The ability of our biological tissues to adapt to their mechanical environment, and the ways in which our tissues are well suited for their own mechanical role within the body, is a constant source of wonder to me. I am interested in understanding the mechanical signals that are experienced within the skeleton during different types of physical activity, understanding what features of these signals stimulate bone to adapt its structure, and in developing noninvasive methods to quantify bone strength. One ongoing project examines changes in bone structure over time in adult women who voluntarily apply known mechanical stimuli to their bones. We use high resolution quantitative computed tomography (CT) to image bone microstructure, and use these images to create computational models that simulate bone mechanical behavior. Another project uses a combination of clinical CT images, mechanical cadaver testing, and computational modeling to measure changes in bone strength in individuals with spinal cord injury who are participating in a clinical trial that targets bone health.
When teaching, I especially enjoy working with groups of students on both physical and computational experiments that explore this link between whole body biomechanics and the physiologic response of our musculoskeletal system. Biomechanics is incredibly relevant to every person’s life, since it dictates how and why we are able to perform certain physical tasks, why we become injured, and how we recover from an injury. In the classroom I try to connect more theoretical concepts to everyday experiences of my students, myself, and my family. At the graduate level, I mentor master’s and doctoral students and enjoy helping them develop into scientists who can ask good questions, communicate clearly, and carry out excellent technical experiments.