Applied Biomechanics Laboratory

Clare Small 106 and 111
phone: 303-492-0926
fax: 303-492-4009

Research Interests

  • The biomechanical and metabolic effects of prostheses and exoskeletons on walking, running, hopping, and sprinting.


  • Director: Alena Grabowski, PhD.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows: Jana Jeffers, Ph.D.
  • Graduate Students: Ryan Alcantara, Stephen Allen, Owen Beck, Emily Southern, Claire Zai.
  • Collaborators: Christopher Arellano, Ph.D., Brown University; William Byrnes, Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder; Susan D'Andrea, Ph.D., Providence VAMC; Hugh Herr, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Rodger Kram, Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder; William McDermott, Ph.D., The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, Utah; Craig McGowan, Ph.D., University of Idaho; Justus Ortega, Ph.D., Humboldt State University; Mark Rentschler, Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder; Anne Silverman, Ph.D., Colorado School of Mines.
(L to R): Stephen Allen, Alena Grabowski, Claire Zai, Jana Jeffers, Caroline Wilson, Emily Southern, Owen Beck.

Current Research Projects

  • What is the Optimal Stiffness and Height of a Running-Specific Leg Prosthesis? (Beck, Southern, Grabowski). Currently, there are no science-based objective methods for prescribing running specific leg prostheses. We are conducting a series of studies that aim to optimize prescription of running-specific prostheses for athletes with transtibial amputations by systematically varying prosthetic stiffness and height during running and sprinting.
  • Characterizing Ankle Function during Sloped Locomotion for Prosthesis Development (Jeffers, Grabowski). For the first time in history, people with a lower limb amputation have regained normative function during level-ground walking due to the development of a new powered ankle-foot prosthesis. However, negotiating natural and built environments also requires the ability to walk and run on uphill and downhill slopes. We are conducting a series of studies that aim to characterize biological ankle joint function during walking and running on slopes in order to further develop advanced powered ankle-foot prostheses. 
  • Understanding the Effects of a Springy Leg Exoskeleton during Hopping and Running (Allen, Grabowski). There is a need for simple and unobtrusive assistive mechanical devices that can augment human performance. An assistive device such as a passive-elastic exoskeleton that could optimize energy efficiency and make it easier to carry a load or run faster with less effort has the potential to dramatically improve human locomotion. We are performing a series of studies to identify the optimal stiffness of a springy leg exoskeleton and then designing a device that is able to be used during walking and running. 
  • What is the Optimal Stiffness of a Pediatric Prosthesis? (Grabowski). The biomechanical effects of prosthetic feet on children with a lower leg amputation are not well understood. We are studying how different pediatric prostheses affect the biomechanics of children with amputations during walking.

Opportunities for Undergraduates

The requirements for undergraduate students who would like research experience in our Lab are:

  • Completed at least one year in college.
  • Will be at CU for at least two more semesters.
  • Available for 8-10 hours of time per week in blocks of 2-4 hours at a time.
  • IPHY, MCDB, PSYCH, Applied Math, and Engineering majors are encouraged.

For more information, contact Prof. Alena Grabowski ( Unfortunately, due to high demand, we cannot accommodate all qualified students.


Recent Publications


  • 2013-2016 BADER Consortium DoD CDMRP, "What is the optimal stiffness and height of a running-specific leg prosthesis?
  • 2012-2017 VARR&D Career Development Award-2 "Characterizing Ankle Function during Sloped Locomotion for Prosthesis Development"