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Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

5th Edition

Finite Element Analysis Applied to Life Sciences

July 3rd-8th, 2017, Barcelona (Spain)

Finite Element Analysis Applied to Life Sciences

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a great tool for biologists, palaeontologists, doctors, veterinarians, and other life sciences specialities in which researchers face questions about biomechanics of living and extinct organisms. Elements like bone, arthropod exoskeleton, mollusc shells, or the stems and leaves of plants can be analysed using this technique.

FEA is a non-invasive modelling technique, based on the principle of dividing a system into a finite number of discrete elements where the equations are applied. Although static and dynamic analysis can be solved using FEA, in this course only static analysis will be covered.

In this course, there will be an introduction to the Finite Element in order to model biological structures and understand how they worked. It will cover all the steps involved in FEA (for static analysis) except the creation or reconstruction of the model, which will be covered in the previous course Introduction to 3D Imaging Technologies: Photogrammetry, Laser, CT-scan and (µ)CT-scan for Life Sciences.

After the theoretical introduction we will build and analyse 2D and 3D finite element models of skeletal elements and deepen on the methods and software’s required to perform FEA. Key questions as mesh size, boundary conditions, applied forces, scaling and numerical singularities will be thoroughly addressed.


Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP)

C/ de l’Escola Industrial, 23
08201 Sabadell, Barcelona (Spain)

How to get there




48 hours on-site.

This course is equivalent to 3 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.


Places are limited to 16 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.


Josep Fortuny instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Josep Fortuny
Institut Català de Paleontologia M. C. / Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle
Spain / France

Jordi Marcé-Nogué instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué
Universität Hamburg

Michael Berthaume instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Michael Berthaume
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


Ana Rosa Gómez-Cano coordinator at Transmitting Science

Dr. Ana Rosa Gómez-Cano
Transmitting Science

Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno instructor at Transmitting Science

Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno
Transmitting Science


Graduate or postgraduate degree in any Life Sciences discipline. Familiarity with 3D virtual model generation, as the starting point of the course will be with the model already built. If you do not know how to create and generate a 3D model to take the previous course Introduction to 3D Imaging Technologies: Photogrammetry, Laser, CT-scan and (µ)CT-scan for Life Sciences is recommended.

Participants will be required to bring their own personal laptop with the following minimum requirements: Windows, 4 GB RAM, 1 GB memory dedicated to the graphic card, 20 GB of hard disk space available. If you wish to attend but do not have access to a laptop which meets these specifications, please contact the course coordinators.


Monday, July 3rd, 2017. Dr. Josep Fortuny and Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

  • An introduction to the use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA):
    • Mathematical model, features and practical procedure.
  • Basic continuum mechanics:
    • Stress, displacements, strain, constitutive equations.
    • Failure criteria in elastic materials.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017. Dr. Josep Fortuny and Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

  • Theoretical approach to Meshing:
    • Types of mesh.
    • Mesh generation.
    • How to evaluate a mesh (quality and reliability).
    • Recommendations for a good practice.
  • Defining Material Properties:
    • Biomechanical properties of the bones to be used in FEA.
    • Considerations for non-lineal materials to understand the modelling of soft tissues.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017. Dr. Josep Fortuny and Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

  • 2D Plane models reconstruction:
    • Steps for 2D models generation: Image, digitized images (XY coordinates), generation of point cloud and obtaining the 2D model.
    • Finite Element Analysis of simplified two-dimensional plane models of biological structures: Definition and characteristics of plane models.
  • Comparative Analysis:
    • Correcting by size differences: Quasi-homotethic transformation.
    • Quantitaive analysis of FEA data.
    • Examples of combining FEA data with other techniques (Geometric Morphometrics).

Thursday, July 6th, 2017. Dr. Josep Fortuny and Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

  • 3D models:
    • Keys in pre-process and post process: Getting the model ready for analysis.
    • 3D Finite Element Mesh Techniques.
    • Assignment of boundary conditions, defining material properties.
    • Boundary conditions in 3D models (muscles, muscular insertions and analogues).
    • Interpreting results.
    • Alligator jaw: Biological Implications. Interpretation of the results.

Friday, July 7th, 2017. Dr. Josep Fortuny and Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

  • Working with your own data.

Saturday, July 8th, 2017. Dr. Michael Berthaume.

  • Model analysis:
    • Interpreting forces, displacements, stresses, strains, and energies.
    • Comparing stress and strain magnitudes and distributions.
  • Geometric morphometrics (GM) and finite element analysis:
    • Using GM to pick sample.
    • Relating shape to performance.
    • Using GM to quantify results.


