ESB Mobility Award (Winners – 2014)
Niklas has a background in physiotherapy and movement science and graduated 2012 in the international master’s program “Clinical Exercise Science” at the University of Potsdam. During his studies he gained additional insight into biomechanical research by assisting the Functional Analysis group at the Julius Wolff Institute Berlin under the supervision of Dr. William Taylor. Here he was involved in the VPHOP project with the ultimate goal to identify elderly people at risk of falling based on measures of their functional performance. Since 2013 Niklas is affiliated to the ETH Zürich where he is currently conducting his PhD entitled ‘Understanding variation during repetitive movements – the good and the bad in gait variability’. During this project Niklas will combine functional and neurophysiological performance measures in order to assess the contribution of central and peripheral sensory-motor circuits for the control of gait variability.
Planned research project
The ESB mobility award enables Niklas to join a three month collaborative project held at the Laboratory of Engineering of Neuromuscular System and Motor Rehabilitation at the Politecnico Turin. The aim of this project is to assemble high-density surface EMG with measures of neurophysiological condition to study the contribution of both peripheral and central circuits in the human sensory motor system on the control of gait kinematics. This multidisciplinary project brings together the expertise in EMG-signal acquisition technology provided by the group of Dr. Marco Gazzoni in Turin and the perspective of the user of advanced application of high-density EMG in combination with neurophysiological measurement protocols. The project therefore not only lays an important methodological foundation for Niklas’s Phd project but also aims to progress with the application options for high-density surface EMG.
I earned my Master in Biomedical Engineering in 2009 from the University of Bologna (Italy) and I was awarded recognition by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano during the International competition for Master degree thesis in 2011 in Florence.
From 2009 to 2012 I worked as a Junior Researcher for the Department of Industrial Engineering in Bologna and I was based at the Laboratory of Medical Technology (Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute, Bologna, Italy). During this period my research activities centred around experimental stress analysis and in vitro structural characterization of metatarsi and spine.
I am currently a second year PhD student in Bioengineering at the University of Bologna under the supervision of Prof. Luca Cristofolini. My current research work aims at the investigation of the mechanical behaviour (strain distribution, stiffness, strength and fracture) of human natural and treated vertebrae (i.e. vertebroplasty).
During my first year of PhD, I have developed and validated a reproducible anatomical reference frame for in vitro testing of human vertebrae and studied the effect of boundary conditions on the strain experienced by the vertebrae. The competence acquired in developing such experimental protocol will be used to better understand the failure process in augmented vertebrae. The suitability of different biomaterials, in improving the post-operative performance of the treatment will also be investigated.
Planned Research Project
This ESB mobility award will allow a detailed investigation of how different types of augmentation would influence the mechanical properties and failure mechanism of the treated vertebra (i.e. vertebroplasty). The international collaboration with the School of Engineering at the University of Portsmouth, under the supervision of Dr. Gianluca Tozzi, will be extremely beneficial to improve my research skills and activities. In conjunction with high-resolution μCT imaging, this study will apply digital volume correlation (DVC) to investigate the full-field displacement and strain distribution of prophylactic augmented vertebrae during compression testing, to assess the effect and efficacy of different types of augmentation materials in preventing fracture of non-fractured vertebral bodies. In addition this collaboration will give me the opportunity to share specific knowledge between the Biomechanics Lab (University of Bologna) and the Mechanical Behaviour of Materials Lab (University of Portsmouth), enhancing the research outcomes of both groups.