In the field of biomechanics, mechanical engineering principles are applied to understand materials and behaviors of the body. For example, fluid flow through pipes is a simple analogy for blood flow through veins and arteries. While a large pipe network might roughly describe the cardiovascular system, such analogies allow for a plethora of real-world applications. Faculty that apply biomechanics to their research are studying disease diagnostics, disease progression, and tissue repair.
What makes Cal a great place to study Biomechanics?
At Cal, there are over 15 faculty members devoted to their research heavily based on biomechanical engineering principles. Cal researchers approach biomechanics extensively at the cell, tissue, and organ levels. At the cellular level, cellular behavior is explored through computational modeling in Professor Mohammad Mofrad’s laboratory or cancer diagnostics in Professor Lydia Sohn’s laboratory. Tissue-level studies are used to predict failure of bony or soft tissues in the body, such as bone fractures which is a common problem in elderly patients. Our researchers also perform research on a variety of different systems within the body, including the cardiovascular system (Professor Shawn Shadden) and the musculoskeletal system (Professors Tony Keaveny, Grace O’Connell, and Lisa Pruitt to name a few). To answer the difficult questions, we use both hands-on experiments and computational models.
As an undergraduate at Cal, how can I get involved in biomechanics research?
Every semester, undergraduate student researchers work in our laboratories to gain applied skills, whether in computational or experimental research. Students that are interested in conducting research should review ongoing research projects listed on the faculty member’s website and contact the individual faculty member.
If you’re specifically interested in working the O’Connell lab, fill out this Google Form.
Biomechanical engineering is a part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Therefore, undergraduate students can receive credit for performing research, which will be reflected on their transcript (ME198 for P/NP or ME194H/196 for technical elective graded credit). Significant contributions to research through ME194H/196 counts towards technical elective needs for graduation.
Many undergraduate students from outside of Mechanical Engineering perform research in our labs and can receive course credit for their work. For undergraduate students in Bioengineering, research in the laboratory can count towards the research requirements (4 credits needed for graduation).
As a Cal student, how can I get involved in biomechanics outreach?
The field of biomechanics is relatively new within Mechanical Engineering, so we know it is important to let others know about the exciting career opportunities. Our faculty and students have regularly teamed up with programs offered through the College of Engineering, like Girls in Engineering, to spread the word about Biomechanics to K-12 students as well as prospective students.
We also regularly join programs offered by various student organizations. For example, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) organizes an event called Mini University, which occurs every semester and introduces high school students to STEM careers. SWE also organizes an Overnight Host Program for admitted students to the College of Engineering to provide information about each major and career options within each major that may not be as widely known, like mechanical engineers in Biomechanics/Biotechnology.
Many of our graduate and undergraduate students also participate in affinity groups such as the Graduate Women in Engineering (GWE, graduate version of SWE), which has helped organize the Expanding Your Horizon program each summer. Students involved in Latino/a Graduate Students in Engineering and Sciences (LAGSES), have provided mentorship and guidance to existing graduate students in writing and applying for prestigious fellowships, such as the NSF Graduate Fellowship.