A ‘world’s first’ academic course to start in 2022

02 December, 2021 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

A new academic course, MSC Anthroengineering, which for the first time brings together Engineering (the science of technology) and Anthropology (the science of humanity) has been approved to start teaching in September 2022, by London South Bank University (LSBU).

LSBU’s MSC Anthroengineering course will be taught to up to 30 students who will be able to use the world’s first Anthroengineering lab to support their high level research and study of the new subject. One example of the type of work which the Anthroengineering lab will enable is motion capture (‘the process of recording the movement of objects or people’) to discover new solutions to improve people’s quality of life.

Three ways Engineering and Anthropology could merge within Anthroengineering to deliver huge change include:

  • Redesigning prosthetic devices – an estimated 190 million people suffer from amputation and require prosthetics (devices that replace missing body parts). A large percentage of these people live in developing countries, far from where prosthetics are designed which can lead to problems where prosthetic devices fail to meet the cultural demands of the users, such as allowing amputees to kneel for prayer. Anthroengineering could lead to improved culturally flexible prosthetic designs which could be adapted to fulfil the needs of people from a wide range of countries and cultures.
  • Improving dentistry – the primary function of chewing is to break food into smaller pieces, making it easier to swallow and digest. But current dental models fail to relate tooth shape and how food breaks down during chewing. This means that false teeth used by hundreds of millions of people do not function as well as they could, leading to decreases in nutrition and quality of life. Rather than purely focusing on contemporary populations, Anthroengineering encourages analysis of how teeth evolved in humans and non-human primates over millions of years. This new approach could lead to new discoveries to improve dental implant performance during chewing.
  • Transforming the way running shoes are designed – sporting equipment used by hundreds of millions of people is constantly being redesigned. But engineers can lack an understanding of the complex movements that occur between the bones in the foot, leading to shoes which are too stiff or too flexible. Anthropologists have advanced our understanding of how human feet have evolved and have debated the design of running shoes or whether we should be running with shoes at all. Anthroengineering could increase our understanding of human foot evolution and enable better designed shoes.

The new academic course, MSC Anthroengineering, will be run with the Natural History Museum, London, giving students the opportunity to access world-renowned anthropological collections and work with Natural History Museum scientists specialising in anthropology, zoology and evolutionary biology.

Michael Berthaume, Deputy Head of the Mechanical Engineering & Design division at LSBU, said, “The potential of the new academic field we have created is enormous. Anthroengineering has the potential to create new theories to make huge advances in scientific discovery, improve our quality of life and help save our planet from climate change.

“In September 2022 the world’s first Anthroengineering academic course will be taught to students at LSBU and will help to change human lives for the better by bringing together the best from Engineering and Anthropology.”

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