CHS’ Noehren is new Hamburg Endowed Professor

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Brian Noehren, PT, PhD, FACSM and interim Associate Dean for Research and professor in the College of Health Sciences, is the latest recipient of the College’s Joseph Hamburg Professorship in Rehabilitation Sciences.

Noehren, who joined the faculty of the College of Health Sciences in 2009 as an Assistant Professor in the department of Physical Therapy, is currently the Director of the University of Kentucky Human Performance Lab/BioMotion Lab. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2016 and to Professor in 2020.

In the official request sent to University of Kentucky Acting Provost Robert DiPaola, College of Health Science Dean Scott Lephart, PhD, wrote that “Noehren has distinguished himself as a successful researcher and mentor throughout his career, particularly during the last decade at UK. He is currently serving as principal investigator, co-principal investigator, and co-investigator on three NIH/NIAMS grants, two Department of Defense grants, and one OREF grant totaling $14 million.”

During his tenure at UK, Noehren has received several awards, including being named a University Research Professor by the UK Board of Trustees, an honor which began in 1976 to recognize outstanding research achievements by members of the UK faculty. He was also awarded the College of Health Sciences’ Excellence in Research Awards in 2013 and 2017.

“Noehren is a true asset for the College and is an outstanding candidate for this endowed professorship,” Lephart wrote. “The College of Health Sciences’ Executive Council, made up of Associate and Assistant Deans, request that this endowed professorship be awarded.”

Charlotte Peterson, PhD and former director of the Center for Muscle Biology, was the previous Joseph Hamburg Endowed Professor — and she also served as one of Noehren’s mentors.

“It has been so rewarding seeing Brian develop into such a successful and accomplished scientist,” Peterson said. “He is one of the most talented and driven researchers I have ever worked with. It is an honor to pass on the Hamburg Endowed Professorship to him. Well-deserved!”

Noehren said he felt honored — but he also feels the weight of responsibility.

“I see this as recognition for my laboratory and for all the wonderful people who work in our lab,” he said. “It takes a lot of people to do the research we do, and the credit really goes to everybody. Their success is my success, and I always think about how I can be the best person I can be to help them. I have also been fortunate to have had great mentorship from people like Charlotte, who has been instrumental in my career, so I feel this awesome sense of responsibility to keep all of that momentum that she had going. They’re big shoes to fill.”

Noehren has specialized in researching lower extremity injuries, and his work is focused on combining biomechanics with measures of muscle function and pain response to better understand mechanisms of injury to ultimately improve patient outcomes.  

Few states need the help more than Kentucky.

“Our state has a number of health disparities, and one of the most prevalent that doesn’t get a lot of attention is musculoskeletal conditions,” he said. “They are actually one of the leading sources of disability and reasons missed for work.”

“We’re thrilled to see Dr. Noehren accept the Joseph Hamburg Professorship,” said Dean Lephart. “He is accomplished, he is driven, and he has a remarkable reputation as a researcher and professor. Historically, this endowment has a proven track record in the College of Health Sciences, and we are certain he will continue its legacy.”

Still, after all this time, Noehren said what keeps motivating him is not accolades or awards — it is the thought of helping patients and students.

“The thing that lights my fire is, I want to be able to look back at the end of my career and see that the body of work we have done has moved the needle in some positive direction to help ease the pain and improve the wellbeing of people with these conditions,” he said. “That’s what really drives me — that, as well as helping mentor and train everyone from undergraduate students to graduate students and post-docs in my laboratory and seeing them be successful.”