Dr Laura McFarlane

Profile

BSc (Hons) in Biology (University of Sheffield 2002-2005), PGCE in Secondary Science Teaching (University of Sheffield 2005-2006), MSc in Taxonomy and Biodiversity (Natural History Museum and Imperial College, London 2007-2008).

I came to Leeds in 2010 to study for a PhD on the effects of avian wing morphology and muscle function on flight performance. I am currently a lecturer in Biomechanics in the School of Biomedical Sciences (Leeds 2015-).

Research interests

Biomechanics of locomotion

Maximising performance: Is there a difference in muscle activity and lower limb motion when walking on a slope in able-bodied individuals.  The aim of this project is to see what changes occur when walking up and down slopes to model the control mechanisms required for effective gait on non-level ground for future comparison with disabled or elderly populations.

Maximising running performance at different speeds.  This project examines how muscle activity and lower limb movements change in response to varying running speed.  Overuse injuries are prevalent in runners so by developing a better understanding of the kinematics and associated muscle action at different running speeds, can provide an insight into how to improve performance while managing injury risk.

Sporting Technique

Transition during triathlon: looking at the effects of body position during the cycle stage affect performance in the subsequent run.  Transitioning from cycling to running requires an athlete to adapt from a non-weight bearing movement pattern in cycling to a load bearing movement pattern during the run phase. A successful triathlete needs to be able to coordinate their movement patterns to those required for each respective discipline; swimming, cycling and running.  The aim of this project is to examine how changes in posture; standing, sitting or trunk lean during the cycle phase affects performance during the run.

Flight performance in birds

A bird’s take-off ability is crucial for initiating flight and evading predators, impacting survival.  Take-off performance is ultimately limited by the mechanical power available from the flight muscles, but how much power can be diverted to accelerating and elevating the centre of mass of the body depends on how much power is required to impart momentum to the air and to overcome the drag on the wings and body.  The aim of this project was to examine how both intra- and inter-specific variation in body mass, wing size and shape, and the dynamic motions of the wing determine flight performance during take-off.

It was found that blue tits showed seasonal variations in wing morphology as a consequence of moult. The reduced wing area incurs a cost in terms of a reduction in the escape take-off flight performance, which could increase the risk of predation.

McFarlane, L., Altringham, J.D. and Askew, G.N. Intra-specific variation in wing morphology and its’ impacts on take-off performance in blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) during escape flights. Journal of Experimental Biology 219. 1369-1377. 2016. doi: 10.1242/jeb.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Student education

Maximising performance: effects of running speed on muscle activity and limb kinematics

Studies of locomotive performance in humans and animals using; biomechanical analysis, techniques to assess muscle function in relation to performance.

Applying biomechanics to sports and exercise sciences, particularly relating to improving sporting technique and performance


Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Studies of locomotive performance in humans and animals using; biomechanical analysis, techniques to assess muscle function in relation to performance.
  • Applying biomechanics to sports and exercise sciences, particularly relating to improving sporting technique and performance

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Maximising performance: effects of running speed on muscle activity and limb kinematics

See also: