University of Wisconsin–Madison

Exercise Physiology

Graduate Advisors: Gary M. Diffee, Ph.D.; William Schrage, Ph.D.; Marlowe Eldridge, MD;
Troy Hornberger, Ph.D.; Jill Barnes, Ph.D.

Synopsis: Exercise Physiology is the study of the biological responses and adaptations to acute and chronic exercise. Research and graduate training at UW-Madison focuses on elucidating:

  1. the physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying these processes
  2. the influence of exercise on health and disease.

Laboratory Facilities and Experimental Approaches: Departmental laboratory facilities are well-equipped, allowing graduate students to employ a variety of state-of-the-art experimental approaches.

Dr. Diffee studies the regulation of contraction in skeletal and cardiac muscle and how this regulation is altered by perturbations such as exercise training, injury, or disease. Typical experiments involve measurement of contractile properties single skeletal muscle fibers and single cardiac myocytes and correlation of altered mechanical properties to changes in cell protein composition detected by biochemical and molecular biological techniques. Interaction with faculty and students from other departments (including Nutritional Sciences, Biochemistry, School of Medicine, and the Institute on Aging) is encouraged by ongoing collaborative research efforts. The research of William Schrage’s laboratory is focused on how blood flow is regulated in muscle and brain circulations. Specifically, Dr. Schrage is interested in how acute exercise or environmental stress like hypoxia influences blood flow and how this is impacted by obesity and metabolic syndrome. He measures blood flow using state-of-the-art technology including ultrasound and MRI. A key approach is to use pharmacologic tools to understand how blood flow is controlled, and how obesity changes which mechanisms change the ability to regulate blood flow under stress. Dr. Barnes focuses on how aging and exercise alters blood flow and blood pressure regulation.  Her current projects focus on age-associated changes in cerebral blood flow, the sympathetic nervous system activity influences cerebral blood flow, and how these relate to the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Purpose of MS: The MS with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology is designed to provide the fundamental framework for understanding and conducting research in Exercise Physiology. In addition to course work in Physiology, Statistics, and Research Methods, students pursue advanced study in Exercise Physiology. Students conduct a research project as part of the thesis requirement. Many MS students have the opportunity to teach during their training. Graduates of the MS program often pursue further graduate training, usually in a Ph.D., M.D. or D.O. program. Other MS graduates immediately pursue a career in research, educational, or clinical settings.

Purpose of Ph.D.: The Ph.D. with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology is designed to prepare students for scholarly research and teaching. Students are prepared with advanced course work in Exercise Physiology along with supporting course work in Biochemistry, Physiology, Statistics, and other areas of Kinesiology (including Biomechanics, Motor Control and Behavior, and Sports Psychology). An important advantage of graduate study at UW-Madison is the exceptional selection of elective courses (>40 departments offer graduate courses in biological sciences). Minor course work can be performed in Biochemistry, Nutritional Sciences, Physiology, Preventive Medicine, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Zoology, or other relevant fields. Students are intensively involved in conducting research throughout their graduate training and are expected to present research at national scientific meetings and publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals. Most Ph.D. students have the opportunity to teach during their training. Graduates of the Ph.D. program commonly pursue post-doctoral training and then establish independent research programs as university faculty members. Graduates occasionally pursue careers in industry or in clinical settings.

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 Exercise Physiology PhD track:

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

Deficiencies:

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.

Required Courses Credits
PHYSIOL 435, Fundamentals of Human Physiology1 5
STAT 571, Statistical Methods for Bioscience I 4
KINES 615, Laboratory Techniques in Exercise Physiology 2
KINES 773, Cardiorespiratory Adaptations to Environment and Exercise 3
KINES 774, Metabolic Responses to Exercise and Environmental Stress 2
KINES 991, Research in Physical Activity – Theory and Design 3
KINES 990, Research or Thesis minimum of 2
KINES 953, Human Biodynamics Seminar 2
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology 1

1Kinesiology students complete special content.  Contact physiology-enroll@lists.wisc.edu for consent to enroll in PHYSIOL 435.  The Department of Neuroscience chair’s assistant will then connect you with the 435 director for content details, will data-enter your online permission to enroll in 435 and reserve your place, and will notify you by e-mail.  Please allow at least a week for the permission process to finalize.  Department contacts: http://www.neuro.wisc.edu/staff.asp.

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

Electives (courses selected in consultation with advisor) minimum of 3
Total minimum credits required for graduation (beyond baccalaureate degree) 30

Printable PDF Version

A. Required Courses Credits
PHYSIOL 435, Fundamentals of Human Physiology1 5
KINES 773, Cardiorespiratory Adaptations to Environment and Exercise 3
KINES 774, Metabolic Responses to Exercise and Environmental Stress 2
KINES 991, Research in Physical Activity – Theory and Design 3
Note: the above courses are only required if not taken as part of an MS program
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology 1
KINES 953, Human Biodynamics Seminar 4
KINES 999, Independent Reading 3

1Kinesiology students complete special content.  Contact physiology-enroll@lists.wisc.edu for consent to enroll in PHYSIOL 435.  The Department of Neuroscience chair’s assistant will then connect you with the 435 director for content details, will data-enter your online permission to enroll in 435 and reserve your place, and will notify you by e-mail.  Please allow at least a week for the permission process to finalize.  Department contacts: http://www.neuro.wisc.edu/staff.asp.

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

*Includes dissertators unless registered for specialization seminar, KINES 953, 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 Exercise Physiology area 4-6
C. Electives (sufficient to meet graduation requirements; chosen in consultation with advisor)
D. Research
KINES 900, Research or Thesis (dissertation) minimum of 8

Printable PDF Version

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, http://grad.wisc.edu/acadpolicy/, 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