Research Exercise Physiology

The research exercise physiology area of emphasis is a two-year program designed for students who wish to engage in an intensive research training experience in preparation for further training in a PhD, MD, or similar postgraduate program. Students in the area of emphasis select a research mentor and committee from faculty within the Division of Exercise Physiology (or an affiliated group) based on their research interests.

Research students engage in an intensive curriculum consisting of 33 credits, 19 in the exercise physiology MS core and 14 within the area of emphasis. The first year consists of didactic coursework while learning the necessary research skills and tools to conduct research. In the second year, students can focus heavily on all aspects of research, including the production and oral defense of a research thesis.

The faculty who act as primary mentors in exercise physiology have research and/or clinical expertise in a variety of areas. Prospective students can learn more about current areas of research online.

  • Heart disease
  • Motor unit recruitment in stroke and disability
  • Biomechanical and motor control for gait in stroke or spinal cord injury
  • Muscle injury and repair
  • Cancer cachexia and muscle wasting diseases
  • Aging and sarcopenia in skeletal muscle
  • Cardiac and skeletal muscle growth and function
  • Vascular dysfunction with metabolic diseases
  • Alzheimer's Disease and vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia
  • Stem cell biology and mechanical signal and tissue regeneration


Students pursuing the Master of Science (MS) in exercise physiology must complete the program requirements as outlined in the West Virginia University Academic Catalog

To be eligible for graduation, students must earn a grade of B or higher in all required courses and must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher in all coursework. Additional information on program requirements can be found in the student handbook.

Typical Program Progression

Academic Year 1:

  • May: Thesis advisor assigned at point of acceptance to the program.
  • August - December: Student learns research methods, develops research ideas, and collects pilot data.
  • February - April: Student meets with thesis committee and submits committee approval form. Committee reviews student’s progress. Student completes and submits plan of study.
  • June - July: Student provides written proposal a minimum of two weeks before intended oral defense of proposal. Proposal is advertised and departmental/divisional faculty and students invited.
  • July - August: Student begins thesis work.

Academic Year 2:

  • Student prepares abstracts from data for MARC (October) and/or ACSM, Experimental Biology (November).
  • April - May: Student defends thesis and submits manuscripts with mentor for publication (goal of one publication in a peer-reviewed journal).

It is expected that most students will complete their work by the end of the spring semester, second academic year. However, on a case-by-case basis and with the approval of the thesis committee, students may be permitted to continue their work between May and August.