A researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University is taking her research overseas to collaborate with academics in Canada.
Emma Hodson-Tole is the first to take advantage of Manchester Met’s new International Fellowship scheme. She will be travelling to Canada for a year-long project where she will collaborate with leading figures in musculoskeletal science.
Emma aims to develop her research on skeletal muscles in humans in order to find ways of understanding factors that enable coordinated movement patterns in humans. She is the first person in her faculty to travel overseas for an extended period of research in this manner.
Improving movement in people with impaired limbs
Emma’s research interests revolve around ways of studying skeletal muscle structure and their connection to the nervous system, exploring how well they function to produce force and allow movement.
She first joined Manchester Met as a post-doctoral researcher funded by a Sir Henry Wellcome Research Fellowship, before being appointed Reader in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Her work has included developing tools, and combining imaging and signal processing techniques, that provide new ways of measuring skeletal muscle structure and function. These may be useful for diagnosing and monitoring changes which occur as a result of neurodegenerative diseases, ageing or injury.
“Our limbs move via muscular fibres, controlled by the nervous system, which work together to generate force,” she said. “However, certain illnesses, such as motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy or the effects of a stroke, can prevent these fibres from working properly”.
“My aim is to develop our knowledge and understanding of the way muscles are controlled and move so that we can improve the quality of life of people who have impaired movement abilities.
“In practice this could lead to the development of new tools that can be used by healthcare providers to inform personalised treatment or support plans for individual patients.
“I also hope to understand more about how different muscles work together to enable the wide range of movements we are usually capable of. This could help inform development of new robotics or the development of training programmes to support those relearning movement tasks, such as after a stroke.
“It could also help with activities where normal movement is not possible, for example astronauts undertaking long term space missions.”
Collaborating with international colleagues to develop new solutions
As part of Emma’s overseas project, she will be working with colleagues at the Simon Fraser University to pursue her research interests, some of whom are leaders in the field.
She added: “This opportunity will be a fascinating way to bring together people from different backgrounds, but with shared interests, to develop new ideas and bring novel solutions to challenging problems.
“I’m also looking forward to the new skills and experience that this project will enable me to develop. As well as the opportunity to continue publishing research papers on an international level, it will give me the chance to work with a significant mentor, and increase collaboration between the University and Canadian institutions.
“On a personal level, this opportunity will be a way of starting a new adventure with my family, exploring some new landscapes famous for wildlife, meeting new people, and experiencing new opportunities and ideas.”
First of many international opportunities
Richard Greene, Pro Vice Chancellor of Research and Knowledge Exchange, said: “This project recognises the great work that Emma has carried out so far. It is the first of what I hope will be more opportunities for the university to work with partners overseas, and to develop our research portfolio among the international community.
“I think the knowledge and expertise that Emma will bring back will be instrumental in taking the university forward on an internationally.”