Supervisors: Professor John R. Hutchinson and Dr. Chris Richards

Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Project Details

Broiler (meat) chickens are a major food source globally. They have intensely been artificially selected to grow very quickly in order to efficiently produce the large breast muscles desired by industry. This selection has altered their anatomy and locomotion. Industry is interested in optimising traits of broiler chickens in order to maximise not only efficiency but also animal welfare. We hypothesise that a commonly used recent breed of broiler chickens develops large loads on its limb joints and muscles as it grows from a 2 week old chick to a ~6 week old slaughter-age individual. Those loads may reduce animal welfare but that could be improved by artificial selection or other factors. We seek an MRes student to use existing 3D experimental data with musculoskeletal models and simulations of 3 growth stages of broiler chickens to test our hypotheses, and contribute to improving the poultry industry via scientific evidence. Initial 3D models and experimental data are available, so the student can proceed immediately. Students would learn (further) expertise in biomechanics, anatomy, animal welfare, computer programming and 3D graphics. Necessary training would be provided at the start as required; then the remainder of the MRes project would be devoted to designing and conducting simulations, and analysing existing experimental data. 


  1. Bishop, P.J., Michel, K.B., Falisse, A., Cuff, A.R., Allen, V.R., De Groote, F., Hutchinson, J.R. 2021. Computational modelling of muscle fibre operating ranges in the hindlimb of a small ground bird (Eudromia elegans), with implications for modelling locomotion in extinct species. PLOS Computational Biology 7:e1008843.  

  2. Paxton, H., Daley, M.A., Corr, S.A., Hutchinson, J.R. 2013. The gait dynamics of the modern broiler chicken: A cautionary tale of selective breeding. Journal of Experimental Biology 216:3237-3248.  

  3. Paxton, H.P., Anthony, N.B., Corr, S.A., Hutchinson, J.R. 2010. The effects of selective breeding on the architectural properties of the pelvic limb in broiler chickens: a comparative study across modern and ancestral populations. Journal of Anatomy 217:153-166.  



  • Must meet our standard MRes entry requirements.
  • Do not need to be a vet. Undergraduate degree in biological sciences-related subject; or engineering, computer sciences, and similar fields. 


  • Some prior expertise in one or more of: biomechanics, anatomy, engineering, 3D graphics, or (especially) programming is desirable, but not essential. 
  • Interest in animal welfare and industrial applications of basic scientific research on poultry is desirable, although the project involves learning broadly useful skills in anatomy, biomechanics and simulation. 

This can be taken full-time or part-time (12months FTE) project commencing in October 2024, based at RVC's Hawkshead campus. 


Partially funded: The lab will be covering the project costs, with the MRes student expected to meet the course fees and their living expenses. 

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following Brexit please see our fees and funding page. 

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 1pm UK time, Friday 5th April

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Prof John Hutchinson (

Interview date and location: TBC

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