John David Polk PhD

 John Polk

Contact Information

Department of Anthropology
607 S Mathews Ave.
M/C 148
Urbana, IL 61801
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Research Interests

  • Biomechanics of locomotion
  • Exercise and neurobiology
  • Brain evolution
  • Functional morphology
  • Human anatomy and variation
  • Human and primate evolution

Research Description

My research focuses on human locomotor biomechanics, with particular interest in relating locomotor behaviour to brain size and development and skeletal morphology in humans, nonhuman primates and other mammalian model organisms. My research contributes to a better understanding of the evolution and development of human locomotor function and the neurological, skeletal, physiological and adaptive implications of evolutionarily important changes in locomotor behavior (i.e., bipedal walking, endurance running).


  • PhD 2001 Stony Brook University
  • MA 1997 Stony Brook University
  • BSc 1993 University of Toronto

Distinctions / Awards

  • Mildred and Herbert Weisinger Dissertation Fellowship, Stony Brook University 2000
  • Outstanding Student Choice for Anthropological Recognition (OSCAR) 2010 for support of undergraduate research
  • University of Illinois, list of teachers ranked as excellent by their students: 2007, 2008, 2010
  • University Teaching Fellowship, Stony Brook University 1998-2000



  • ANTH 102 Human Origins and Culture
  • ANTH 240 Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 347 Human Osteology
  • ANTH 408 Human Evolutionary Anatomy
  • ANTH 440 Human Paleontology
  • ANTH 444 Methods in Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 445 Research in Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 446 Behavioral Inference and Fossils
  • BMS 622 Gross Anatomy

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Polk, John D, B Demes, WL Jungers, RE Heinrich, AR Biknevicius, and JA Runestad A comparison of primate, carnivoran and rodent limb bone cross-sectional properties: Are primates really unique? Journal of Human Evolution 39 2000, p. 297-325.
Polk, John D Adaptive and phylogenetic influences on musculoskeletal design in cercopithecine primates Journal of Experimental Biology 205 2002, p. 3399-3412.
Lieberman, DE, OM Pearson, John D Polk, B Demes, and AW Crompton Optimization of bone growth and remodeling in response to loading in tapered mammalian limbs Journal of Experimental Biology 206 2003, p. 3125-3138.
Lieberman, DE, John D Polk, and B Demes Predicting long bone loading from cross-sectional geometry American Journal of Physical Anthropology 123 2004, p. 156-171.
Polk, John D The influence of body size and limb proportions on joint posture in terrestrial monkeys and fossil hominins Journal of Human Evolution 47 2004, p. 237-252.
Polk, John D, SP Psutka, and B Demes Sampling frequencies an measurement error in primate gait studies Journal of Human Evolution 49 2005, p. 665-679.
Pontzer, H, DE Lieberman, E Momin, MJ Devlin, John D Polk, B Hallgrimsson, and DML Cooper Trabecular bone in the bird knee responds with high sensitivity to changes in load orientation Journal of Experimental Biology 209 2006, p. 57-65.
Hanna, JB, John D Polk, and D Schmitt Forelimb and hindlimb forces in walking and galloping primates American Journal of Physical Anthropology 130 2006, p. 529-535.
Polk, John D, J Spencer-Smith, L DiBerardino, D Ellis, M Downen, and KS Rosengren Quantifying Phase Portraits: Application to Gait Ontogeny Infant Behavior and Development 31 2008, p. 302-306.
Polk, John D, J Blumenfeld, and K Ahluwalia Knee posture predicted from subchondral apparent density in the distal femur: An experimental validation The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 291 2008, p. 293-302.
Shorter, KA, John D Polk, KS Rosengren, and ET Hsiao-Wecksler A new approach to detecting asymmetries in gait Clinical Biomechanics 23 2008, p. 459-467.
Rosengren, KS, FJA Deconinck, LA DiBerardino, John D Polk, J Spencer-Smith, M Lenoir, and D DeClercq Differences in gait complexity and variability between children with and without developmental coordination disorder Gait and Posture 29 2009, p. 225-229.
Polk, John D, SA Williams, and J Peterson Primate joint posture inferred from subchondral bone density American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140 2009, p. 359-367.
Patel, BA, and John D Polk Distal forelimb kinematics in patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) and olive baboons (Papio anubis) during walking and galloping International Journal of Primatology 31 2010, p. 191-208.
DiBerardino III, LA, John D Polk, KS Rosengren, JB Spencer-Smith, and ET Hsiao-Wecksler Quantifying complexity and variability in phase portraits Clinical Biomechanics 25 2010, p. 552-556.
Polk, John D, SA Williams, JV Peterson, CC Roseman, and LR Godfrey Subcondral bone apparent density and loco moor behavior in extant primates and sub fossil lemurs. International Journal of Primatology 31 2010, p. 275-299.
Hsiao-Wecksler, ET, John D Polk, KS Rosengren, JJ Sosnoff, and S Hong A review of new analytic techniques for quantifying symmetry in locomotion Symmetry 2 2010, p. 1135-1155.
Grabowski, MW, John D Polk, and CC Roseman Divergent patterns of integration and reduced constrain in the human hip and the origins of bipedalism Evolution 65 2011, p. 1336-1356.
Helwig, NE, S Hong, ET Hsiao-Wecksler, and John D Polk Methods to temporally align gait cycle data Journal of Biomechanics 44 2011, p. 561-566.
Helwig, NE, John D Polk, and S Hong Parallel factor analysis of gait waveform data: multimode extension of Principal Component Analysis Human Movement Science 2012.