Idaho INBRE : IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence

Craig McGowan, Ph.D. » University of Idaho

Mentor Information

Name: Craig McGowan, Ph.D.
Institution: University of Idaho
Department: Biological Sciences
Phone: 208-885-6598


My research interests are centered on understanding the relationships between the musculoskeletal morphology of humans and other animals and the biomechanics and neural control of locomotor performance. I address questions geared towards understanding the in-vivo dynamics of individual muscles, the influence of musculoskeletal architecture on muscle function, and the links between limb morphology, whole body locomotor performance and habitat utilization. Using a comparative approach, I integrate a number of research techniques including in-vivo muscle-tendon measurements, musculoskeletal modeling and computer simulation, and whole body biomechanics to examine how humans and animals adapt to meet the mechanical demands placed on them during terrestrial locomotion.

Minimum Classes:

Students should have strong background in physiology, math and physics.


Project 1: Functional Anatomy of the Hind Limb of Desert Kangaroo-rats. 
The goal of this project is to conduct a detailed anatomical survey of the hind limb musculoskeletal structure of desert kangaroo-rats. Kangaroo rats are highly evolved for bipedal hoping and are capable of extremely powerful jumping motions. By understanding the underlying muscular anatomy and muscle moment arms, we will gain valuable insight into how these animals achieve these extreme levels of performance. The involved student will learn how to conduct detailed dissections including how to make functionally important physiological and biomechanical measurements. The results of these measurements to will be analyzed in a comparative context to explore how bipedal hopping has evolved. 

Project 2: Modulation of Mechanical Work by Individual Muscles for Acceleration and Jumping in Desert Kangaroo-rats.   
The goal of this project is to determine how desert kangaroo-rats modulate muscle function to meet the increased mechanical demands of accelerating and jumping. Kangaroo-rats are capable of rapid accelerations and jumps of over ten times their hip height. Such tasks require the musculoskeletal system to generate extremely high power output and do large amounts of mechanical work. In this study, the student will work as a member of a team to examine which hind limb muscles are responsible for producing the required work for accelerations and jumps. This research will include surgical implantation of in-vivo micro-measurement transducers to directly measures muscle length change and force production during the movement tasks. These measurements will be combined with high speed motion analysis and whole body force measurements to better understand the biomechanics and coordination of high power activities in bipedal hoppers.