UCL Division of Biosciences

Dr Laura Porro

Dr Laura Porro


Cell & Developmental Biology

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2018

Research summary

I am interested in evolutionary biomechanics and functional morphology. My research investigates the link between animal form, function, and large-scale evolutionary events such as mass extinctions, the radiation and diversification of groups, and environmental changes.

I use a combination of techniques, including medical imaging (especially micro-CT scanning), 3D visualization, and biomechanical modelling techniques such as finite element analysis and musculoskeletal/dynamic modelling. Additionally, I collect data from living animals including high-speed and x-ray video, XROMM, bite and footfall forces, muscle activity, and bone strain. I am also interested in the properties of biological materials, including bone and soft tissues.

I work across a range of vertebrates, including fish, early tetrapods, amphibians, reptiles and birds, my work encompassing both living and fossil animals.

In addition to a wide network of collaborators in the United Kingdom, I also work with colleagues in the USA, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and across Europe. In recent years, my work has been supported by NERC, Marie Curie, and Wellcome.

Teaching summary

I am lecturer for the UCL Medical School, primarily for the second year Movement and Musculoskeletal Biology module. I teach in additional anatomy courses within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, such as ANAT0001 and ANAT0004.


FHEA, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education | 2019
University of Cambridge
PhD, Palaeobiology | 2010
University of Illinois at Chicago
BSc, Biological Sciences | 2004
University of Illinois at Chicago
BSc, Earth Science | 2004


I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where I completed BSc degrees in Biological Sciences and Earth and Environmental Sciences, supervised by Roy Plotnick. In 2004, I received a Gates Cambridge Scholarship allowing me to pursue my PhD in Earth Sciences under the supervision of David Norman and Emily Rayfield. I used anatomy, biomechanical modelling, and tooth wear to understand feeding mechanism and diet in the earliest dinosaurs. From 2008 - 2012, I conducted research and taught human anatomy at the University of Chicago, working with Callum Ross to understand feeding in lizards and crocodilians using in vivo experiments and finite element modelling. I returned to the UK as Marie Curie Fellow, working at the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge with Jennifer Clack to model function in the tetrapod lower jaw across the water-land transition. I then worked for three years with Chris Richards at the Royal Veterinary College looking at the evolution of locomotion in frogs before briefly returning to Bristol as a Senior Research Associate. I joined UCL and the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology as a lecturer in anatomy in 2018.