The Virtual Functional Anatomy initiative at the National Institutes of Health is actively seeking a highly motivated student for a one-year research training position in musculoskeletal kinematic research. The successful candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (biomedical or mechanical) or a related field with an interest in conducting research as a part of a multidisciplinary team. Strong engineering, writing, and interpersonal skills are key elements for the successful candidate. The position will be under an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA), and salary will be commensurate with IRTA guidelines ( Please contact Dr. Sheehan with a CV and statement of research interests.

A. Project Summary

Patellofemoral (PF) pain is widely accepted as one of the most common pathologies involving the knee, reported to affect approximately 25% of the population, yet the etiology of this pain is still an open debate. It is most commonly thought that patellar malalignment results in elevated joint contact stresses, which ultimately results in pain. Our ongoing study has quantified key alterations in knee joint dynamics within a population of patients with patellar maltracking, using the tools developed under the Virtual Functional Anatomy (VFA) initiative*. Although clear alterations in knee joint kinematics have been identified, these patterns tend to be highly variable across the population. Thus, the focus of this IRTA project is to take these data to the next level by investigating issues surrounding knee joint kinematics, bone shape and cartilage properties.

This project will require the student to work with the entire Virtual Functional Anatomy team*, composed of engineers, physical therapists, MR specialist and physicians, to 1) learn the basics of MRI 2) develop a proficiency in acquiring both static and dynamic MR images 3) learn MR image analysis tools and create new ones that will enable the measurement of key knee joint cartilage contact. Besides learning the scientific process through hands on research, a goal for this work is for the student to develop the project to the point that an abstract can be submitted to either a national or international conference. If time or interest permits there is a possibility of exploring other pathologies.

*The overall goal of VFA is to improve the lives of people by developing engineering-based tools to improve our knowledge of basic musculoskeletal system capabilities and the mechanisms of injury, physical disabilities and the process of functional recovery. The core of the VFA project is fast-PC MRI, an MR based imaging sequence that allows for the capture of both anatomical images and velocity data while a subject is moving within the magnet.

Sponsoring Lab: Virtual Functional Anatomy Initiative, Rehabilitation Medicine Department
Mentor: Frances T. Sheehan, Ph.D.

Contact Information
Phone: 301-452-7585
Fax: 301-452-7536