Dr. Jennifer Nichols joins UF BME

We are excited to welcome Dr. Jennifer Nichols to the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. Nichols will join the department as an assistant professor in January 2018.

Nichols earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Tufts University in 2008, an M.S. in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in 2011, an M.A. in medical humanities & bioethics from Northwestern University in 2014, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in 2014. Nichols’ expertise is in biomechanics, musculoskeletal modeling, complex joint systems such as the wrist/hand and foot/ankle, predictive computer simulations, and research ethics.

Before joining the department, Nichols completed her dissertation research in the Applied Research in Musculoskeletal Simulation (ARMS) Laboratory lead by Dr. Wendy Murray at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Nichols’ dissertation research elucidated how two common surgeries for wrist osteoarthritis alter wrist biomechanics, thereby leading to impairments in both wrist and hand function. Through biomechanical experiments, she identified key changes in carpal kinematics and muscle moment arms following surgery. She also developed a predictive simulation framework that provided novel insights into how the wrist influences thumb function. For her postdoctoral research, Nichols worked with Dr. Andrew E. Anderson in the department of orthopaedics at the University of Utah. Here, Nichols utilized dynamic medical imaging and patient-specific musculoskeletal models to study how surgeries for ankle osteoarthritis affect joint and muscle mechanics.

At UF, Nichols will continue to integrate anatomical and in vivo experiments with computer simulations to examine musculoskeletal biomechanics. Her long-term goal is to create predictive, biomechanical simulations to improve the functional ability and quality of life for individuals suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., osteoarthritis, muscular dystrophy, fracture, joint pain). By predicting surgical outcomes or the effectiveness of physical therapy, predictive simulations will catalyze clinical advancements and inform modern, data-driven medicine.

Nichols is a recipient of the 2011 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Services Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the 2016 Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) with funding from the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS). She also received a 2012 Sarah Baskin Award for Excellence in Research from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a 2015 OpenSim Travel Award from the National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research (NCSRR) at Stanford University, a 2015 Postdoctoral Research Award from the L.S. Peery Discovery Program in Musculoskeletal Research, and a 2016 Leadership in Inclusive Excellence Award from University of Utah Health Sciences, among others.

Nichols will be moving to Gainesville with her husband, Dr. Joel B. Harley, who will join the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s department of electrical and computer engineering as an assistant professor.

Welcome, Dr. Nichols!