Meet Our Students


Rebecca Barok

Rebecca is a PhD student studying the neural control of breathing and induction of respiratory plasticity. Her goal is to take this knowledge and apply it to therapeutic practices for individuals with spinal cord injury. She received her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Miami University (Ohio), and her Master's from the University of Minnesota. Rebecca’s favorite pastimes include playing competitive volleyball and spoiling her two French Bulldogs.


Renata Braudy, PT, MS, MA, OCS, CLT, PhD Candidate

Renata is a PhD Candidate studying shoulder function in women after breast cancer treatment under the mentorships of Dr. Ludewig and Dr. Koehler. She returned for her PhD after 16 years of clinical practice during which she developed 2 successful breast cancer rehabilitation programs. Renata is passionate about maximizing each person's level of pain-free function and minimizing their risk of, or severity of, breast cancer-related lymphedema. She is Board Certified in Orthopaedics, is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, and is a Credentialed Clinical Instructor through the American Physical Therapy Association. Renata earned a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, a Master's Degree in Kinesiology / Exercise Physiology from The University of Texas at Austin, and a Master's Degree in Physical Therapy from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She lives in Chanhassen with her 2 boys and their sweet dog Storm.


Karin Burbach, MS, OTR/L, CHT

Karin joins the Rehabilitation Science program as a PhD student with 20+ years of experience as an Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist. As a CHT, she is interested in the application and effectiveness of manual and exercise-based treatment in the upper extremity for improvement of functional outcomes. Karin received her undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University and completed her master's degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She also completed a master's certificate program in upper extremity rehabilitation at Drexel University. Outside of studying and teaching, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and two children.


Sydney Carpentier, B.A.

Sydney earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from CSU Long Beach and has an interest in neurorehabilitation. As a PhD student in the Brain Body Mind lab, she researches how strengthening the brain-body connection (through body awareness training) can improve pain, sensory, and motor outcomes for adults with spinal cord injury and stroke. For her dissertation research, she aims to develop a tool that will measure body awareness in adults with SCI with the intent of using it in future clinical trials and in clinical settings. In her free time, Sydney enjoys playing volleyball and spending time with friends.


Azaline Dunlap-Smith

 Azaline is a dual-degree DPT/PhD student studying the role of microglia and inflammation in respiratory neuroplasticity. Azaline is from Maine and earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH with a focus on computational chemistry. Long-term, she is interested in working in a research-oriented neurorehabilitation clinical setting. She spends her free time enjoying fencing, crafting, and video games.


Kierra Falbo, MPO, CPO

Kierra Falbo obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics from Northwestern University. She is currently a Research Prosthetist-Orthotist with the Minneapolis Adaptive Design & Engineering Program (MADE) at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, and she is a doctoral student in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Minnesota. Her current research focuses on amputation care, prosthetics, and rehabilitation, with a particular interest in phantom limb pain. In her free time, Kierra enjoys playing recreational sports and oil painting, and her paintings have been displayed in several art shows throughout Minneapolis and other cities.

Jessica G

Jessica M. L. Grittner, MS, CCC-SLP

Jessica Grittner is a PhD candidate researching neuroplasticity in the respiratory system, highlighting the relationships between respiratory and swallowing neurophysiology.She is a speech language pathologist at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, where she practices a clinical specialty in pediatric dysphagia. Jessica received her MS in medical speech language pathology from the University of Washington, Seattle, and her BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She spends her weekends doing DIY construction, traveling, and being fiercely competitive at board games. 


Aaron Hellem, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS

Aaron attended St. John's University in Collegeville, MN where he majored in Biology. He then attended Mayo Clinic where he obtained his Doctorate of Physical Therapy and also completed a 1-year accredited residency program in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy. He went on to obtain his sports specialist certification and practiced full-time at Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine until matriculating into the Rehabilitation Science PhD program in the fall of 2019. He works in the Minnesota Rehabilitation Biomechanics Lab under the advisement of Dr. Paula Ludewig where his dissertation focuses on the kinematics of the volleyball spike and tissue strain field deformation of the long head biceps tendon during this movement. Other research interests include rehabilitation of overhead athletes, sports performance enhancement, clinical biomechanics, evidence-informed practice, and physical therapist education. He lives in Minneapolis with his partner Lisa and hobbies include resistance training, fantasy/sci-fi novels, movies, and attending live music of all types.


Emily Kahnert, DPT, CCTT (Certified Cervical & Temporomandibular Therapist)

Emily Kahnert, DPT, CCTT is a Physical Therapist in the Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD), Orofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and a Rehabilitation Science PhD Candidate. Her 17 years of clinical practice have been exclusively focused on treating TMD and Orofacial pain in multidisciplinary settings. She earned her Certified Cervical and Temporomandibular Therapist designation through the Physical Therapy Board of Craniofacial and Cervical Therapeutics in 2019 and is part of the TMD PT Clinical Practice Guideline development group. Her dissertation will assess telerehabilitation effectiveness for individuals with TMD, and her research is supported by the Academy of Orthopaedic PT and the American Academy of Orofacial Pain.


Kohinoor Khan

Kohinoor completed B.Pharm & M.Pharm degree from UPTU University, India. Her research interest is to study pancreatic cancer in mice (In vitro & In vivo) and mouse adipose tissue.


Myrriah Laine Dyreson BSBmE, MSOP

Myrriah is a rehab science PhD student and a Research Prosthetist-Orthotist with the Minneapolis Adaptive Design & Engineering Program (MADE) at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and her Master’s Degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics from Concordia University, St. Paul. Her research focuses on understanding long term outcomes of amputee populations and evaluating new technologies to improve these outcomes. Myrriah enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and 2 dogs, gardening, ice fishing, and traveling. 



