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The University of Southampton

SESA6066 Biological Flow

Module Overview

This module explores the application of fluid dynamics in biology, a rapidly growing area. Topics come from three major areas; internal physiological flow (in blood vessels, airways and the urinary system) with specific reference to the correlation between flow regimes and the development of arterial disease (heart attacks and strokes), swimming across a range of scales, and flying (insects and birds, from hover to gliding).

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Models of flow which are applicable to physiological and biological situations, and to discuss their relevance to the operation of the systems they are derived from. Reference will be made in physiological cases to pathological aspects, including the initiation of disease.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the applications of fluid mechanics in biology, and the utility and limitations of models of flow.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically assess technical literature.
  • Have an insight into reducing a complex problem to an abstract description (mathematical model
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Model physical systems using analytical and numerical methods


Introduction (2 lectures) - Physiological and biological fluid mechanics - range and relevance - biological background. Blood Flow (14 lectures) -The circulation, blood as a fluid, blood vessels. - Flow in large arteries and veins: . pulse propagation - basic theory, wave reflection, nonlinear effects, effect of viscosity flow in collapsible tubes. ·flow in non-uniform vessels - the effect of curvature, branching and changes in shape/area. . clinical aspects - the generation and development of cardiovascular disease. - Flow in the microcirculation. Flying (6 lectures) - Bird flight: basic aerodynamics, wings, flight modes, energy-saving techniques. - Flight models of insects: low Reynolds number effects, high lift models. Swimming (12 lectures) - Micro-organisms (low Reynolds number flow): . swimming of a thin flexible sheet . flagellar propulsion - Swimming of a slender fish. - Other methods of propulsion. - Body surface adaptations/flow control. Revision/questions (2 lectures)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching methods employed in the delivery of this module include: • Lectures, question sheets, worked examples. The learning activities include: • Individual reading of background material and course texts, plus work on examples.

Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Lecture materials distributed as handouts.. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Final Assessment  100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Final Assessment  100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Final Assessment  100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: FEEG2003 or SESA2022 or SESS2015

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