Research Mission

A core component of the Department of Physical Therapy mission is to participate in research and service which impacts physical therapy practice. Integral to the fulfillment of this mission is the faculty’s passion for training and mentoring students, as well as the collaborative nature of the activities. Collaborations with scientists from various disciplines are critical components of a well-rounded, successful research program. Faculty have been effective at building a network of collaborators with complementary and synergistic research interests, from departments within the UNTHSC, as well as from other universities, hospitals and industry.

Facilities and Other Resources

Two laboratories on campus totaling

2800 square feet are

dedicated to support the

PT department research mission.

The Functional Mobility Assessment Lab

is approximately 500 square feet and is designated for functional mobility assessment for human subjects as needed. It is equipped with the following instrument and equipment: The 10-foot long Tekscan’s Computerized HR Walkway 4 VersaTek Pressure Measurement System (Model: HRV4) allows researchers to assess gait parameters and force from each foot. The portable wireless F-scan VersaTek in-shoe pressure measurement system (Model: FV2) is functionally similar to the HRV4 system. The FV2 system enables researchers to view the real-time gait parameters and pressure distribution of the two insole sensors at the same time (left & right foot) and to record the same information for playback and analysis. The portable Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy system (the InSpectraTM Tissue Oxygenation Monitor) is a non-invasive instrument that permits researchers to measure local tissue oxygen saturation (StO2) in brain tissue and skeletal muscles. The Neurocom Basic Balance Master system, using an 18” x 18’ fixed dual force plate to assess the vertical forces from the subject’s feet, is able to provide objective assessment and retraining of the motor and sensory control of balance with visual biofeedback. The portable 16-channel DelSys system is also available for surface EMG. The 16-foot long GaitRite Walkway with real time camera provides opportunity to assess gait parameters as well as the subject’s posture. The newly installed Solo-Step Rehabilitation Support System (ceiling track and harness) that enable us to evaluate subjects who may demonstrate unstable gait or poor balance during assessment.

pt howe lab

pt neurocom howe lab

Human Movement Performance  Laboratory


A core laboratory space fostering interdisciplinary PT and OMM research occupies 2,300 square feet of space in the Center for Biohealth. The laboratory is equipped with a motion analysis system for kinematic testing of normal and pathological motion, force plates for measurement of center of pressure, and computational facilities for creating patient-specific models and simulations. A Delsys electromyographic system capable of surface and fine wire data collection is also available. The V-Gait CAREN system including dual-belt instrumented treadmill, along with visual display and CAREN software, has recently been acquired and provides us with the necessary tools to create and test human movement and posture in virtual environments. The laboratory is equipped with several software programs (Matlab and LabVIEW), which are routinely used in the lab and supported by the Lab Engineer.

pt lab photo

A full time research associate and a project coordinator support the activities within the lab. In 2010, the institution made a substantial investment on behalf of the Physical Therapy Program ($425,000) and acquired a V-Gait CAREN system. In addition, the physical therapy department has purchased four additional motion analysis cameras to expand the motion capture system previously installed by the OMM department to a 12-camera system.

V-gait CAREN system is a state-of-the-art Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment Network that integrates traditional instrumentation of investigating posture and gait with a virtual reality environment.

Specific components of the V-gait CAREN System include:

  • Dual belt instrumented treadmill that can function in self-pace or predetermined speed mode. Two force plates are embedded under each belt. The treadmill can deliver perturbations in 2 degrees of freedom, pitch (± 10 degrees variable incline in walking direction), and fast sway (± 10 cm sideways perturbations).
  • 180 degree cylindrical screen for visualization with 3 front projectors and custom driver to blend images as well as a Head Mounted Display
  • CAREN software to control and synchronize all inputs and data collected
  • Various VR environment scenes and applications
  • Motion Analysis Capabilities: 12-camera Eagle real-time digital motion capture system (Motion Analysis Corp, Santa Rosa, CA).

pt reach 2

Faculty Expertise and Current Research Focus Areas:

