The University of Southampton

SESM6038 Computational methods in biomedical engineering design

Module Overview

Computational methods play an ever increasing role for the successful development of cost-effective and robust engineering solutions to address the challenges emerging from a healthcare agenda calling for prolonging independent living and the personalisation/stratification of care in our ageing societies. The module will provide the theoretical basis and practical training in fundamental engineering skills required to develop innovative and robust design solutions for a range of technologies such as surgical tools, instrumentation, artificial joints, stents, minimally invasive surgery, and assistive technology including devices for rehabilitation and independent living. The module will introduce some of the key theories and computational methods that capture essential aspects of patient variability in predictive numerical tools and enable the development of robust technology for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Demonstration of the use of the computational methods will concentrate on orthopaedic applications and more specifically on the analysis of the biomechanical behaviour of the musculoskeletal system. Here, key concepts and approaches with which the students will be familiarized with include methods for the reconstruction of 3D musculoskeletal anatomy from medical image data, the recording and description of skeletal kinematics as well as state of the art approaches for the calculation of muscle and joint forces. In a further step, these techniques will provide input to advanced numerical modelling techniques to predict and optimize the performance of joint replacements and the course of bone healing after a fracture. The presentation and discussion of further case studies on cardiovascular applications will enable the students to understand how such computational tools can be successfully applied to a broad range of biomedical engineering design problems.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to introduce you to computational methods which are essential for the engineering design of biomedical devices. The primary application focus for the introduction and practical application of the methods will be on biomedical problems related to the loco motor system, but the module will also demonstrate case studies in further application areas to illustrate the wide range of uses for these methods.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Suitable methods for developing computational models of the musculoskeletal system
  • Customer and end-user needs incl. the importance of aesthetics in presenting dedicated simulation tools
  • Techniques for computational modelling of common failure modes, including: bone remodelling; tissue differentiation; damage accumulation and wear
  • Selection of appropriate methods to consider both technical uncertainty but also assess the influence of patient and surgical variability
  • Implementation design of experiments and probabilistic techniques into computer simulations
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use standard engineering software to assess failure
  • Develop advanced adaptive modelling techniques to simulate time dependent processes
  • Apply analytical skills to practical problems
  • Explain and defend modelling decisions
  • Extract, interpret and present data
  • Prepare technical reports
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply appropriate modelling strategies to assess the performance of biomedical devices and conceive designs that promote sustainable development
  • Identify suitable sources of data to both drive and verify and asses the quality of computational simulations
  • Assess the strengths and limitations of computational models for assessing the performance of biomedical devices


All 15 units are either double lectures (L) or 2h hands-on labs (P) Unit 1 (L): Introduction to techniques for computer model generation. Unit 2 (P): ì-vis lab: hands-on experience in X-ray based imaging & generation of 3D computer models. Unit 3 (L): Introduction to computational musculoskeletal modelling techniques. Unit 4 (P): GaitLab: practical introduction to motion capture & assessment of muscle function. Unit 5 (L): Theory and implementation of advanced musculoskeletal modelling techniques. Unit 6 (P): Practical problem solving using musculoskeletal modelling techniques in OpenSim. Unit 7 (L): Introduction to computational models for the simulation of bone adaptation & fracture healing. Unit 8 (P): Hands-on problem solving using finite element models to assess material behaviour. Unit 9 (L): Implementation of computer models for understanding polyethylene wear behaviour. Unit 10 (L): Introduction to probabilistic modelling techniques to account for uncertainty. Unit 11 (P): Practical application of statistical modelling approaches Units Case study: 12-14 (L): How to solve a tough cardiovascular engineering design problem using computational tools. Unit 15 (L): Review lecture.

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures including the presentation of case studies with comprehensive notes and tutorials • Supervised practical lab sessions including: - an imaging lab (ì-vis) - a motion capture lab - computer lab sessions to practice the use of a range of computational modelling techniques Learning methods include: • Individual reading to enhance the breath of understanding • Individual work on tutorial problems • Problem-based learning in small groups during lab sessions • Individual work on assignments

Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Software requirements. MATLAB

Software requirements. OpenSim (

Van C. Mow, R. Huiskes (Eds) (2005). Basic orthopaedic biomechanics & mechano-biology. 


Assessment Strategy



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 25%
Coursework 25%
Coursework 25%
Coursework 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 50%
Exam  (90 minutes) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: SESM3033 Orthopaedic Biomechanics 2016-17

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