Department of Mechanical Engineering 2019 Spring Seminar Series: Class 530.804

February 28, 2019 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
26 Mudd Hall

Energy optimization in human walking

Presented by Professor Max Donelan
Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University

Perhaps the most general principle underlying human movement is that people prefer to move in ways that minimize their energetic cost. Although aspects of this preference are likely established over evolutionary and developmental timescales, we recently discovered that the nervous system can continuously optimize cost in real-time. Here I will present our new research focused on uncovering the mechanisms underlying the initiation of this optimization, as well as its process. Our collective findings indicate that energetic cost is not just an outcome of movement, but also plays a central role in continuously shaping it. I will also briefly touch on two other aspects of my research program – bionic energy harvesting and the scaling of control.

Max Donelan is a Professor of Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from Berkeley in 2001 under the mentorship of Dr. Rodger Kram and Dr. Art Kuo. He completed his postdoctoral work in Neuroscience at the University of Alberta under the mentorship of Dr. Keir Pearson. Max has held Career Investigator awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In addition to his fundamental research program, he has spun-out companies to commercialize his energy harvesting and wearable technology inventions, and is a scientific advisor to Nike Inc. Max is currently a visiting professor in Bioengineering at Stanford.

In His Own Words: I study how people and other animals move, and then apply what I find to help our society. I mostly study walking in people, and mostly pretty fundamental things about the back-and-forth relationship between how we walk and the energy we require to do so. But I also like to study big and small animals, and how their size affects how they control their movements. This comparative work has led me to study kangaroo tails, crocodile gallops, and elephant nerves, to name a few. In the course of my research, I have invented exoskeletons that harvest electrical energy from our movements, devices that stabilize people as they walk, and an iPhone app that controls people’s running pace with music. Others have used my work to develop new ways of rehabilitating people’s gait, and new ways of controlling their walking robots.

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