Rochester, Minnesota




Kristin D. Zhao, Ph.D., uses innovative technologies, device fabrication and imaging methods to investigate pathogenesis related to the musculoskeletal system. The long-term goal of Dr. Zhao's research team is to develop and use diagnostic tools to enable earlier diagnosis, prescribe effective interventions for individuals with disabilities and diseases, and assess outcomes.

Dr. Zhao's team consists of physicians, nurses, therapists, engineers and administrative staff who collaborate with external and internal investigators. Fields of study included in Dr. Zhao and her colleagues' research include radiology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, pediatrics, physiology and biomedical engineering, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Zhao's research focuses on the development of assistive technologies across the lifespan, as well as the integration of novel technologies to address issues such as spinal cord injury, upper limb loss, osteoarthristis and neuromuscular diseases. Additionally Dr. Zhao's team is interested in including analyses of sex differences and alleviating health disparities while addressing important translational questions.

Organizations including the National Institutes of Health, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Department of Defense have all contributed funding to Dr. Zhao's research. Currently, Dr. Zhao is collaborating on research with external investigators from St. Catherine University, Vanderbilt University, Italian Institute of Technology/University of Pisa and the University of Minnesota.

Focus areas

  • Assistive technology. Dr. Zhao's team is interested in determining how exoskeletons can improve function and how novel myoelectric upper limb prostheses can be customized for both pediatric and adult patients. Translational research with patients will help guide next-generation prototypes for improved patient care.
  • Imaging-based approaches. Dr. Zhao's team is using a novel, dynamic CT imaging technique and fluoroscopy approaches that can capture dynamic movement of bones during joint motion. Her team is interested in finding measures from the bone motions that can predict eventual onset of arthritis or impingement, thereby allowing clinicians to intervene.
  • Interventions and outcomes across the life span. Early disease intervention may help prevent progression and alleviate symptoms. What Dr. Zhao's team learns from pediatric patients will help guide the understanding of pediatric and adult diseases and rehabilitation. Dr. Zhao is currently investigating motor development in young infants with spina bifida, as well as addressing the movement synergies and acceptance of a novel pediatric prosthesis.

Significance to patient care

Dr. Zhao's research will improve clinical treatment in individuals with musculoskeletal and neurological concerns across the life span by investigating existing and novel approaches to early detection and prescription of interventions.


Primary Appointment

  1. Consultant, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Joint Appointment

  1. Consultant, Department of Physiology & Biomedical Engineering

Administrative Appointment

  1. Chair for Research, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Academic Rank

  1. Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  2. Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering


  1. Ph.D. - Rehabilitation Science University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  2. MA - Kinesiology (Biomechanics track) The University of Texas at Austin
  3. BA - Physics The University of Texas at Austin

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