ME 481: Whole Body Biomechanics

General Info

Grades Formal Assessment Contact Info
Course description Grading Lectures Office hours
Big idea Final grades Final exams Online forum
Reference text      


Description: This course will explore how concepts from dynamics, controls, mechanics, and material properties have been applied to help us understand the physiology and operation of the human body. It will also help to prepare you for biomedical research, especially in the area of musculoskeletal biomechanics and movement analysis. By the end of the course, you will have explored the human musculoskeletal system with an emphasis on the whole-body or organism level. You will be introduced to modeling and analysis techniques for examining human movement, such as rigid-body modeling techniques, forward and inverse dynamics, and Lagrangian mechanics. You will be able to utilize MATLAB to analyze and simulate models of human movement. You will also have gained experience with using state-of-the-art motion capture and movement analysis facilities. We will examine possible current topics, such as postural control, locomotion mechanics, ergonomics, and assistive devices such as prosthetics and orthotics.

Big Idea: Apply mechanics/physics based principles to understanding whole body movement and how it is quantified.


TAM 212 – Introductory Dynamics, TAM 251 – Introductory Solid Mechanics (required),

ME 340 – Modeling and Analysis of Dynamical Systems (recommended), or knowledge of statics, dynamics, and differential equations. Previous exposure to concepts of stress & strain, viscoelasticity, feedback control, and transfer functions will be helpful, but not necessary.

Reference texts:

  • (If you plan to continue in the Biomechanics field, these texts are classic references for the field.)

    Recommended texts:  

  • Biomechanics of the musculo-skeletal system by Benno M. Nigg and Walter Herzog, editors New York: Wiley, 3rd ed.  2007, or 4th ed. 2012.
  • b.     Basic biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system by Margareta Nordin and Victor H. Frankel, editors. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 3rd ed. 2001, or 4th ed. 2012.
    c.     Biomechanics and motor control of human movement by David A.Winter. New York: Wiley, 3rd ed. 2005, or 4th ed. 2009.
    d.     Muscles, reflexes, and locomotion by Thomas A. McMahon. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984 
  • Available on reserve at Grainger

Grading: The total score for the course is computed with the following weights:

Grades will be based on projects, homework, and exam scores. A tentative weighting follows:

Tests (3)           10% (each)

Final                 15%

Labs                  20%

Homework        10%

Project               25%

(Labs will be combinations of individual and team activities and grades. Individual grades will be influenced by both individual assignments and peer-evaluations on team assignments. Requests for team member changes will be addressed as they arise.)

Final grades: The total score s corresponds to final grades as follows.

97%  s < 100% A+ 92%  s < 97% A 89%  s < 92% A-
86%  s < 89% B+ 82%  s < 86% B 79%  s < 82% B-
76%  s < 79% C+ 72%  s < 76% C 69%  s < 72% C-
66%  s < 69% D+ 59%  s < 66% D 55%  s < 59% D-
s < 55% F        

Lectures: Prompt and regular attendance at lectures is requested.


Final Exam: 

To be posted


Office hours:

Prof. Kersh: Tuesday 3:30-5pm or by appt (send private message in Piazza), 126 MEB
John: Thursday 1-2pm or by appointment (send private message in Piazza), 1223 MEL

Online forum (Piazza): This class uses Piazza

Students are encouraged to post public messages on Piazza ("Post to Entire Class"). However, you can use the private feature by posting a message visible only to the Instructors. In this last case, you must type "Instructors", instead of sending a message to a specific TA or instructor.