Doctoral Candidate, Human Physiology
Michael McGeehan is a doctoral student in human physiology, working to create dynamic computer simulations that can be used to design and select prostheses for individuals with lower limb loss. McGeehan began his studies at Willamette University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. After graduation, he worked at a sports engineering lab at Washington State University, where his work focused on mechanical and biomechanical analysis of sporting devices.
McGeehan’s time working in this lab allowed him to experience a mechanical engineering approach to the human body, and he became interested in the mechanics of human movement. This, combined with an interest in working directly with people, led him to the human physiology graduate program at UO.
After completing his master’s degree in the Human Sensorimotor Physiology Laboratory, McGeehan decided to pursue a PhD within the Neuromechanics Laboratory at the UO and continue his research. “Here, I am able to receive research training from world-class scientists and gain extensive experience teaching at the same time”, he says.
As a researcher, McGeehan has been able to develop a line of research in biomechanics alongside his advisor, Dr. Michael Hahn, and his collaborator, Dr. Peter Adamczyk. These collegial connections have allowed McGeehan to further his research and collaborate with others who are pursuing research focused on lower limb prosthetics. He has also been able to travel nationally and internationally to conferences and symposia, helping him consider new ideas and develop a broad network of intercollegiate connections.
“Michael has a vision for his career that is more developed than most doctoral students,” says Hahn, an associate professor of human physiology. “His work will greatly improve the clinical practice of prescribing lower limb prostheses to provide a set of prosthetic foot stiffness levels tailor-made to the specific needs of each individual.”
In addition to his research, McGeehan has helped mentor undergraduate students. He says that although the majority of undergraduate students in human physiology will pursue healthcare-related professions, having research experience helps them understand what drives the methods they’ll use with patients, ultlimately making them better clinicians.
After completing his PhD, McGeehan plans to pursue postdoctoral training in biomechanics and rehabilitation engineering. Ultimately, he hopes to find a faculty position at a research university and continue his work answering questions around prosthesis design.
The data behind the design of a lower limb prosthesis
McGeehan’s research incorporates elements of physiology, medicine, engineering, and material science. His goal is to create experimental tools, such as algorithms and computer models, to help inform the design of lower limb prostheses in order to reduce biomechanical stress and prevent injury for individuals who use them. Instead of needing to acquire large amounts of data from the individual through gait analysis and other tests, these tools would allow researchers to collect a small amount of data from the individual that would allow them to create a prosthesis designed for specific needs.
“One of the things that really excites me about this line of research is how applicable it is,” says McGeehan. “The insights we gain using simulations can be immediately applied to the design of prostheses or the algorithms that help drive them.”