Biomechanics (UG)

Module aims

To introduce students to the applications of the principles of mechanics – principally solid mechanics and fluid mechanics – to living systems. Topics include blood rheology, respiratory and circulatory mechanics, muscle-bone interactions, strength of bone and locomotion. This is an introductory module, whose goal is to introduce students to a range of topics..

Learning outcomes

Explain how mechanics plays a role in basic physiological processes in the human body, and to describe the role of mechanical processes in biology. Describe the role of mechanical stresses in the cardiovascular system, e.g. in influencing endothelial function and blood flow features Describe how fluid transport in the lung influences breathing efficiency, and how mechanical effects determine the overall energy requirements for breathing Describe the structure of bone, and how bones and muscles mechanically interact Relate the principles of mechanics to the analysis of biological systems Attempt to describe the key engineering features of complex problems involving living systems and suggest the most appropriate problem-solving approach for these Attempt to analyse raw data, e.g. gait dynamics and kinematics, and attempt to interpret it in terms of underlying physiological processes

Module syllabus

The Circulatory System Blood rheology; Steady flow in large vessels; Unsteady flow in large vessels; Flow in the microcirculation; Anatomy; cardiac pumping power; Capillaries and fluid transport; The Respiratory System; Lung structure and function; Biomechanics of breathing; Biomechanics of breathing: lung elasticity surface tension; Blood-side acinar mass transfer; Whole lung mass transfer; The Musculoskeletal System and Locomotion Muscle/bone interactions; Introduction to composition structure of bone; Bone fracture and failure; Qualitative description of walking and running; Gait analysis.


 Students should be have competence in fundamental mathematics and solid and fluid mechanics. Students without these prerequisites should speak to the lecturers to determine if their background is suitable. Ability to differentiate and integrate algebraic, trigonometric and exponential functions, and elementary combinations thereof. Ability to identify and solve first- and second-order linear ordinary differential equations with constant coefficients, and to apply suitable boundary or initial data in to determine unknown coefficients in general solutions to such equations. Ability to carry out vector operations: addition, subtract

Teaching methods

Students will be taught over one term using a combination of lectures and study groups. Lecture sessions will be made available on Panopto for review and supplemented with technologies as appropriate to promote active engagement during the lecture such as 'learning catalytics'. Study groups will be based on taught content from lectures to reinforce these topics and allow students to test their understanding. 

Lectures: 19 hours
Tutorials: 8 hours


The module will be assessed by the submission of two problem sheets of 15% each and overall performance against all LOs in the module will be assessed by a final exam.

Written exam: Biomechanics exam; 70% weighting

Rubrics: 2.5 hours. All questions are compulsory. The questions will not necessarily all have the same weighting. Closed book exam; formula sheet will be provided.

Feedback : All marked problem sheet questions will be marked and returned within 2 weeks of submission. Full model solutions will be provided for problem sheets following submission. Outline solutions will be provided for written reports following submission.

Reading list