Biomechanics at Penn State

“Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of the methods of mechanics”*. Therefore biomechanics uses expertise from disciplines such as engineering, anatomy, aerospace, rehabilitation, medicine, orthopaedics, sport science, and many others. It studies animal, human, and plant structure and motion. The Biomechanics Laboratory at Penn State was founded in 1967 by Dr. Richard Nelson, and has since been at the forefront of the development of biomechanics within the field of exercise and sport science. The research, scholarly activities, and impact of faculty members and graduate students hailing from the Laboratory are internationally recognized.

The Center for Locomotion Studies (CELOS) was established by Dr. Peter Cavanagh in 1986 to focus faculty and graduate student research efforts in the areas of gait and human locomotion. The Center was dedicated to the discovery and development of biomechanical solutions for pathological conditions of the feet and lower extremities and as such extended the techniques developed in sports medicine to other populations and to health-related problems reaching beyond the competitive arena.

The Biomechanics Laboratory and Center for Locomotion Studies moved to new adjoining facilities in the Recreation Building on the University Park campus in 1997. These state-of-the-art facilities are expressly designed for the measurement and investigation of human motion in sport, health, and disease. In an effort to increase operational efficiency and enhance collaborative relationships the resources and faculty of CELOS were absorbed and combined into the Biomechanics Laboratory in 2004. The present day Biomechanics Laboratory, with roots in both the traditional Biomechanics Laboratory and the Center for Locomotion Studies, boasts an illustrious history of accomplishments. Over 70 Master of Science and over 70 doctoral students have completed their degrees to date and are contributing to the progress being made in this relatively young scientific field. Seventy-two visiting scholars and researchers from 27 foreign countries have participated in the research programs of the laboratories for periods ranging from two months to two years.

The Biomechanics Laboratory hosts a broad array of research foci that encompass several sub-domains of the discipline. The laboratory provides resources for six resident investigators and several more affiliated researchers. Major thrusts include the application of biomechanical principles to motor control and neurological problems, understanding how muscle properties dictate the coordination of movement, exploring the mechanical behavior of musculoskeletal structures at the tissue level, and exploring innovative solutions to orthopaedic problems.

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