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.
Students should have strong background in physiology, math and physics.
Project 1: Biomechanics and Functional Anatomy of the Hind Limb of Rabbits.
The goal of this project is to conduct a comparative biomechanical analysis of locomotion by two species of rabbits, pygmy rabbits and cottontails, which have been shown to have differing morphological adaptations to their given environments. We will use state-of-the-art biomechanical and high-speed video analysis techniques to quantify gait patterns and limb mechanics. This study will also include a detailed analysis of the musculoskeletal anatomy of each species to determine how the underlying structure relates to locomotor performance. The results of this study will provide valuable insight into the relationships between musculoskeletal design and biomechanical performance.
The goal of this project is to determine how tendon structure and material properties vary with biomechanical function. Tendons are the primary linkage between muscles and bones. However, several studies have shown that tendons also play a significant role in locomotion and other biomechanical tasks. It has been generally thought that differences in tendon performance are primarily related to tendon size and shape. But recent studies suggest that the material properties themselves may vary depending on demand. This study will involve a comparative biomechanical analysis of tendons collected from muscles perform different roles within a species (e.g., flexors vs. extensors) and from the same muscles from different species that have different modes of locomotion (e.g., runners vs. hoppers). The outcomes of this project will provide a foundation for designing biomechanically appropriate synthetic and/or organic tendons that could be used in prosthetics or as surgical replacements for diseased or damaged tendons.