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London UK area- PhD opportunities in comparative biomechanics

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  • London UK area- PhD opportunities in comparative biomechanics

    Hi, on behalf of my colleagues at the Structure and Motion Laboratory, The Royal Veterinary College, UK, here are several PhD studentships with us beginning in Oct 2008 (European/UK applicants only unless supplied with overseas student funding):

    1. The effect of body size and leg posture on stability and energetic cost of running in birds
    Supervised by Dr. Monica A Daley and Dr. John R Hutchinson
    The goal of this studentship is to establish the relationships among body size, leg posture and stability of running. It will be the first study to quantitatively compare running stability among animals of different size and leg posture. This approach will help us understand the evolution of leg morphology among animals, and could inspire better design of legged robots for varied and unpredictable terrain. It will involve an integration of experimental and computer simulation approaches.

    2. The functions of covert, alula and tail feathers in bird flight
    Supervised by Dr. Jim Usherwood and Prof. Alan Wilson
    This studentship will investigate the role of various feather groups in bird flight. While a range of roles have been postulated, largely based on analogy with airplane wings, their functions in the unsteady world of flapping flight remains unclear. Using small GPS receivers and pressure sensors, the performance of racing pigeons will be assessed after manipulation of their feathers. Take-off, manoeuvring and fast, racing flight will be measured. Do these feathers influence stability? Agility? Power requirements?

    3. The effect of conformation on joint biomechanics in the horse
    Supervised by Dr. Renate Weller and Prof. Stephen May
    Joints are the most commonly affected components of the musculoskeletal system in all athletic species. In the
    horse joint disorders have been found to account for more than 30% of drop‑outs from racing. In humans it is well
    documented that leg posture is correlated with knee and ankle problems and podiatric intervention is commonly
    used to achieve correct alignment of the limb. While similar relationships between conformation and joint
    problems have been postulated for years (indeed centuries) in the horse there is a lack of scientific data to back this
    up. In the proposed study we will determine the effect of conformation on joint disorders in the horse through
    biomechanical, diagnostic imaging and computational methods. *The successful candidate must have a veterinary medicine degree.*

    4. Can animals use external compliance to enhance locomotor performance and efficiency?
    Supervised by Prof. Alan Wilson and Dr. Andrew Spence
    The topic of this PhD is to investigate if and how animals use external compliance (ie springy surfaces) to enhance
    muscle performance in locomotion. Examples are humans jumping off diving boards and squirrels jumping from
    tree branches. The student will work with humans and/or squirrels and will make measurements of whole body
    dynamics and muscle function (force, fascicle length and EMG) and predictions of muscle efficiency using
    computer modelling and/or measurements of oxygen consumption using a combination of measurements made
    during running and jumping on elastic surfaces of different stiffnesses.



    The Structure and Motion Laboratory is composed of over 30 faculty, research fellows, postdocs, and PhD students, dedicated to world-class research in comparative biomechanics and musculo-skeletal physiology. For more information about the lab and the project details, visit:

    Applicants are welcome from both biological science and engineering backgrounds. Aspects of the project will be tailored to match the skills and interests of the successful applicant. Appropriate background disciplines include zoology, physiology, anatomy, palaeontology, applied mathematics, mechanics, biomechanics, and computer science. Please see The Royal Veterinary College’s Postgraduate pages ( for details on how to apply, and more information on the projects. It is recommended that you contact the supervisor(s) in advance before applying.

    DEADLINE: 5th February 2008


    John R. Hutchinson
    Structure & Motion Laboratory
    Royal Veterinary College, Univ. London
    Hawkshead Lane, Herts AL9 7TA, UK
    phone (+44) (0)1707-666-313
    fax (+44) (0)1707-666-371
    mobile (+44) (0)7843-629-162
    web and