Biobehavioral Science (Doctoral)

APK Doctoral Programs – Biobehavioral Science

The primary mission of the Ph.D. program in Health and Human Performance with a concentration in Biobehavioral Science is to train future scholars by providing a stimulating environment to develop in-depth knowledge in the area of the specializations described below, and proficiency in designing and conducting research in the respective areas. Students are expected to be involved in research throughout their Ph.D. program, which requires approximately three to five years of full-time study for completion. Graduates of the program are trained to assume positions as post-doctoral research scientists, or entry level professorships at major colleges and universities throughout the country. The program of study is developed by the student and the supervisory committee based on the student’s background, interests, and career goals, as well as faculty expertise. By design, the program is multidisciplinary and flexible, permitting students to tailor their scholarly experience to the development of research skills in one of several related disciplines: biomechanics, motor control and learning, exercise and performance psychology, and sports medicine / athletic training. Each area of specialization is briefly described below.


Biomechanics is the scientific study of humans and objects as they move and interact with the environment. It is a multi-disciplinary field drawing from kinesiology, engineering, medicine, and manufacturing. Biomechanics is a high technology field that applies this expertise to athletic, clinical, legal, and commercial areas. The course work offered within this concentration allows the student to experience a wide variety of biomechanical studies or focus on specific areas to best meet the individual interests of the student.

The biomechanics specialization places an emphasis on research and laboratory experiences and demands mastery of advanced technology to solve problems. The coursework and training includes the study of the kinematics and kinetics of animal movement. Coursework will include, but not be limited to, study in anatomy/kinesiology, biomechanics, engineering, medicine, physical therapy, and statistics. Additional areas of study will focus on developing research and laboratory skills, understanding motor performance and the control of motor actions. Students will be exposed to, and encouraged to engage in, research and study in clinical biomechanics while developing a working knowledge of the granting and funding process.

Graduate Faculty in Biomechanics

Motor Control & Learning

This specialization emphasizes an understanding of human motor performance and motor skills by integrating formal course work and research experiences. Motor learning is associated with the processes and conditions that influence skill acquisition, while motor control concerns determining the neuromuscular basis of performance. Learning and control processes are investigated from established theoretical perspectives. The acquisition of motor skills and expertise, as well as the development of coordination is of great interest. Many issues are studied with various instrumentation in our laboratory, as well as in applied settings. This specialization is interdisciplinary in nature, primarily drawing upon the knowledge base advanced in the movement sciences, neuroscience, cognitive sciences, and physical therapy. Students are prepared to conduct research in traditional motor performance and learning settings as well as to mentor graduate students.

Graduate Faculty in Motor Control and Learning

Exercise & Performance Psychology

This program prepares individuals for careers in universities, research, consulting, private industry, or health sciences. Performance and Exercise Psychology provides the basis for understanding emotions, cognitions, and behaviors in sport, exercise, and other performance settings. Given the development of performance and exercise psychology as distinct fields that emphasize both science and practice, courses and experiences are offered that are relevant to developing proficiency in both areas. Thus, the program is designed with two different streams for concentration course work and experiences depending upon the student’s interests in either performance or exercise psychology.

Major topics of study in the Exercise Psychology specialization include a psychosocial emphasis on the acute and chronic effects of exercise on body image, eating disorders, exercise dependence, and psychological well-being (e.g., the effects of exercise on depression, self-esteem, anxiety, social physique anxiety, self-esteem, and mood). Other topics of interest include exercise adherence, exercise interventions, and various group dynamic topics (e.g., leadership, cohesion, social influence, and group size).

Major topics of study in the Performance Psychology specialization include a cognitive-behavioral emphasis on the improvement of learning and performance conditions, emotion and attentional components of performance, information processing factors involved in complex movements, performance enhancement strategies, and understanding the development of the attention, anticipation, decision-making, and reacting skills necessary for expert performance in rapidly occurring events. The investigation of these areas has been facilitated by the recent laboratory additions of technologically advanced instrumentation used for psychophysiological assessment of brain (EEG) activity and visual search patterns. Research topics also include various psychological issues related to motivation, personality, and individual differences in emotional reactivity.

