about how to meet any requirements for its minor.

Total minimum credits required for graduation (beyond baccalaureate degree) 51