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Personal profile

Research Interests

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

Professional Information

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

Honors & 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


National Science Foundation. BCS-0925734 Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: Morphological Integration and Evolution in the Hominoid Vertebral Column
National Science Foundation: BCS 0639630: Comparative analyses of femoral subchondral bone density in Primates
National Science Foundation: CMMI 0727083 Quantitative Characterization of Complex Motion Patterns Using Shape-based and Multivariate Techniques
National Science Foundation: BCS 0962903. Integration and evolution of human and non-human primate postcranial morphology
Polk JD and Carlson K. Lower limb posture in Australopithecus sediba and extant apes. Leakey Foundation. $5000
Polk JD (2014). Reconstructing posture and locomotion in early human ancestors. UIUC Research Board. $14000.
Polk JD and McCoy A. (2017) University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Campus Research Board Ontogenetic changes in limb biomechanics and gait in horses. $20000. 03/13/2017 – 08/13/2018.
Polk JD and Kersh M. (2017) Reconstructing individual posture and movement patterns from subchondral and trabecular structure. National Science Foundation Biological Anthropology Program $440872. 02/01/2017-01/31/2020.


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

Office Address

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

Office Phone


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