Determining the impact of lifestyle-related biomechanics on muscle in the ageing human arm


Normal ageing in humans is characterised by a reduction in muscle mass and strength, which results in reduced functional capacity in the musculoskeletal system. However, muscle ageing is characterised by more complex changes than simply a reduction in mass or fibre number. For example, ageing has been shown to alter the spatial arrangement of muscle fibres, specifically muscle thickness, pennation angle and the average length of fascicles. In this project we will determine the long-term impacts of habitual arm use on age-related changes in muscle architecture and function using a combination state-of-the-art medical imaging, image analysis and experimental biomechanical approaches. We will use MRI scanning and deterministic fibre tractography to quantify age-related variation in muscle architecture in two cohorts with highly disparate forearm-hand use (office workers versus manual workers). The same subjects will also undergo a range of functional measurements related to forearm-hand muscle strength and movement precision, allowing similarities and differences in muscle architecture to be correlated with measures of musculoskeletal performance. Crucially, our analyses will go beyond ‘first-order’ relationships between architectural anatomy and muscle strength; based on our recent analyses of muscle architecture in the lower limb, we will test the novel hypotheses that inhomogeneity in fibre architecture is crucial to normal muscle function in the forearm and hand, and thus will be differentially expressed in the two cohorts leading to disparate trajectories in fibre architecture and functional performance over the life course. Finally, we will work with an industrial CASE partner to apply this new knowledge of forearm and hand muscle function to evaluate the performance and design of a medical implant using biplanar x-ray videography and a cadaveric forearm-hand motion simulator developed by the supervisory team. Thus, our basic science will provide new data on how lifestyle impacts (and might be used to mitigate) ageing in the human arm, as well as informing the development of new healthcare technologies.

The ideal student would have a background in human anatomy, biomechanics and/or engineering and possess some skills in quantitative, mechanical and/or 3D digital techniques, but training will be provided in all techniques. The supervisory team includes experts in vertebrate anatomy, biomechanics, imaging and computer simulation, mechanical and materials engineering, and robotics. The studentship is highly cross-disciplinary and the student will work in the Evolutionary Morphology & Biomechanics Group at Liverpool ( and the School of Engineering at Newcastle (



Applications should be made by emailing  with:

·        a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees);

·        a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd ranked project, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University;

·        copies of your relevant undergraduate degree transcripts and certificates;

·        a copy of your IELTS or TOEFL English language certificate (where required);

·        a copy of your passport (photo page).

A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

In addition to the above items, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (as a Word document) to . A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Informal enquiries may be made to 

The deadline for all applications is 12noon on Monday 9th January 2023. 




Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

CASE studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.



From fibre to function: are we accurately representing muscle architecture and performance? Biological Reviews 97: 1640-1676.
Skeletal muscle function underpins muscle spindle abundance. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 289 (1976) doi:10.1098/rspb.2022.0622.
Validation of a new displacement-driven cadaveric human wrist simulator. Submitted. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.
Sites of fractures in explanted NeuFlex® silicone metacarpophalangeal joint prostheses. Journal of Hand Surgery: European Volume 2018, 43(10), 1083-1087.
Europe's new device regulations fail to protect the public. BMJ 2018, 363, k4205.