  • Rayfield EJ (2007) Finite Element Analysis and Understanding the Biomechanics and Evolution of Living and Fossil Organisms. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 35 (1): 541-576.
  • Kupczik K (2008) Virtual biomechanics basic concepts and technical aspects of finite element analysis in vertebrate morphology. Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 86: 193-198.
  • Moazen M, Curtis N, O’Higgins P, Jones MEH, Evans SE, Fagan MJ (2009) Assessment of the role of sutures in a lizard skull a computer modelling study. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276: 39-46.
  • Dumont ER, Grosse IR, Slater GJ (2009) Requirements for comparing the performance of finite element models of biological structures. Journal of theoretical biology, 256 (1): 96-103.
  • Fletcher TM, Janis CM, Rayfield EJ (2010) Finite Element Analysis of Ungulate Jaws: Can mode of digestive physiology be determined? Palaeontologica Electronia, 13 (3).
  • Marcé-Nogué J, Fortuny J, Gil L, Galobart A (2011) Using Reverse Engineering to Reconstruct Tetrapod Skulls and Analyse its Feeding Behaviour, in Topping BHV, Tsompanakis Y, eds. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference on Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Computing. Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, United Kingdom, Paper 237 (pp. 1-12).
  • Bright JA, Rayfield EJ (2011) The response of cranial biomechanical finite element models to variations in mesh density. The Anatomical Record, 294: 610-620.
  • Fortuny J, Marcé-Nogué J, De Esteban S, Gil LL, Galobart A (2011) Temnospondyli bite club: Ecomorphological patterns of the most diverse group of early tetrapods. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 24 (9): 2040-2054.
  • Fortuny J, Marcé-Nogué J, Gil LL, Galobart A (2012) Skull Mechanics and the Evolutionary Patterns of the Otic Notch Closure in Capitosaurs (Amphibia: Temnospondyli). The Anatomical Record, 295 (7): 1134-1146.
  • Lee HH (2012) Finite Element Simulations with ANSYS Workbench 14, SDC Publications.
  • Lawrence KL (2012) ANSYS Workbench Tutorial Release 14, SDC Publications.
  • Marcé-Nogué J, DeMiguel D, Fortuny J, De Esteban-Trivigno S, GIl L (2013) Quasi-homothetic transformation for comparing the mechanical performance of planar models in biological research. Palaeontologia Electronica, 16: 15p. http://palaeo-electronica.org/content/2013/468-quasihomothetic-transformation.


  • Reddy JN, An Introduction to Continuum Mechanics, Texas A & M University.
  • Morris A, A Practical Guide to Reliable Finite Element Modelling, John Wiley & Sons.


You will find below some testimonials from former participants to previous editions of this course:

Safiyyah Iqbal

“The course was intense but very well organized and allowed for an enjoyable experience that was worth every moment. The venue provided a wonderful atmosphere. It truly was an amazing experience meeting Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno, Dr. Jordi Marcé-Norgué and Dr. Josep Fortuny, as well as interacting and making new friends with the other students. It was a great week filled with many memories that I can honestly say that I would definitely do another course in future.” (4th Edition)

Safiyyah IqbalUniversity of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Janina Dynowski

“The FEA courses give an elementary introduction to this complex and interdisciplinary research field, and offer the possibility to learn to use sophisticated software under instruction (in a very pleasant atmosphere), which is always much easier than doing it by oneself. The courses are also a good opportunity to meet students working on related topics, who often face similar problems – a perfect basis to find solutions together and get into contact with (future) colleagues from around the world. Furthermore, the attendance of the FEA courses was really helpful for me because I met experienced instructors and had the chance to discuss my projects and optimize my work flow.” (1st Edition)

Janina DynowskiStaatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart, Germany
Marta Pina

“A really useful course! Everything explained by the instructors is also practiced during the classes so you can apply it afterwards for your own data. Moreover, the instructors are always willing to answer any question you have about the lessons and about how to build and process your models. The organization of the course is also an additional point because you don’t need to be worried about anything (technically and personally).” (1st Edition)

Marta PinaInstitut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), Spain


  • Course Fee
  • Early bird (until March 31st, 2017):
  • 695
  • Regular (after March 31st, 2017):
  • 975
  • This includes course material, coffee breaks and lunches.
    (VAT included)

We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact the course coordinators).


The course will take place in the city of Sabadell, Barcelona (Spain). Take a look at the venue.

You may stay in Barcelona city or Sabadell. You will find information about Hotels and Hostel in Sabadell here. It takes about 45 minutes by public transport to arrive to Sabadell from the centre of Barcelona city. The place of the course is about 15 minutes walking from the train stop.


Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

Unfortunately there are no scholarships available for this course. However a 20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Organizations with discount). If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Discounts are not cumulative.


Course Schedule
Monday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 8th, 20179:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
13:30 to 15:00 Lunch.
15:00 to 19:00 Lessons.

There will be two coffee breaks each day, halfway through each lesson session.

The schedule is approximate; it is possible that the content of one day may run into the next and a working day may be longer than advertised.


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