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Undergraduate Researchers

Megha Jacob, Music Education/Pre-Physical Therapy

The Incorporation of Music Therapy into Physical Therapy Sessions for Physically Disabled Children

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Airi Yoshioka


This research will assess the effects of introducing music therapy (MT) into physical therapy (PT) sessions. Physical illness due to genetic and/or environmental factors (such as Down syndrome or car accident injuries, respectively) can be traumatizing. This is especially true with children because they are expected to cope with so much at a young age. Therapy sessions can be intense and draining for patients and can take a toll on their psychological state. MT, which promotes wellness in individuals by offering therapeutic benefits to the mind through the use of musical involvements, can help offset the psychological fatigue associated with PT. I plan on researching the specific types of physical disabilities for the children at the schools/institutions, so I can better understand the limitations and hazards of each disability. I also plan on attending educational workshops based on music, education, and therapy so that I may work under licensed therapists with both clinical and work experience. I wish to create innovative therapy techniques to incorporate music into therapy sessions by utilizing kinesthetic techniques to respond to sounds, creating group exercises to heighten social skills, and encouraging patients to compose and perform songs to help relieve stress and stimulate their minds. The goal of my research is to examine whether or not the combined use of PT and MT in therapy sessions is positively correlated with the patient’s mental and physical well-being.


1. How did you find your mentor for this project?

I thought Dr. Yoshioka would be the best person to be my mentor because she is in charge of the education emphasis in the music department at UMBC. I have had the opportunity to sit in her classes and hear of her teaching from other students. She uses a variety of innovative teaching techniques in classroom settings and any help from her will be valuable.

2. How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

Since my undergraduate career at UMBC, I have always wanted to pursue my passion in the sciences and arts. Upon completing two internships at Kennedy Krieger, I wanted to incorporate music therapy and physical therapy in a clinical setting. After hearing about the URA program, I realized that this was a best time to begin my exploration of these two fields of study.

3.  Do you get course credit for this work?

I do not earn credits that go towards my graduation, however this research offers opportunity for me to earn credits in graduate school.

4. How much time do you put into it?

I have only started the first phase of my research which involves attending workshops, reading books related to physical therapy and music therapy. So far I am spending about four to six hours a week. Once I begin the clinical research in the fall, I am certain I will spend more than double the hours.

5. How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award program?

I have attended the URCAD presentations for the past few years, and I met a few student presenters who were also in the URA program and they introduced me to it.

6. What academic background did you have before you started?

I am majoring in Music Education and Pre-physical therapy and minoring in Biology and Psychology. My academic background in each of these subjects allows me to combine not only biology and music but also psychology and education.

7.  Was the application difficult to do?

Not at all.

8. How much did your mentor help you with this?

Very much. She has mentored other URA applicants in the past so she knew what to expect in the application process. Whenever I needed help with any aspect of the research, she would always make time to answer my questions and guide me.

9. What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

My advice to other students is that if you have any creative ideas, you should definitely get involved in research. Although the URA program is a well-known and acclaimed program, it should not intimidate anyone from sharing his/her ideas. It is a remarkable opportunity for the students to have their research funded by the school. This program is a great way to begin and/or continue one’s research and I say if you have an idea or plan . . . work towards making that dream a reality.

10. What are your career goals?

Upon completing my undergraduate studies, I plan on attending graduate school for the doctoral program in physical therapy. Then, I want to pursue my masters in music therapy. After attaining my education in physical and music therapy, I want to open a clinic in which innovative therapeutic techniques are offered to patients. I wish to use a combination of music, physical, and various other therapies for the patients.

11. What has been the hardest part about your research?

So far, the hardest part has been trying to understand different disabilities and create various therapies which involve both music and exercise. I think one of the hardest parts will be assessing the effects of each therapy session and improving it to yield better results.

12. What was the most unexpected thing?

So far I have not been faced with any surprises. Part of the excitement is that I do not exactly know what to expect.

13. How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

My research will be very much related to my music education classes, because I am taught to make lesson plans and also improvise in a classroom setting. During clinical research, I know that therapies may not work the way I imagined or planned it. And when that time comes, I will have to improvise on the spot and find a more effective technique. I will use my knowledge from my human anatomy classes to plan the exercise therapies accordingly with the physical disabilities in mind.