Amy Nordon-Craft, PT, M.Ed, DSc has expertise in physical therapy intervention in the ICU, balance deficits resulting from chemotherapy treatment of breast cancer, and facilitation of PT student clinical reasoning in the acute care environment. Dr. Nordon-Craft is currently conducting a project on “Teaching Physical Therapy Students Acute Care Cardiopulmonary Competencies through Problem Based Learning and High Fidelity Human Simulations” funded by the Cardiopulmonary section of the APTA. Dr. Nordon-Craft was recently a co-investigator on a NIH interdisciplinary grant examining the role of early physical therapy intervention on patients with polyneuromyopathy.

pt amy hospital
pt brandy cropped

Brandy Schwarz, PT, DPT,OTR, MBA has research interests in effective methods for clinical education and mentoring of students. Particular interests are instructional methods to prepare students for addressing the challenges present in the geriatric population and for ensuring the provision of high quality physical therapy services for older adults. In the context of “Safe Communities” Dr. Schwarz participated in a service learning activity with PT students offering falls risks assessments and prevention.

Clayton Holmes, PT, EdD, MS, ATC engages in scholarly activities that focus on delivery of physical therapy interventions in multiple areas, including patient education, rear foot position following corrective application, as well as clinical measures and outcomes related to therapeutic exercises. Currently Dr. Holmes conducts a research project on “Allied Health Pathway: A Minority Male Initiative”, to identify barriers and implement initiatives for recruitment of male minority students into PT programs.  pt clayton 1
pt howe in lab

Howe Liu, PT, MPT, PhD, MS, MD has focused his research on the following areas: i) "Effects of Inappropriate Use of Assistive Ambulatory Devices (AADs) on Gait, Balance, and Posture", ii) Physical therapy and alternative medical interventions (like Tai Chi and Qi Gong) to improve gait, balance and posture in older populations and AAD users, iii) Bioengineering intervention/design to modify assistive ambulatory devices and iv) Identification of musculoskeletal variations in cadavers in anatomy gross lab. Throughout his career he has published extensively and has engaged and supervised a large number of PT students in research projects.

Michael Connors, PT, DPT, MPT, OCS has research interests in applied biomechanics and the enhancement of evidence based rehabilitation for musculoskeletal pathologies. Funded by a seed grant from UNTHSC, Dr. Connors and his collaborator Dr. Rita M. Patterson are using custom instrumentation and EMG to measure shoulder stiffness and investigate guarding behaviors in patients with chronic shoulder pain. pt mike in clinic
pt flyzik clinic cropped Michael Flyzik, PT, MA, DPT, OCS has interest in clinical research, specifically using diagnostic ultra-sound as a screening device differentiating tendinitis from tendinosis, as well as the physical therapy treatment implications related to these diagnoses.
Natalie Weeks, PT, DPT has research interests in Women’s Health and Global Health/Minority Health and Wellness. She is specifically interested in investigating the impact of exercise on the American Indian population cardiovascular risk and diabetes prevention. Additionally, Dr. Weeks collaborates with other faculty members in geriatric research projects. She is the clinical blinded evaluator of administering a battery of PT clinical outcome measures to evaluate balance and gait abilities in older adults with hearing impairments. pt natalie in class 1
pt tom in class

Thomas Bukoskey, PT, DPT research efforts have included evidenced based inquiries related tot he management of ACL injuries in females, eccentric exercise and runners, shoulder overuse injuries and the biomechanical effect of barefoot running related to medial tibial stress syndrome. Dr. Bukoskey enjoys collaborating with colleagues on projects related to ambulation and assistive devices, as well as, the effect of specific interventions and their effect on gait. Recently, his research efforts have centered on his dissertation entitled "The Complexities of Teaching Professionalism to Doctorate Level Physical Therapy Students and the Relationship to the Bolman and Deal Leadership Model."

