Skip to main content

Unit information: Biomechanics in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Biomechanics
Unit code MENGM6051
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. J Burn
Open unit status Not open

MENG31101 Heat Transfer



School/department Department of Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


Biomechanics refers to the analysis of living systems using the principles of mechanics. The focus of this unit is on modelling the musculoskeletal system of mammals and humans in particular. Comparisons will be made between the properties of biological actuators, sensors, materials and control systems and their engineering counterparts in analogous systems. Subjects covered include locomotion, respiratory and cardiovascular mechanics, energetic optimisation and distributed control. The applications of biomechanics in sports, medicine, biological science, robotics and bioinspired engineering will be discussed. To introduce students to the composition and organisation of living systems, key terminology and concepts used in the life sciences. To indicate where, when and how mechanics can be used to understand living systems (biomechanics), show how living systems can provide inspiration for engineered systems (biomimetics), and how engineered systems can be used to analyse or augment living systems (biomedical engineering). To develop an analytical and quantitative understanding of biodynamics, biological materials, biological sensing, actuation and control and to compare and contrast with analogous systems in engineering To engender an appreciation of the complexity, the exceptional level of co-optimisation evident in living systems and the processes that have driven their development.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will:

  • acquire a working knowledge of key biological terminology, concepts and research challenges which will promote the awareness necessary for successful interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • be able to formulate mathematical models to find potential answers to research questions in biology and appreciate the use of models in the wider context of the Integrative Systems Biology approach to biological sciences research
  • will be able to implement a bioinspired approach to designing systems where energy economic/efficient systems is paramount, and will understand how this approach differs from ‘traditional’ engineering design methodologies.
  • develop facility in the use of forwards and inverse dynamics models as used in biomechanics to test hypotheses relating to the function of the musculoskeletal system.
  • through an appreciation of the effects of size on living systems, be able to use similarity theory and dimensional analysis to analyse and design systems that are scale independent or operate at extremes of scale
  • develop a working knowledge of the behaviour and properties of biological musculoskeletal materials: bone, muscle, tendon, ligament and cartilage and understand the concept and consequences of dynamic adaptation and repair of materials.

Teaching details

Lectures, laboratory session (computing), seminars, group tutorials, directed self-education

Assessment Details

2,000 word essay (30 %) 2-hour written exam (70 %)

Reading and References

Nigg BM, Herzog W (2007) Biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system (3rd Ed.) John Wiley and Sons ISBN 9780470017678 Winter DA (2009) Biomechanics and control of human movement. John Wiley and Sons. 0470398183, 9780470398180 Alexander RMcN (2003) Principles of animal locomotion. Princeton University Press ISBN 0691086788, 9780691086781 Schmidt-Nielsen K (1984) Scaling why animal size is so important. Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521319870, 9780521319874 McMahon TA (1984) Muscles reflexes and locomotion. Princeton University Press ISBN 069102376X, 9780691023762