International Society of Biomechanics
Gold sponsor

Funded PhD in biomechanics of the fabella (a sesamoid bone behind the knee)

PhD position
19 Nov 2019
19 Nov 2019
London, London
United Kingdom
London South Bank University


Description: The fabella, a sesamoid bone located in the lateral head of the gastrocnemius, behind the lateral femoral condyle. Interestingly, it is the only bone in the human body that is more common today than 100 years ago (~3.5 times more common) Recent analyses on global prevalence rates have shown fabella are more common in older individuals than younger, men than women, and people from Asia/Oceania compared to those from Europe/Africa.


The fabella has both evolutionary and clinical implications. Evolutionarily, it is present is cercopithecines, variably present in lesser apes, absent from great apes, and variably present in humans. This implies selection may have been acting against fabella presence in non-human hominoids, and for fabella presence in hominins.


Clinically, it is associated with several knee ailments, ­causes medical issues on its own, and can interferes with medical devices. Most interestingly, individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) in the knee are twice as likely to have a fabella compared to individuals without OA. When fabellae become problematic, fabellectomies, or surgical removal of fabellae, are common. As no studies have investigated the biomechanics of the fabella, its removal may or may not have negative consequences.


Outcomes of this project for the PhD candidate include:

  • understand ultrasound imaging;

  • use ultrasound to identify cohorts of individuals with and without fabellae;

  • gather kinematic data on your cohorts;

  • construct musculoskeletal (MSk) models to analyse kinematic data;

  • interpret biomechanical data from MSk models;

  • read and segment microcomputed tomography (microCT) scans of fabellae;

  • perform 3D bone morphological analyses;

  • interpret results in clinical and evolutionary frameworks;

  • present the findings of the project in international conferences;

  • perform high-quality research and publish it as journal articles.


This will be a 3-year fully funded studentship for an EU/UK and overseas applicants who are keen to conduct research in ultrasound imaging and sensing at LSBU in the School of Engineering.

Supervisory Team: The successful applicant will be working Dr Michael Berthaume ( at the Berthaume Anthroengineering lab at LSBU, which aims to integrate theories and methods from anthropology and engineering to address larger problems. As a PhD student, you will join the Bioengineering centre ( and work alongside a range of new and experienced PhD students and postdocs in a collaborative environment.


How to apply: To apply, please send a copy of your CV to Dr Michael Berthaume at ( Applicaitons will be accepted as late as 15 December.