Comparative Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab

2015 CNBL Lab Group



Craig P. McGowan, Ph.D.

My research focuses on understanding the evolution of musculoskeletal design and the relationships between morphology and performance. I received my Ph.D. in 2006 from Harvard University under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Biewener. For my graduate research, I examined how musculoskeletal specialization influences the functional plasticity of individual muscles and coordination of whole limb design. As a model for examining specialization, I conducted experiments using different species of kangaroos and wallabies.

As an NIH NSRA Post-doctoral research fellow I worked with Dr. Rodger Kram at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Dr. Richard Neptune at the University of Texas at Austin. The goal of my work was to provide a better understanding of how individual muscles contribute to biomechanical subtasks during human walking (e.g., body support and forward propulsion), how muscles are modulated in response to changes in mechanical demand, and how intrinsic muscle properties influence locomotor performance. My research on human locomotion also includes the study of sprint running biomechanics in elite level trans-tibial amputee athletes.

Link to CV

Post-doctoral Fellows

Jeff Rankin, Ph.D. - My research interests are focused on understanding basic principles that guide neural control and musculoskeletal function and then leveraging them to improve our quality of life. Ultimately, this knowledge forms a scientific foundation for developing and improving sport and assistive devices (e.g., bicycles, wheelchairs), provide bio-inspiration for robotics, and improve rehabilitation approaches. To achieve my aims, I have developed a large skill set that allows me to combine both experimental and modelling techniques to answer key questions related to human and animal movement.
I received my PhD from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010. My doctoral work was performed under Dr. Richard Neptune, where I was trained in modeling and simulating of human movement. My primary focus was on developing detailed musculoskeletal models and simulations of cycling and wheelchair propulsion in order to determine how human-device interactions influence performance and/or injury. Upon completion of my degree, I moved to the Royal Veterinary College (University of London) where I worked as a Research Fellow under Dr. John Hutchinson. While there, I developed a number of musculoskeletal models and simulations of animal locomotion (e.g. ostrich, salamander) and received extensive training in experimental techniques including EMG and motion capture systems, force plates, and fluoroscopes (XROMM).

Clint Collins, Ph.D.Movement is fundamental to animal behavior and ecology.  I am a functional morphologist interested in animal locomotion.  My goal is to understand how natural selection acts on athletic performances such as sprinting, turning, and accelerating, thereby altering the underlying biomechanics.  My study systems include geckos and lizards, marsupials, and kangaroo rats. I am especially interested in the biomechanics of individuals and quantifying locomotion in the field.  Please visit my website if you want to know more:






Graduate Students

Janneke Schwaner -I started my PhD at the U of I in the summer of 2016 after obtaining my Bachelors and Masters degrees from Wageningen University in The Netherlands. My Masters’ major was in experimental zoology as I am very interested in organismal biology and biomechanics. For my PhD projects in the McGowan Lab I hope to specialize in the relationship between morphology and locomotion in the kangaroo rat.  I am currently working on data analysis of jumping kangaroo rats to research the muscle dynamics during these jumps. For the direct future, I hope to be able to collect more data of hopping and jumping kangaroo rats, and I plan to test their performance on different substrates, since these animals are specialists on lose sands


Undergraduate Students

Gus Koch

Marquita Palmer

Lorraine Mottishaw

Kloe Kakaria


Lab Alumni


Anne Gutmann, Ph.D. - Anne was a NSF BEACON funded post-doc from 2011-2013, working on projects ranging from development of a detailed musculoskeletal model of a kangaroo rat to understanding the determinates of the metabolic cost of bouncing gaits. She is now a Sports Research Engineer at New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.


Graduate Students

Katie Shine, Ph.D. - I am an international student, originally from Bristol, England.  I completed my PhD at U of I in May 2016. Overall I am interested in the relationship between morphology and locomotion in an evolutionary context. Specifically my dissertation focused on functional morphology of plantigrade species, specialising in locomotion of a representative species – grizzly bears. To date I have collected data from live grizzly bears, and ongoing research will extend this to multiple bear species. In addition, I am studying the relationship between forelimb bone shape and locomotor behaviour (digging, running, climbing etc.) in plantigrade carnivorans.

Link to CV




Melissa (Missy) Thompson, Ph.D. - Missy successfully defended her dissertation in the Spring, 2014. Her outstanding research on theeffects ofrunning with and without shoes is helping to unravel the debate about which is better for human health. Even before graduating, Missy was hired as a visiting instructor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado where she is now an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science.








Masters Students

Laura Jackson, M.S. - Laura successfully defended her Master's thesis in the Spring 2015. Laura's project focused on understanding links between fatigue and ACL injury in Division I female soccer players. Her study used H-reflex, to examine changes in nerve conduction velocity and reflex coordination with fatigue.


Undergraduate Students

Kelsey Blesdall - Kelsey was a 2014 INBRE Fellow and worked primarily on the kangaroo rat anatomy and modeling project for two years. She graduted in Fall 2015 and stayed on in the lab for additional semester as a research tech. Kelsey will begin PT school and Simmons College in Boston, MA in the Summer 2016.

Kami Cole - Kami worked on several projects over a two+ year period. Her main focus was on the mechanics of hopping across speeds and inclines. She graduated in Spring 2015 and will be starting PA school at Rocky Mountain Collage.


Skyler Penberthy - Skyler worked on understanding the differences in walking and stepping mechanics between athletes and non-athletes. He graudeted in Spring 2015 and will be starting dental school at Oregon Health & Science University.


Zack Wuthrich - Zack work in the lab studying the mechanics of sprinting. He graduated in Spring 2015 and will start medical school and the University of Colorado in the Fall.


Mariah Eckwright - Mariah was a UBM Fellow studying the effects of sand depth on kangaroo rat hopping mechanics. She graduated in 2014 and is working in the Moscow, ID area while she explores options for graduate school.


Redgy Fuller - Redgy was a 2012 INBRE Fellow and is completing his senior year at Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He will be applying to medical school in the fall.

Travis Morgan - Travis graduated form the University of Idaho Spring 2012. He is currently working in his native Alaska and exploring the possibility of going to graduate school. 

Samantha Welker - Sam will start in the Art as Applied to Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins University in Fall 2012.

Dayne Sullivan - Dayne was a 2011 INBRE Fellow. He graduated from Lewis and Clark State College in Spring 2012 and is now working in industry. The research conducted with Dayne's help is currently in preparation for publication.

Ashley Vaughn - Ashley worked in the lab as a 2011 McNair Scholar. Ashley plans to graduate from the University of Idaho in Spring 2013 and is applying to graduate schools. 

High School Students

Marina Van Pelt - Marina was a high school student participating in HOIST (Helping Orient Indian Student and Teachers), a highly innovative summer program that assists ambitious Native American students with an interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and related fields.



The McGowan Lab is looking for energetic, creative and motivated people to join the research team!       

Interested in functional morphology, ecology, and the evolution of musculoskeletal design?                                  Check out the Graduate Program in the Department of Biological Sciences at UI. 

Interested in motor control, muscle function, and computer modeling and simulation?                                        Check out the Neuroscience Program at UI.

                             There are also opportunities for post-docs and undergraduate students.

                             Please contact Dr. McGowan via e-mail for more information.