Graduate Faculty in Exercise and Performance Psychology

Sports Medicine

Sports Medicine is multidisciplinary, including the physiological, biomechanical, psychological, and pathological phenomena associated with exercise and sports (American College of Sports Medicine, 1987), and includes associated medical specialties, allied health professions and applied sciences. The Sports Medicine specialization is designed to provide advanced academic training to develop sports medicine and allied health professionals who will have the scientific and technical competence to formulate and conduct research in both the basic and applied sciences. Coursework at the doctoral level includes lecture and laboratory sequences as well as independent study and directed research.

Graduate Faculty In Motor Control and Learning


The philosophy of the program is to make the curriculum as flexible as possible in order to meet the needs of the student’s specific career goals while making sure the fundamentals are covered. Therefore, every student works closely with his or her adviser and committee to design a unique curriculum that will provide the best opportunity to emerge from the program as a well-trained scientist in the field and also to be able to teach the next generation of undergraduate and graduate students. Students entering the program with advanced graduate training may request substitutes or waivers for some required courses.

Doctoral Program Summary

Area Credit Hours
Concentration Area 12
Research Area 30
Statistical Area 9
Minor Area 12
Electives 6
Total 69

*NOTE: A minimum of 90 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree is required for the Ph.D. degree. A maximum of 30 credit hours of graduate course work from another institution may count towards this 90-hour minimum, pending approval by the student’s advisory committee. All courses to be transferred must be letter graded with a grade of B or better and must be demonstrated to relate directly to the degree being sought. All credits obtained from a master’s degree must have been earned within the last seven years prior to transfer of credit.

Concentration Courses: 12 Credits Minimum

Courses that are reflective of the specific area of specialization in the Biobehavioral Science specialization will be selected and approved by the supervisory committee. Additionally the dissertation topic will directly reflect the area of specialization within the Biobehavioral Science concentration.

Credits Course Number Title
3 APK 5404 Sport Psychology
3 APK 6106 Clinical Anatomy for the Exercise Sciences
3 APK 6116C Physiological Bases of Exercise and Sport
3 APK 6130 Human Pathophysiology for the Exercise Sciences
3 APK 6205C Nature & Bases of Motor Performance
3 APK 6206 Planning Motor Actions
3 APK 6210 Controlling Motor Actions
3 APK 6225 Biomechanical Instrumentation
3 APK 6226C Biomechanics of Human Motion
3 APK 6314 Evidence Based Orthopedic Exam 1: Upper-Extremity
3 PET 6314 Evidence Based Orthopedic Exam II: Lower-Extremity
3 APK 6317 Rehabilitation and Modalities of Athletic Injuries
3 APK 6406 Exercise Psychology
3 APK 6408 Performance Enhancement
3 APK 6410 Seminar in Exercise Psychology
3 APK 6415 Seminar in Sport Psychology
3 APK 6900 Directed Independent Study
3 PET 5936 Current Topics

Research Courses: 33 Credits Minimum

  • PET 5936 Grant Writing (2 credits)
  • HLP 6535 Research Methods (3 credits)
  • HLP 7979 Advanced Research (3 credits) (Advance Research (HLP7979) is taken when preparing for the Qualifying Examination. Dissertation Hours (HLP7980) are taken upon successful completion of the Qualifying Examination.)
  • HLP 7980 Dissertation Hours (24 min. credits)
  • PET 6910L Supervised Research (1-5 credits)

Statistics Courses: 9 Credits Minimum

Credits Course Number Title
3 STA 6126 Statistical Methods in Social Research I
3 STA 6127 Statistical Methods in Social Research II
4 STA 6166 Statistical Methods in Research 1
4 STA 6167 Statistical Methods in Research 2
3 STA 6176 Introduction to Biostatistics
3 STA 6200 Research Design
3 STA 6201 Analysis of Research Data
3 STA 6706 Applied Multivariate Analysis
1-3 STA 6900 Problems in Statistics

Minor (Cognate): 12 Credits Minimum

There are two options for fulfillment of the minor requirement, each of which must be approved by the supervisory committee.

  1. Formal Minor. Declare a formal outside minor of 12-24 credits, and include a minor area faculty representative on the Supervisory Committee. Formal minors often work best for students with 1-2 previous degrees as their strong base of previous professional coursework allows them more flexibility to take courses outside the field. The qualifying examination will include information from the formal minor area.
  2. Interest Area. Elective courses can be used to create an informal “Interest Area” (no committee member; not tested directly on the qualifying examination). These 12 credits are required in addition to the 6 credits of elective work described below.


An Example Formal Minor: Cognitive Psychology

Credits Course Number Title
3 EXP5215 Visual Perception
3 EXP5256 Human Factors I
3 EXP6099 Survey of Cognitive & Sensory Processing
3 EXP6609 Seminar in Cognition

An Example Formal Minor: Physiological Psychology

Credits Course Number Title
3 PSB5325 Human Physiological Psychology
3 PSB6087 Advanced Physiological Psychology
3 PSB6067 Human Brain Functions
3 PSB6099 Seminar in Physiological Psychology

Elective Courses: 6 Credits Minimum

Student may choose electives from other core areas above as well as from the list below (pending availability).

Credits Course Number Title
3 APK 6118 Neuromuscular Adaptation to Exercise
3 APK 6205C Nature and Bases of Motor Performance
3 APK 7107 Cardiovascular Exercise Physiology
3 APK 7117 Exercise Metabolism
3 APK 7124 Free Radicals in Aging, Exercise, and Disease
3 PK 7129 Pulmonary Function During Exercise
3 EGM 2511 Engineering Mechanics-Statics
3 EGM 3401 Engineering Mechanics-Dynamics
3 EGM 5430 Intermediate Dynamics
3 EGM 6595 Bone Mechanics
3 EME 5403 Instructional Computing I
3 EML 5595 Mechanics of the Human Locomotor System
3 EML 5598 Orthopedic Biomechanics
3 EML 6597 Mechanics of Gait
3 PET 5936 Statistical Applications using SPSS
1-10 APK 6940 Advanced Practicum in ESS
3 PET 7386 Environmental Stress Exercise Physiology
3 PHT 6105C Joint Morphology
3 PHT 6125C Concepts in Clinical Biomechanics
3 PHT 6127C Control of Gait and Posture
3 PHT 6316 Neurological Aspects of Orthopedic Rehabilitation
2 STA 6200 Fundamentals of Design

Additional Requirements

Qualifying Examination

Students are eligible to take their qualifying examinations following four semesters of study and upon approval of their supervisory committee. It is highly recommended that the exam be completed prior to the end of the third year of Ph.D. training and preferably after the 2nd year. The purpose of the Ph.D. qualifying exam is to evaluate the student’s potential for advanced scholarly work at the Ph.D. level and is a necessary pre-requisite for continuing in the Ph.D. program. The supervisory committee is comprised of four faculty: a chair (usually the dissertation adviser), two additional members of the APK graduate program and one outside faculty who is also a member of the graduate faculty of the University of Florida. Members outside of the graduate faculty, e.g. at other universities, can be added to the committee, but they must be in addition to these four members. The qualifying examination is unique to each graduate program in the University. For example, the rules that apply to the exam in Biobehavioral Science do not necessarily apply to Exercise Physiology or other graduate programs. The qualifying examination must be successfully defended prior to dissertation writing. The student must be registered in the term in which the qualifying examination is given.

Students must select one of the following options. Permission must be obtained from the student’s supervisory committee prior to scheduling either examination option. Both projects must be written and submitted to the student’s supervisory committee. The supervisory committee has the responsibility at this time of deciding whether the student is qualified to continue work toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Option 1: A formal written and oral examination covering both major and minor coursework. The members of the supervisory committee meet with the student several months before the examination and both student and faculty agree upon the areas to be covered by each faculty member. This should be done in writing to avoid misunderstandings. These topics should not overlap between committee members. The topics may be defined by specific course material, general areas of exercise science, or specific sets of reading material that cover broad areas of biobehavioral science. Prior to the examination, the members of the committee confidentially submit one or more (usually 2-3) written essay questions on their topics to the chair of the thesis supervisory committee or the graduate program administrator. The test is administered in a closed book fashion, generally over a two day period depending on the committee’s instructions, and under direct supervision. The exam questions are graded by the committee members as “Pass” or “Fail” and a decision is made as to whether the student a) is allowed to continue on to the oral component of the exam, b) fails the exam or c) is allowed to retake the examination.


Option 2: Conduct two research projects: one being an independent study (original data collection and article prepared for publication) and the other a conceptual (critical review) paper in a suitable research area. These efforts are to act as pilot work in the area of, or closely related to, the area of work proposed for the student’s dissertation. The topical area and general outline of the conceptual paper option should be approved by the supervisory committee following a meeting during which the plan of study is clearly articulated and defended.

Oral Component: Each of the two options must be defended orally. All supervisory committee members must be present at the oral examination. The oral exam is required by the University as part of the qualifying exam and usually takes place within 2 weeks of the written component. It is important that students allow plenty of time to schedule the oral exam and it is recommended that this be done in conjunction with the scheduling of the written exam. The length and content of the exam is determined entirely by the supervisory committee. The purpose of the oral component is 1) to allow the student the chance to clarify any weak components of the written exam or to answer any components of the exam that were not previously addressed. 2) To evaluate the ability of the student to think on his or her feet and carry on an intelligent scientific dialogue with other scientists. 3) To evaluate whether the student has sufficient breadth of knowledge in biobehavioral science, kinesiology, and life science to move on to a specialized area of research.

If a student fails the qualifying examination, the Graduate School must be notified immediately. A re-examination may be requested, but it must be recommended by the supervisory committee and approved by the Graduate School. At least one semester of additional preparation is considered essential before re-examination.

Admission to Candidacy

A graduate student does not become a candidate for the doctoral (PhD) degree until granted formal admission to candidacy. Such admission requires approval of the student’s supervisory committee, the department chairperson, the college dean, and the Dean of the Graduate School. Approval will be based on (1) the academic record of the student, (2) the opinion of the supervisory committee concerning overall fitness for candidacy, (3) an approved dissertation topic, and (4) a successful qualifying examination. Application for admission to candidacy should be made as soon as the qualifying examination has been passed and the student’s supervisory committee approves a dissertation topic. A student may not register for HLP 7980 (Research and Dissertation) until he or she is admitted to candidacy for a doctoral degree.


Dissertation Proposal

The proposal is not a formal University of Florida requirement, but is a requirement of the Applied Physiology Graduate Programs. The format of the proposal is determined by the student’s supervisory committee but generally takes the form of a presentation of the proposed content of the thesis and the data collected thus far, at either a private meeting of the committee or more commonly at a formal public presentation. The proposal should be completed following admission to candidacy. A document summarizing the content of the proposed work is submitted to the graduate program administrator along with the appropriate form, approved and signed by the committee members.

Dissertation Examination

Prior to graduating, each student must successfully complete their research project and present the written dissertation to the supervisory committee, meeting the guidelines of the University of Florida Graduate School. The committee will evaluate the dissertation and once their standards are met, the document is approved. At this time the student may schedule the verbal defense before the supervisory committee in an open public forum. The supervisory committee will evaluate the dissertation in both written and oral formats. The doctoral student must be able to pass the oral defense before graduating.