EMB Blog Post 2: Who’s Who in EMB, part 2: Students

Following on from last week’s introduction to some of the members of staff here at EMB, we asked 3 of our PhD students the exact same questions that Kris and Karl were asked: What’s your role in EMB? What are you currently working on? How and why did you get into your research? Here’s what they had to say.

Ryan:

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What’s your role in EMB?

I’m a fairly new PhD student; I started here in October 2015.

What are you currently working on?

My PhD revolves around the evolution and function of bird necks. At the moment I’m processing some exciting microCT data, aiming to investigate the cervical (neck) vertebrae of birds and the air spaces within them.

 How and why did you get into your current research?

Growing up I was obsessed with Jurassic Park and David Attenborough documentaries, so naturally I’ve always aimed to be a palaeontologist. I did my undergraduate degree in palaeontology, and whilst this consisted of a lot of dinosaur related courses, I also received a wider biological grounding. What particularly caught my attention was biomechanics. Suddenly I saw dinosaurs in a whole new light. With dinosaurs, you have to consider two things; their enormous range of sizes and their eventual evolution into birds we know today. The modifications of their musculoskeletal system to achieve a) enormous sizes and b) eventual flight are staggering, and questions surrounding these modifications are some that I shall enjoy attempting to answer for the rest of my academic career, and are just some of the questions that evolutionary biomechanics can answer. That’s why I’m here at Liverpool with EMB: to study the form and function of modern birds to try and answer some of these questions about their dinosaurian ancestors.

Colleen:

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What’s your role in EMB?

 I am a final year PhD student (hopefully submitting soon!).

What are you currently working on?

My main thesis topic is in gorilla locomotion, anatomy and behaviour. I do a large amount of my research at zoos, improving the welfare of captive primates, in terms of enclosure and support usage. Otherwise I investigate the gross morphology of primate muscles and have also worked on building the first computer 3D musculoskeletal model of a gorilla hindlimb.

How and why did you get into your current research?

I did my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. In my final year, I worked as a research assistant collecting macaque stool samples. That really fuelled my interest in primate behaviour and evolution, which led me to study wild long-tailed macaques in Singapore, looking at the strength of handedness for my honours project. I went on to do primate evolution and adaptation modules at the University of Berkeley during a summer exchange programme, which got me interested in furthering my studies in this area. While waiting to start my PhD in Liverpool, I worked as a research assistant for the Singapore Zoo and studied social relationships of several species of monkeys. I am fascinated by primate behaviour, but am particularly interested in linking functional anatomy to primate locomotor behaviour!

Juliet:

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What’s your role in EMB?

I’m a final year PhD student and was previously a pre-doctoral research assistant in the group.

What are you currently working on?

My PhD is focussed on how pressure moves about inside the foot, and the amount that pressure changes (high and low) while it’s in contact with the ground at different speeds. The context for changing pressure is explained within the constructs of biomechanical variability: basically how the body exploits a range abilities, via multiple degrees of freedom, to achieve an optimum task. Success is task dependent so I consider changes in speed, accelerating or decelerating and unexpected changes in direction or speed.

How and why did you get into your current research?

My background is in sports science and evolutionary biology, so coming to work for the lab and being able to link my two loves together, was a dream come true. I wasn’t initially interested in foot pressure, my masters looked at evolutionary morphology of foot bones in chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and humans, and how the type of locomotion, i.e., moving vertically against a tree trunk, horizontally along a flexible branch, or horizontally on hard ground, influenced the transfer of force through the foot, which in turn, influenced the developmental shape (morphology) of foot bones over time (evolutionary adaptation). It was a really cool project, but my interests changed and continue to do so. At the time of my arrival the lab was focused on foot pressure, so I sort of slotted in there. As this project has progressed, I’ve been able to draw on my sports science background in motor learning, and biomechanics and combine them together to explain the relationships between pressure distribution and magnitude and how it’s impacted or influenced by the environment we move through.

That’s all the introductions done! We hope to bring you an exciting piece on Karl’s new research very soon!

 

 

One thought on “EMB Blog Post 2: Who’s Who in EMB, part 2: Students

  1. Pingback: New paper by EMB: Variability in foot pressure during walking – Liverpool EMBlog

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