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Melissa Gross

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, School of Kinesiology
Associate Professor, Stamps School of Art & Design



Curriculum Vitae
  • Ph.D. (Kinesiology), University of California-Los Angeles, 1984
  • M.S. (Kinesiology), University of California-Los Angeles, 1979
  • B.A. (Dance), University of Colorado-Boulder, 1976

Melissa Gross is a biomechanist interested in musculoskeletal structure and emergent movement behavior. Her interests are broad and interdisciplinary. She has collaborated with scientists in geriatrics and epidemiology to investigate the effects of exercise programs on functional ability in the elderly and the onset of functional decline in mid-aged women. She has also conducted studies ranging from the role of the spinal cord in controlling rhythmic limb movements in the cat to the effect of pelvic morphology on locomotor behavior in Neandertals.

Currently, she directs the Movement Dynamics Lab in the School of Kinesiology where she and her students are investigating the effect of emotion on body movements. The research in her lab aims to understand how human movement patterns are changed in characteristic ways when different emotions are expressed. People can easily detect the emotion that another person is feeling by observing their body movements. What, exactly, makes a sad movement look sad? Gross uses motion capture and kinematic analysis to characterize how emotions affect movements in specific, recognizable ways. By combining biomechanical and psychological methods, her studies provide the basis for a new understanding of the relationship between emotional experience and body movements.

Gross has collaborated with faculty and students in the School of Art & Design to investigate the relationship between body representation and the perception of affect. How life-like does an animated character need to be so that emotional expression can be recognized in the character’s movement? This question has motivated collaborative research studies with A&D faculty and students and the creation of an interdisciplinary course that integrates motion capture technology with character animation.

Before joining the University of Michigan faculty, Melissa Gross held a Research Scientist position at the Rehabilitation Research and Development Center at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA.