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:

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.
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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) Age-related changes in systems involved in postural control, ii) Balance rehabilitation and falls prevention, iii)Sensory integration, balance and development of motor function in neuro-typical and children with autism spectrum disorders and iv) Virtual reality and robotic technologies as evaluation and rehabilitation tools. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Texas Medical Research Collaborative consortium (TxMRC). Current projects include:
  1. A wearable soft robotic system for continuous passive motion in post-stroke hand rehabilitation” The goal of this project is to develop, validate and test a novel device for hand impairments following stroke.
  2. “Soft Robotic Glove for Cerebral Palsy Hand Rehabilitation (REHAB Glove)”. The goal of this project is to develop and test a robotic glove for hand rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy.
  3. The effect of hearing loss on balance”. 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.
  4. “Integrating new technologies to assess visual and attentional influences on movement and imitative behavior in Autism”. The goal of this project is to use virtual reality and robotic technologies to determine the contribution of visual, attention and motor planning to the impairments observed in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
  5. Multi-modal sensor skin and garments for healthcare and home robots” 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. The project 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.
pt nicoleta and boypt anthony and zeno 2
Haylie Miller
Dr. Miller’s NSF- and NIH-funded program of research investigates visuomotor integration–the use of visual information to plan, execute, and modify movement. She studies visuomotor integration in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other pediatric movement disorders (e.g., Developmental Coordination Disorder). She collaborates with an interdisciplinary, multi-PI team in the Human Movement Performance Laboratory at UNTHSC, which houses state-of-the-art motion capture (Motion Analysis, Inc.) and virtual reality systems (CAREN, Motek Forcelink) with integrated mobile eye-tracking (ETG 2.0, SensoMotoric Instruments).
Evan Papa , MA, DPT, PhD
Dr. Papa’s research utilizes motion capture technology to identify movement impairments in persons at risk for falls. He was a 2014 Traveling Research Fellow with the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Research and is currently a Clinical and Translational Research Scholar in partnership with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (KL2). His research is funded by the NIH, American Osteopathic Association, Texas Physical Therapy Association, and other state institutions. The basic theme underlying Dr. Papa’s research program is that the identification of basic movement impairments will lead to the development of more effective and efficient clinical interventions and prevention strategies to reduce falls in at-risk populations.
Parkinson’s disease
Falls are one of the most disabling features of Parkinson’s disease (PD). As it pertains to functional mobility, PD is characterized by slowness of movement, flexed posture, and postural instability – all of which may lead to falls. Dr. Papa is currently conducting two research studies in PD: 1) an investigation into the effect of osteopathic manipulation on postural control and 2) an identification of the effects of muscle fatigue on specific components of postural instability in people with PD. Both paradigms provide an emphasis on how these individuals respond to reproducible falls using treadmill perturbations.
Healthy Seniors
Falls are a significant problem in the aging population and are associated with increased morbidity and disability. Muscle weakness is a potent risk factor for falls in older adults and can greatly increase the risk of falling in community dwelling older individuals. However, strengthening muscle often requires considerable effort, for which many older adults lack the required energetic reserves. Dr. Papa is currently investigating the benefits of a two-phase rehabilitation approach with cognitive restructuring and a novel strength training program to improve balance and reduce falls in older adults.
• Digitizer DS7AH Constant current voltage stimulator (MEPs, Fort Lauderdale, FL) – The Digitimer High Voltage Stimulator provides constant current high voltage pulses of brief duration for transcutaneous stimulation during investigation of the electrical activity of nerve and muscle tissue.
• Eccentron (BTE Technologies, Hanover, MD) – The Eccentron is a lower extremity resistance exercise using a motorized, isokinetic ergometer. The Eccentron appears like a normal stepper ergometer with foot pedals that are driven by an electric motor for quadricep and hip extensor strength training.
Cortex time lapse2
Mike Richardson, PT, DPT, GCS, COMT
has interests in education as well as clinical research. Particular interests include the ‘flipped classroom’ teaching model, service learning, and professional issues. Dr. Richardson enjoys collaborating with colleagues on projects involving the geriatric population and has participated in service learning with PT students at the Cowtown Marathon Expo.
Mike Richardson


This page was last modified on December 21, 2016