PODS II Scholarship Recipient Defends Dissertation; Accepts Fellowship Position at Hopkins

In 2018, the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) awarded a Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarships to Nayo M. Hill, PT, DPT, PhD.

Hill was awarded the named Mary Lou Barnes Award for an outstanding PODS II application in postprofessional studies within neurology. This award was funded by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy Endowment Fund.

“The PODS award gave me a unique opportunity as a clinician scientist to ask the clinically relevant question of how an early injury to the brain affects motor output and develop a project to investigate this at the level of the neural mechanisms,” said Hill.

Hill wanted to better understand neurological factors underlying hand and arm impairment for patients that have experienced a childhood brain injury. Brain injury before, during, or soon after birth can cause motor impairment on one side of the body. Hill chose to investigate motor impairment using a neural mechanistic approach with the ultimate goal of being able to develop more targeted treatment strategies. Her dissertation project focused on the use of haptic robots to look at the effect of early injury to the brain on motor function.

Hill has since successfully defended her dissertation and has officially earned her PhD earlier this year. Hill is now a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute studying motor learning in childhood development. As a fellow, she will explore the neural control of movement by designing motor learning tasks to probe specific mechanisms that are maturing over the course of childhood development.

“As a physical therapist, it is important to understand the patterns of motor learning present in typical development to then determine the optimal approaches for patient populations, said Hill.”

Hill credits FPTR for funding her research and creating connections with fellow researchers and members of the physical therapy community.  “I have appreciated the community fostered by being a PODS awardee. Through attending the FPTR events at CSM, I have connected with scholars from across the country who are actively engaged in pushing physical therapy clinical practice and scientific inquiry forward towards greater knowledge, accuracy, and effectiveness. The PODS application process challenges you to orient your scientific inquiry towards addressing the needs of patient populations, sharpening you as both a clinician and a scientist.”

PODS II Scholarships of up to $15,000 each are awarded annually to physical therapists or physical therapist assistants who have been formally admitted to post-professional doctoral candidacy.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded



  • Hill, Nayo & Moulton, Theresa & Dewald, J.P.A.. (2021). “Between Limb Muscle Co-activation Patterns in the Paretic Arm During Non-paretic Arm Tasks in Hemiparetic Cerebral Palsy.” Frontiers in Neuroscience. 15. 666697. 10.3389/fnins.2021.666697.

  • Joshi, Divya & Hill, Nayo & Hruby, Alexandra & Viswanathan, Shreya & Ingo, Carson & Roth, Heidi & Moulton, Theresa. (2021). “Stakeholder Perspectives on Engaging with Cerebral Palsy Research Studies Following Onset of COVID-19 in the United States”. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 102. 10.1016/j.apmr.2021.02.017.

  • Hill, Nayo & Dewald, J.P.A.. (2020). “The Upper Extremity Flexion Synergy Is Minimally Expressed in Young Individuals With Unilateral Cerebral Palsy Following an Early Brain Injury.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 14. 10.3389/fnhum.2020.590198.