Engineering professor named Fellow by American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

There’s a treadmill in the center of Professor Jill Higginson’s laboratory, and it’s not for impromptu workouts. Higginson studies human motion and gait so that she and other scientists can develop devices to help people recover from injuries and illnesses that limit their mobility.

For her contributions to the field, Higginson, a professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware, was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) on Monday, March 25, 2019.

Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers.

Higginson was selected for contributions to the field of neuromuscular biomechanics of pathological movement, musculoskeletal modeling and simulation, and undergraduate research and education. She is one of 156 new Fellows being inducted in 2019.

“What an honor to be recognized for doing what I love – interacting across disciplines to address questions relevant to human quality of life and sharing what we learn with others,” said Higginson.

At UD, Higginson leads a laboratory that focuses on improving the understanding of muscle coordination for normal and pathological movements, which she investigates using experiments and simulation studies. She has published 127 peer-reviewed articles and abstracts, which have garnered 3,049 citations, according to Google Scholar. For example, in an article published last year in the journal Human Kinetics, Higginson and colleagues determined through biomechanical testing that short-term use of walking workstations does not affect young adults’ manner of walking.

“Dr. Higginson is an expert in musculoskeletal modeling and simulation of normal and pathological human movement,” said Thomas Buchanan, Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute. “She uses complex mathematical models to study complex diseases and is one of the leading investigators of the biomechanics of gait in patients that have had strokes. By partnering with investigators with novel treatment approaches (such as rehabilitation robotics and functional electrical stimulation), her team is able to develop patient-specific therapeutic interventions that represent the cutting-edge of rehabilitation in this patient population.”

Higginson joined UD in 2004, and in 2008, she became the first female director of UD’s Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research, an interdisciplinary center with a mission to provide engineering science and clinical technology to reduce the impact of disease on the everyday life of individuals. In 2010, Higginson became the founding director of UD’s biomedical engineering program, and she coordinated the undergraduate program through 2013.

UD has a strong tradition of biological engineering. Other UD faculty members who belong to AIMBE’s College of Fellows include: Maciek Antoniewicz, Thomas Buchanan, Prasad Dhurjati, Randall Duncan, Dawn Elliott, Kristi Kiick, Kelvin Lee, Abraham Lenhoff, David Martin, Terry Papoutsakis and Millie Sullivan.

Higginson holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, a master’s degree in bioengineering from Penn State, and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University.