2022 Tillman Scholar

Catherine Paris

Coast Guard
Northwestern University
DPT/Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering

“I want my engineering background to impact a space I care deeply about: improving movement and restoring function in patients overcoming serious injuries to help them get back to the things they love.”

Catherine began her service to this nation at the age of 17, swearing in as a swab and cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. There, she pursued her dreams of playing collegiate volleyball and softball while earning an undergraduate engineering degree. As a cadet, she suffered several minor injuries from the rigors of collegiate athletics and military training and found improvements as a patient in physical therapy. Following her commissioning she served the maritime community as a Marine Safety Engineer, protecting the commercial maritime industry through safety and security inspections as well as policy development for improved systems and cyber risk management best practices. Soon, her knowledge of engineering systems will be put to use in a different field: rehabilitation science.

Through her combined experiences as a patient in P.T. and as an engineering graduate student, she realized her passion for studying the human body as a mechanical system: the most well-designed machine in existence. She hopes to never lose sight of her passion for serving others, and for this reason chose to pursue the unique Dual Doctor of Physical Therapy and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering focusing in neural rehabilitation engineering. Her Ph.D. research will include furthering our understanding of and rehabilitation techniques for sport and military related concussions (mTBI). Her work will focus on the impact that concussions have on proprioception, balance, and gait, as well as the risk of musculoskeletal injuries following recovery. Through her dual ended career in both research and clinical practice, she hopes to continue serving others by improving neuromuscular control and function in patients overcoming mild traumatic brain injuries.