Research Programs

The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has a strong research focus. Our investigators are involved in dozens of studies covering a wide range of research topics including traumatic brain injury, burn rehabilitation, and wound care.

Areas of Research

Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke

Kathleen Bell, M.D.

Kathleen Bell, M.D., Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke Research

Dr. Bell's research includes long-term outcomes for TBI, the impact of aerobic exercise on aging brain in TBI, and assessing vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) during rehabilitation for improved upper limb motor function after stroke.

Surendra Barshikar, M.D.

Surendra Barshikar, M.D., Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Dr. Barshikar's research interests include agitation in TBI, telemedicine, and antibiotic stewardship.

Nneka L. Ifejika, M.D.

Nneka L. Ifejika, M.D., Stroke Rehabilitation Research

Dr. Ifejika's research interests include optimization of stroke outcomes during acute hospitalization, using machine learning to predict post-acute rehabilitation process flow, and prevention of acute care readmissions using structured educational protocols.

Mobility and Musculoskeletal

Yasin Dhaher, Ph.D.

Yasin Dhaher, Ph.D., Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Research

Dr. Dhaher's research interest lies at the intersection of three disciplines: biomechanics, neurophysiology, and endocrinology.

Nitin Jain, M.D., M.P.H.

Nitin Jain, M.D., M.P.H., Musculoskeletal and Rehabilitation Research

Dr. Jain's research group performs clinical research in the area of musculoskeletal disorders and rehabilitation.

Eric James, Ph.D.

Eric James, Ph.D., Mobility Research

Dr. James' research focuses on helping older adults age more gracefully.

Yen-Sheng Lin, Ph.D.

Yen-Sheng Lin, Ph.D., Musculoskeletal Research

Dr. Lin's research interests include functional shoulder instability across lifespan, upper limb exoskeleton therapeutic intervention, musculoskeletal injury prognostic imaging biomarkers, and more.

Spinal Cord Injury and Spine

Thiru M. Annaswamy, M.D.

Thiru M. Annaswamy, M.D., Spine and Spinal Cord Injury Research

Dr. Annaswamy's research includes studying optimal evaluation & therapeutic strategies for patients with chronic pain, spine, and musculoskeletal disorders; better understand and manage human movement and gait disorders; and studying novel applications of technology.


Karen Kowalske, M.D.

Karen Kowalske, M.D., Burn Research

Dr. Kowalske's research includes burn model system, heterotopic ossification post burn injury, and tetraparesis following high voltage electrical injury.

Yi-Ting Tzen, Ph.D.

Yi-Ting Tzen, Ph.D., Wound Research

Dr. Tzen’s research theme revolves around pressure injury and diabetic foot ulcer risk identification and prevention.


Robert Rinaldi, M.D.

Robert Rinaldi, M.D., Pediatric Rehabilitation Research

Dr. Rinaldi's primary areas of clinical focus and interest are in rehabilitation of children with peripheral nerve injuries and neuromuscular disorders and development of telemedicine delivery models.


Jason A D Smith, Ph.D.

Jason A D Smith, Ph.D., Epilepsy Research

Dr. Smith's research highlights include epilepsy surgery in underserved Hispanics, seizure lateralization in Spanish-speaking patients with epilepsy, and cognitive process scores and chronic traumatic brain injury.