Kenneth Harris
Bob Schroter

Department of Bioengineering
Imperial College London
London SW7 2AZ
Tel: +44 (0)207 594 5175

Research Intro

Biological and Respiratory Mechanics

The research direction has always focussed on the innovative application of physical and engineering science, particularly chemical engineering, to problems of medical, veterinary and biological significance.  By its very nature, the field of biomechanics involves an intimate blend and deep understanding of both physiological science and mechanics, and inevitably therefore, research programs have been highly interdisciplinary and team based.  They have necessitated clear understanding of extensive areas of human and animal physiology and instrumentation and measurement techniques as well as the underlying physical science.

Diverse work in the field of physiological mechanics has involved both theoretical modelling and experimental studies on humans and animals together with the development of novel instrumentation techniques.  Aspects of the research activities have had significant implications beyond the immediate academic environment, contributing to the setting of standards for both human and animal activities and welfare.

Research Topics and Selected Papers

Respiratory and cardiovascular mechanics

Interests have concentrated mainly, though not exclusively, on the mechanics of the mammalian respiratory system, particularly the human, in relation to health, disease and environmental factors.  Studies have ranged from experimental human and animal experimentation to computer based modelling of lung elasticity micro-mechanics and CFD investigations of flow conditions throughout the respiratory tract.

Extensive published work has focused partly, but not exclusively on:

  • the mechanisms controlling the flow of gas, including soluble noxious gases, in the upper and bronchial airways and exchange with bronchial and alveolar surfaces
  • the elastic properties of the lung parenchyma and factors influencing the distribution of ventilation.

Current respiratory research is focussed principally on elucidating the mechanics and transport processes within the upper airway, including the nasal sinuses. This research is of broad relevance, particularly regarding environmental exposures to noxious materials and to the therapeutic delivery of drugs via the respiratory tract. Micro-CT techniques to image the lung alveolar structures are being developed to compare direct experimental measurement and computational modelling predictions of morphology and mechanics.

The early work in respiratory mechanics formed the basis of a fundamentally ground breaking paper on the fluid mechanical basis of atherosclerosis – the arterial disease process of enormous significance as a cause of morbidity and death worldwide. This led, in 1978, to co-authoring the book “Mechanics of the Circulation” that is still considered the definitive text in this field; the second edition has recently been published.

Taylor DJ, Doorly DJ, Schroter RC. Inflow boundary profile prescription for numerical simulation of nasal airflow. Journal of the Royal Society Interface: 7, 515-527, 2010.

Hood CM, Schroter RC, Doorly DJ, Computational modeling of flow and gas exchange in models of the human maxillary sinus. Journal of Applied Physiology: 107, 1195-1203, 2009.

Doorly DJ, Taylor DJ, Schroter RC. Mechanics of airflow in the human nasal airways. Respiration Physiology and Neurobiology: 163, 100-110, 2008.

Sera T, Fujioka H, Yokota H, Makinouchi A, Himeno R, Schroter RC, Tanishita K. Localized compliance of small airways in excised rat lungs using microfocal X-ray computed tomography. Journal of Applied Physiology: 96, 1665-1673, 2004.

Forensic science and legal work

The conviction of Siôn Jenkins for the notorious murder of Billie Jo Jenkins in 1997 attracted widespread legal and media attention. Subsequently, the forensic basis and other grounds for the verdict were questioned at an unsuccessful appeal.  However, in 2003 permission was granted by the Criminal Case Review Commission for an appeal to the High Court.

On the basis of his acknowledged academic standing in the relevant fields of biomechanics by both prosecution and defence, Prof Schroter was asked by the defence team firstly to review the whole of the scientific basis of the prosecution and defence cases and previous Court presentations and subsequently to act the key defence expert witness at the Appeal presided over by the Vice-President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal.

The issues in the case centred on the generation and flight characteristics of respiratory derived blood spatter and involved extensive experimental research and re-evaluation of the status of relevant forensic science as used by the Forensic Science Service; the Appeal was successful on the basis of the scientific evidence and the conviction quashed.  However, in the interests of precedent and security of the basis of the decision establishing the new scientific credibility, retrial before a jury was ordered.

Prof Schroter led the scientific defence through the two resulting trials, both with a hung jury, and the subsequent acceptance by the Court of Jenkins’ innocence.  The case became ground breaking in English legal history and forensic science terms and is recognised as the both the most costly and scientifically complex murder trial in English legal history.

Subsequently, Prof Schroter led the scientific defence in a further important very high profile CCRC Appeal and murder retrial in a case of misinterpretation of evidence in relation to stabbing to the chest. His opinion has been sought, inter alia, in a number of other murder cases involving putative respired blood spatter evidence.

The key scientific issues of the cases centred on the nature of spattered blood from traumatic injury and mechanisms that might cause blood to be exhaled by a victim, alive or dead, coupled with environmental influences that could cause contamination of an assailant or innocent party.  The research work undertaken to assess these forensic matters, and their acceptance in Court, has fundamentally revised understanding of this key issue relevant to many cases involving blood contamination of suspects.

Denison D, Porter A, Mills M, Schroter RC. Forensic implications of respiratory derived blood spatter distributions. Forensic Science International: 204, 144-155, 2011.

Animal welfare

The original interest in human respiratory mechanics has expanded to include a number of animal science and veterinary research topics, for instance respiratory heat exchange and its link to thermoregulation in large animals, particularly the camel, cow and horse, in their normal working environments. These studies necessitated the development of a range of novel miniature sensor and telemetry systems for operation in hostile environments.

