Occupational Science (Occupational Therapy)

Graduate Advisors: Karla Ausderau, PhD, OTR/L; Dorothy Edwards, PhD; Beth Fields, PhD, OTR/L; Elizabeth A. Larson, PhD, OTR.; Kristin Pickett, PhD; Brittany Travers, PhD.

Synopsis: As occupational scientists, our faculty and graduate students explore theories of occupational engagement and conduct research to expand the body of knowledge supporting the practice of occupational therapy. Occupational Science integrates theories and practices from the disciplines of anatomy, biomechanics, motor control, neuroscience, psychology, and sociology to enhance our understanding of how engagement in the activities of daily life promotes human health and well-being. Doctoral students work directly with a faculty mentor to learn, design and conduct research.

In our Faculty Research Page, you will find all of the research and labs hosted by the Occupational Therapy Program

Opportunities abound for engaging in collaborative work with faculty from other disciplines such as kinesiology, biomedical engineering, psychology, nursing, population health, sociology, human ecology, special education or rehabilitation psychology

Facilities: All faculty members have established laboratories for conducting research in Occupational Science, some of which are free-standing and others of which are located in research centers around campus.

The Waisman Center for Human Development, Developmental Disabilities, and Neurodegenerative Diseases is one of 14 facilities in the nation established to further the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Occupational Science faculty maintain office and laboratory space at the Waisman Center. Laboratory space is equipped for videotaping infants or young children during behavioral task performance. A room with an integrated computing and videotape analysis system for on-line coding of recorded performance is also available.

Community sites are used as settings for the formal and informal study of caregiving in geriatric and pediatric care. Research methods applied in these settings include:

  • Ethnographic interviewing and participant observation of staff behaviors in dementia day care.
  • Analysis of family-caregiver interactions with physicians in the outpatient geriatric medical visit.
  • Qualitative study of the meaning of practice to occupational therapists
  • Phenomenological interviews with family caregivers and staff regarding the ethics of dementia care.

The Institute on Aging is another campus resource for grant-writing and coordination of aging research and education.

Extramural collaborations with investigators at other universities and funding from federal agencies and private foundations further strengthen our research programs and expand opportunities for graduate students.

Purpose of M.S.: The M.S. degree in the Occupational Science Track is an advanced post-professional degree offered to students who have graduated from an accredited program in occupational therapy or a related field. Program emphasis is on the understanding of theories underlying occupational science. Students conduct research and develop advanced knowledge in a specific area of concentration within occupational science.

Purpose of Ph.D.: The doctoral track in Occupational Science prepares occupational therapists to serve as researchers and educators who are able to contribute to the understanding of the theoretical and empirical relationships between occupation, physiological health, and psychological well-being. Graduate students work closely with their advisors to pursue research on issues that expand upon the current theory in occupational therapy and life-span development.

Prerequisites for Admission: Applicants must meet University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School and Department of Kinesiology admissions requirements.

Upon admission to the program, the following courses and credits are required for graduation. For specific course descriptions, please see the Graduate Catalogue.

A. Subject/Field Content Credits
KINES 785, Human Occupation and Health 3
KINES 885, Seminar in Occupation and Health Minimum of 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
Statistics Courses (chosen in consultation with advisor) 4-6
ED PSYCH 760, Statistical Methods Applied to Education I 3
ED PSYCH 761, Statistical Methods Applied to Education II 3
B. Elective Courses (chosen in consultation with advisor) Minimum of 8

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

**Elective courses may be Kinesiology courses not chosen as required courses or courses in related fields (i.e. Psychology, Neuroscience). Students are strongly encouraged to select 2-3 courses in a concentration area. (Examples: Child & Family Studies, Global Health, Disability Studies, Public Health, Patient Advocacy)

View Major Requirements in GUIDE

Upon admission to the program, the following courses and credits are required for graduation. For specific course descriptions, please see the Graduate Catalogue.

A. Required Courses Credits
Courses in Research Methods, Design, Proposal Development, and Research Ethics 6
KINES 991, Research in Physical Activity – Theory and Design 3
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology* 1
KINES 785, Human Occupation and Health 2-3
KINES 885, Seminar in Occupation and Health 1
B. General Field Requirements
Two Kinesiology classes of at least 2 credits each outside your focus area (Occupational Science Track specific courses would not qualify for this requirement). 4
C. Electives
Elective courses are taken in a “concentration area” specific to the area of research. (Examples: ICTR Clinical Trials, Global Health, Prevention Science, Aging, Lifespan Development). Selected in consultation with Faculty Advisor
D. Research
KINES 990, Research or Thesis 1-12

*All Kinesiology PhD students in Physical Activity Epidemiology are required to register for Seminar in Kinesiology (KINES 900) each semester they are enrolled in the program.

**Must be completed prior to KINES 991

  • Minimum of one course in Quantitative, Qualitative or Mixed Methods (Examples: ED PSYCH 760 Statistical Methods Applied to Education I, ED PSYCH 761 Statistical Methods Applied to Education II)
    • Minimum of one course on Research Ethics (Examples: MED HIST 728 Biomedical Ethics and Society; NURSING 802 Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research; SURG SCI 812 Research Ethics and Career Development.)

Graduate School Minor requirements

The Department has worked with the Graduate School and effective September 2015, Kinesiology PhD students are exempt from the minor requirement based on the following principle:

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, in consultation with their advisor, to pursue a minor. For further information on the Graduate School Minor policy visit: http://grad.wisc.edu/acadpolicy/

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.

View Minor Requirements in GUIDE