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Michael Thelwell

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Michael Thelwell

Assessing human morphology using statistical shape analysis


Measurements of human body size and shape are an important source of information for a range of scientific fields and applications; however, practitioners still rely on traditional tools and methods which limit the kinds of measurements that can be taken. Recent literature has suggested that 3D imaging technology is a more sophisticated tool that could enable the comprehensive characterisation of human body shape. The aim of this programme of doctoral study was to determine whether shape anthropometrics can complement existing techniques in the assessment of human morphology.

A series of investigations were conducted to determine whether shape measures provide additional information which is not captured by existing anthropometric techniques. The findings of these investigations suggest that body shape measures show a complex dependence on body size. Though certain shape features demonstrate a degree of allometric scaling and change with increases in body size, there are significant proportions of shape variation which cannot be explained by existing anthropometrics. These non-allometric variations in body shape have been shown to improve the estimation of subcutaneous abdominal adiposity in a small cohort of participants, and have demonstrated the potential for misclassification of individuals using existing indices, such as BMI and WHR. This programme of research provides a more detailed understanding of human morphological variation, which could inform the development of improved tools for characterising how body shape relates to its underlying mass distribution.

Michael's employment history includes:

  • Sheffield Hallam University: Graduate Research Assistant/PhD Researcher 
  • Serfas Cycling (Phoenix, USA): Test Engineer
  • FASTER Cycling Performance Centre (Phoenix, USA): Sports Science Engineer 
  • PlayerLayer Sports Clothing (Nottingham, UK): Product Management Internship 
  • Ping Golf Inc. (Phoenix, USA): Analysis and Testing Engineering Internship 

He has qualifications in:

  • Sports Engineering (PhD) - Sheffield Hallam University (Feb, 2021)
  • Sports Engineering (MSc) - Sheffield Hallam University (July, 2017)
  • Sports Technology (BSc) - Loughborough University (July, 2014)

Outside of university, Michael is a keen road cyclist, getting out into the Peak District whenever he can.

Research output

Journal articles

Choppin, S., Clarkson, S., Bullas, A., Thelwell, M., Heller, B., Wheat, J. (2020). Anatomical and principal axes are not aligned in the torso: considerations for users of geometric modelling methods. Journal of Biomechanics.

Thelwell, M., Chiu, C-Y., Bullas, A., Hart, J., Wheat, J., & Choppin, S. (2020). How shape-based anthropometry can complement traditional anthropometric techniques: a cross-sectional study. Scientific Reports, 10, 12125.

Chiu, C-Y., Thelwell, M., Goodwill, S., Dunn, M. (2020). Accuracy of anthropometric measurements by a video-based 3D modelling technique. In: Ateshian G., Myers K., Tavares J. (eds) Computer Methods, Imaging and Visualization in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering. CMBBE 2019. Lecture Notes in Computational Vision and Biomechanics, vol 36. Springer, Cham.

Chiu, C-Y., Thelwell, M., Senior, T., Choppin S., Hart J., Wheat J. (2019). Comparison of depth cameras for three-dimensional reconstruction in medicine. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine. 2019; 233(9):938-947.

Conference proceedings

Thelwell, M., Kuehnapfel, A., Bullas, A., Hart, J., Ahnert, P., Wheat, J., Loeffler, M., Scholz, M., Choppin, S. (2020). Allometry between measures of body size and shape in a large population-based cohort. In: Proc. of 3DBODY.TECH 2020 - 11th Int. Conference and Exhibition on 3D Body Scanning and Processing Technologies.

Chiu, C.-Y., Thelwell, M., Goodwill, S., Dunn, M. (2019). Accuracy of anthropometric measurements by a video-based 3D modelling technique. In: CMBBE 2019 Conference Proceedings E-06.3 (pg. 246), New York, USA.

Thelwell, M., Chiu, C.-Y., Bullas, A., Hart, J., Wheat, J., Choppin, S. (2018). The application of 3D shape-based anthropometry. In: Sheffield Hallam University Creating Knowledge Conference, Sheffield, UK.



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