The camel research led to the discovery of the unrecognised, but key, respiration-linked physiological mechanism underlying the thermoregulation central to the survival of a number of arid region dwelling species. The studies, funded by international aid organizations, have contributed to a greater understanding of the capabilities of the working beast, inevitably under conditions of heat stress and dehydration, in marginal farming practice in Third World communities and influenced the establishment of appropriate Government welfare and veterinary management.

The horse research has led to important welfare implications for the horseracing industry and other areas of equestrian competition.  The extensive research programme, funded mainly by the International Equestrian Federation, leading up to the Equestrian 3Day Event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, inter alia, established protocols and strategies for horse care and acclimatisation coupled with competition design and management that are now the agreed standard for the discipline regarding exposure to heat stress with considerable resultant welfare implications throughout the sport.

The cause of lung bleeding, observed  in over 70% of horses after racing, was demonstrated to be the result of locomotory impact trauma and thus a direct consequence of racing and not due to the previously held, but unsubstantiated, belief.  This welfare knowledge, despite some industry resistance, will in time inevitably influence the management of horse racing worldwide.

Research into penguin heart rate response to disturbances when nesting, undertaken in the field in Antarctica, immediately became the basis for protocols agreed by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, and recognised by Greenpeace, for control of Antarctic tourist behaviour.

Schroter RC, Marlin DJ. Modelling the oxygen cost of transport in competitions over ground of variable slope. Equine Veterinary Journal: 34S, 397-401, 2002.

Schroter RC, Marlin DJ, Denny E. Exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH) in horses results from locomotory impact induced trauma – a novel, unifying concept. Equine Veterinary Journal: 30, 186-192, 1998.

Schroter RC, Marlin DJ, Jeffcott LB. Use of the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) Index to quantify environmental heat loads during Three-day-event competitions. Equine Veterinary Journal: 22S, 3-6, 1966.

Schmidt-Nielsen K, Schroter RC, Shkolnik A. Desaturation of exhaled air in camels. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: 211, 305-319, 1981.

British and European standards

In 1990, based on his knowledge of respiratory mechanics and appreciation of related engineering constraints, Prof Schroter was invited to chair a British Compressed Air Society working party on “British industry recommendations and standards for use of compressed air for general industrial, medical and emergency purposes”.  This UK Industry document was then transformed, firstly into a British Standard and finally into the European Standard (“BS EN 12021: Compressed air for breathing apparatus”) through his steerage on the relevant committees (BSI P/4 and CEN TC79).  This standard applies to all suppliers and users of compressed air for breathing from conventional industry to the emergency services.
Recently, due to his unique experience of academic fieldwork in remote places and wide ranging expedition experience, both in the field and as an assessor of ventures for key UK bodies, Prof Schroter was invited to contribute to the work of BSI Technical Panel SVS/002/0-/05 and be a core member of the drafting committee on “BS 8848 - Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK”, published first in 2007 and revised in 2009.  The purpose of the standard is to address the safety of such ventures to minimize the loss of life and injury; it will have major impact on the activities of all sectors of UK society from universities to schools and individuals.

Currently, he is a member of the joint Universities and Colleges Employers Association and Universities Safety and Health Association working group drafting new “Guidance on Safety in Fieldwork in the UK and Overseas”.  The group is tasked with responsibility for outlining the needs for Higher Education Institutions’ to align their policies and procedures with BS 8848.

Curriculum Vitae


Emeritus Professor of Biological Mechanics
and Senior Research Investigator (Personal Chair since 1994)

Dept. of Bioengineering
Imperial College London

Higher education


BSc, Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London


PhD & Diploma of Imperial College (DIC)





2006 - date

Senior Research Investigator: Dept. of Bioengineering, Imperial College

2003 - 2006

Senior Tutor: Dept. of Bioengineering, Imperial College

1996 - 2003

Deputy Head: Dept. of Bioengineering, Imperial College

1991 - 1996

Assistant Director: Dept. for Biological and Medical Systems, Imperial College

1975 - 1991

Assistant Director: Physiological Flow Studies Unit, Imperial College

1994 - date

Personal Chair of Biological Mechanics, University of London and Imperial College

1967 - 1994

Research Fellow: Lecturer, Reader, Physiological Flow Studies Unit, Imperial College

1964 - 1967

Assistant lecturer: Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College





Membership of professional bodies, learned societies and clubs


Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (FAIMBE)


Fellow, Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE)


Fellow, City & Guilds of London Institute (FCGI)


Council of Engineering Institutions Charter (CEng)


Member, Society of Experimental Biology


Member, Physiological Society


Member, Medical Research Society


Fellow, Royal Geographical Society (FRGS)

1964 -

The Arctic Club ( President 2002-03)

1988 -

Freeman, The City of London

1989 -

Liveryman, The Worshipful Company of Engineers


The Athenaeum

1993 -

Geographical Club

1993 -

The Desert Club

1994 -

Fellow, Royal Society of Arts

1997 -

The Antarctic Club



Significant recent professional external appointments and activities

2010 - date:

Advisor - Greek Ministry for Education on enhancing research groups at the Technological Institutes.

2009 - date:

Member of BS ISO committee establishing standard on adventure tourism.

2008 - date:

Member of Universities Safety and Health Association fieldwork safety policy drafting group.

2006 - date:

Member BSI Technical Panel SVS/002/0-/05 and Drafting Committee of BS 8848 & 2009 revision.

1997 - date:

Member and alternate Chairman of City & Guilds of London Institute Senior Awards Committee.

1998 - 2010:

Member of the World Council of Biomechanics.

2002 - 2009:

Member of City & Guilds of London Institute Policy and Strategy Committee.

1996 - 2006:

Member of Executive Committee, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.

1994 - 2006:

Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.

2000 - 2003:

Member UK Space Biomedical Research and Education Advisory Committees.

1998 - 2003:

Member of DERA Scientific Audit Committee, Centre for Human Science.