Venita Lovelace-Chandler, PT, PhD, PCS is an experienced educator and academic administrator in PT programs. Her scholarly activities are focused on professional issues in the physical therapy profession and pediatrics. Currently she is writing a textbook on "Differential Diagnostic in Pediatrics" and a manuscript shading light on "Non-academic reasons for failure in PT programs". pt nicujan 019 1
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Yasser Salem, PT, MS, PhD, NCS, PCS is a researcher, educator and clinician with expertise in children and adult neurorehabilitation. Dr. Salem’s research is clinically based and is parallel to his academic interests. His research focuses on the development of effective treatment strategies for the rehabilitation of children and adults with neurological deficits. He is specifically interested in developing evidence-based intervention programs for children with cerebral palsy and developmental delay and adults with neurological impairments and disability. He has collaborated with several national disability organizations to promote the efficacy of exercise programs through community-based access to exercise supporting greater participation and functional gains for people with neurological disorders. Currently, Dr. Salem is working in collaboration with a faculty member in Department of Physical Therapy on the investigation of the effect of wellness exercise program for people with multiple sclerosis and another study that examines gait parameters using different assistive devices. Currently, Dr. Salem is serving as the Director of Research for the Aquatic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Nicoleta Bugnariu, PT, PhD has expertise and research interests in: i) Virtual reality and robotic technologies as evaluation and rehabilitation tools; ii) Sensory integration, balance and development of motor function in neuro-typical and children with autism spectrum disorders; iii) Age-related changes in systems involved in postural control, and iv) Balance rehabilitation and falls prevention. Her research is funded by the Texas Medical Research Collaborative consortium (TxMRC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Current projects include: pt nicoleta and boy

1) TxMRC grant: “Human-Robot Interaction System for Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders”. In collaboration with Dr.

Dan Popa, robotic engineer from University

of Arlington and Dr. Carolyn Garver, director of Autism Treatment Center in Dallas, this project investigates the motor development in children

at risk of or with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Children between 18 months and

12 years old are evaluated quarterly to assess

their motor abilities to sit, stand, walk, reach

and their imitation behaviors while interacting

with Zeno the robot. 

pt anthony and zeno 2

2) NSF grant: Multi-modal sensor skin and garments for healthcare and home robots in collaboration with Dr. Dan Popa, Dr. Lewis F, Dr. Butler D, Dr. Celik-Butler Z from University of Arlington. The aim of this project is to develop and implement sensors in the skin/garments of robots in a way that the robot can sense human intent and facilitate movement. This will be implemented in the rehabilitation of patients following stroke. The UTA faculty drives the development of sensors and control algorithms, Dr. Bugnariu provides the requirements for sensors to detect human movement intent and test the implementation with the patients. The project also investigates the use of multi-modal skin sensors for improving functional movements in patients with prosthetics arms, and assesses the impact of assistive home robots and healthcare rehabilitation robotic devices on quality of life.

3) “Good hearing, steady feet: Developing auditory devices that improve hearing and decrease the risk for falls”, grant supported by TxMRC, in collaboration with Dr. Rita M. Patterson, from the OMM department, Dr. Elisabeth Ransom from Texas Health Resources and three audiologists from University of Dallas : Dr. Linda Thibodeau, Dr. Ross Roeser and Dr. Philip Wilson. This project investigates the relationship between auditory inputs and balance and evaluates the effects of different types of hearing aid technologies on measures of gait and balance in older adults with hearing loss. The aims are to have a better understanding of the link between auditory inputs and balance control and to develop more effective and better accepted hearing aid technologies that will go beyond improving speech recognition and improve balance control as well.

pt nicoleta hearing pt dscf7668 pt rita

4) TxMRC grant: “Falls prevention through retraining sensory weighting using a virtual environment and vibrotactile biofeedback” in collaboration with Dr. Roozbeh Jaffari and Dr. John Hart from the University of Dallas. We have developed realistic virtual environments coupled with movements of the surface on which patients stand, walk, and practice balance tasks. In order to decrease visual dependency and retrain sensory weighting, manipulation of visual input is achieved by introducing visual distractions to which subjects need to attend. The training is coupled with a vibrotactile biofeedback system that augments somatosensory information in patients with decreased proprioception, in particular, patients with peripheral neuropathies.

pt vibrotactile
This page last updated 26th Jun 2014