Callen Maupin, DPT

Callen is a rehab science PhD student researching autonomic neural control of axial musculature. As a physical therapist, he is interested in understanding how lesions in the cerebrum and basal ganglia lead to postural instability and axial rigidity with the goal of improving rehabilitation therapies and noninvasive brain stimulation technologies. Callen is originally from Nebraska and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney before moving to Minnesota to participate in the dual DPT/PhD program at the University of Minnesota. He enjoys playing all varieties of games from spikeball, tennis, and pickleball to Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Cribbage.

Briee M

Briee Mercier PT DPT NCS

Briee is a PhD student researching spinal locomotor circuits using zebrafish as a model system. With a background as a physical therapist working with patients with neurologic conditions, she is interested in a deeper understanding of the neuroscience related to locomotion and conditions affecting locomotion such as spinal cord injury and degenerative disorders. Briee is originally from Minnesota, completing her undergraduate degree in neuroscience here at the U and going on to receive her DPT at the University of Jamestown in Fargo. In her free time she enjoys running with her dog, Waffle, and training for races.


Lauren Michels, BS

Lauren is a PhD student researching the molecular basis of adipogenesis and obesity. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Lauren likes to stay active by practicing yoga and spending time outside hiking.


Zack Roloff

Zack is a PhD student studying super-relaxed myosin in skeletal muscle. His background is in exercise physiology and he is interested in understanding how muscle is affected by obesity and sedentary behavior. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of the lab Zack spends his time woodworking and hiking with his wife and 3 dogs.


Faezah Sahebdel

Faezeh is a Ph.D. student researching on microglia cells and neuroinflammation after spinal cord injury. She is interested in investigating the biomarkers involved in neuropathic pain and neuronal recovery following spinal cord injury. Faezeh is from Tehran, Iran, and received her undergraduate education and her master's degree from the University of Tehran. She enjoys hiking and swimming in the Summer.


Gaura Saini, PT, DPT

Gaura is a PhD student researching shoulder biomechanics. She is a physical therapist interested in clinical movement analysis and how movement impairments relate to pain. Gaura is from Burnsville, MN and received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She enjoys exploring new restaurants and breweries, running, biking, swimming, and hanging out with her dog Ralph.


William Stokes

William is a PhD student researching the relationship between vasomotor symptoms of menopause and cardiovascular disease. He is interested in understanding the autonomic changes that occur during a menopausal hot flash and if those changes contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. William is from Baltimore, Maryland, received his undergraduate degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and worked as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins University. He spends his free time playing bar trivia, performing improv, and volunteering in climate justice organizations.

Jean Stout



Corri Stuyvenberg, PT, DPT, MA, Infant Mental Health Specialist (IMH-E®), Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy (PCS)

Before beginning her PhD, Corri was a physical therapist working with infants and toddlers in their homes with their caregivers. She became interested in studying parent-infant relationships and the importance of these relationships in supporting child development. Corri went back to school for a Certificate in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. That Certificate started her on a pathway to pursuing her PhD in Rehabilitation Science with a minor in Developmental Psychology. She is planning to explore similarities and differences between infants born at full term and infants born preterm in their relationships with their parents. Corri also hopes to determine if there are associations between infant motor development and parent-infant relationships across the first years of a child's life.


Ellen Sutter, PT, DPT

Ellen is a PhD candidate researching brain development in infants with early brain injury. She is currently completing her dissertation work, which investigates the brain pathways associated with spontaneous infant movement patterns in infants with early brain injury, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her advisor Bernadette Gillick. She also completed her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2020 at the University of Minnesota, as part of UMN's DPT/PhD dual degree program. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology and Neuroscience from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. In her free time Ellen enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring the parks and lakes of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Ibtida T

Ibtida Tahmin

I am a physician from Bangladesh. I completed my Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. My advisor is Dr. Ida Fonkoue and our lab focuses on neurovascular and hormonal mechanisms linked to trauma and cardiovascular disease risk of the trauma exposed premenopausal women. My long term goal is to emphasize women's health, especially in minority populations. In my free time I love to spend time with my family and also love to do crafting.

Pramisha Thapa

Pramisha Thapa, PT

Pramisha Thapa is a PhD student in the Rehabilitation Science program at the University of Minnesota. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Sikkim Manipal University, India. She is originally from Nepal and is a registered PT back there. Having worked as a Physical Therapist in Nepal for some time, she developed an interest in studying movement deficits in individuals who survived neurological disorders like stroke, cerebral palsy, etc. Her hobbies include painting and spending time outdoors and hiking.


Chowdhury Tasnova Tahsin

Nova is a PhD student in the Rehabilitation Science PhD program and her research interest includes cardiovascular disease, and sleep problems in older women. Nova is from Bangladesh and she received her M.B.B.S degree from the University of Rajshahi. She loves crafting and photography.

Sarah Vance

Sarah Vance

Sarah Vance is a PhD student interested in studying estrogenic mechanisms that preserve skeletal muscle strength with aging. Sarah is a Minnesota native who spent the last 10 years teaching high school science. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Molecular Biology and Chemistry from Bethel University, followed by a Master’s in Teaching from St. Mary’s University. In every Minnesota season, she loves being active outdoors. Some of her favorite things include running, biking, hiking, fresh snow, eating good food, and spending time with her family.


Nicole Walker

Nicole is a PhD student in the Minneapolis Adaptive Design & Engineering (MADE) lab at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. She is advised by Dr. Andrew Hansen, PhD. Nicole holds a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics degree and maintains credentials as a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist (CPO). Her research focuses on the influence of novel prostheses on social participation and reintegration, with an emphasis on technologies designed for women with limb loss. A Minnesota transplant, Nicole grew up just outside of Denver, Colorado, and enjoys cheering for the Denver Broncos, getting outside when the temperature is above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the occasional craft beer.