Department of biomechanics receives record high grant funding through National Institutes of Health


Kamrin Baker

Assistant professor of biomechanics Nate Hunt, Ph.D, demonstrates developments in UNO’s biomechanics research. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications

Last week, the Department of Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) announced its most recent grant: $10.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), also known as the largest single research grant in university history.

This historic award is Phase II of the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant from NIH and surpasses the department’s own previous record of five years, when it received the first phase of the COBRE grant, according to a news release from UNO Communications.

Phase II of the COBRE grant will help develop UNO’s world-class research model by establishing three new research cores: The Movement Analysis Core, the Nonlinear Analysis Core and the Machining and Prototyping Core. These will all work in complimentary disciplines to enable students to conduct cutting-edge research with senior scientists.

The Assistant Dean of the Division of Biomechanics and Research Development, Nicholas Stergiou, Ph.D., was thrilled by this significant contribution.

“The future is so bright in terms of biomechanics,” Stergiou said. “And all of a sudden, here’s Nebraska in the middle of the United States that puts out the first department and the first degrees in biomechanics producing biomechanists. Is that great? This is marvelous, not great!”

Students and fellow researchers hope to use their findings within human movement variability research to treat—and ultimately prevent—movement-affected disorders, according to the UNO Communications news release.

This means experts will continue making progress with conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD) and Parkinson’s disease. Associate professor and research investigator Sara Myers, Ph.D. is the director of the Movement Analysis Core and said she uses her work to improve the design and control of the exoskeleton for those with PAD.

“The grant will use our expertise in studying and monitoring movement variability as an indicator of a potential movement problem, to measure improvement following treatment and to better understand why and how we move and adapt to different situations or movement disorders,” Myers said. “Getting this grant reinforces that we are making the biggest impact we can, and it also provides greater resources to do that good.”

The grant not only benefits student and faculty research in the field, but the university as a whole.

“It proves that we can do it,” Stergiou said. “Now it proves that not only to other people in the state or in the government, but it proves that also to ourselves. And what I mean to ourselves, to the UNO administration, the other departments, the other people who work at UNO. If biomechanics can do it, we can do it.”

UNO will be eligible for the next phase in the COBRE grant in 2024, and with the success of these installments, the MOVCENTR (Center of Research in Human Variability) at UNO is expected to come out on top as the nation’s leading research center.

While the biomechanics program expands in scope and research, it has physically amplified, as well. The expansion of UNO’s Biomechanics Research Building has an anticipated grand opening of Oct. 22, 2019.

“This award empowers the university to build on its research and strategic momentum, at the same time enhancing UNO’s reputation as a global leader in the field of biomechanics research,” said Chancellor Jeffrey Gold, M.D. “Under Dr. Stergiou’s leadership, the Biomechanics team and our generous community partners have allowed us to define the culture of research excellence at UNO. Through this grant and the nearing completion of the Biomechanics Research Building’s privately-funded expansion, the future is certainly bright for biomechanics and research growth at UNO.”