Dr. Rachel Olson

Dr. Rachel Olson

Title: Assistant Professor
Dept/Program: Biology
Phone: 330-972-4342
Fax: 330-972-8445
Email: rolson@uakron.edu


Dr. Rachel Olson's research program centers around 1) exploring the biomechanics of musculoskeletal systems, 2) interpreting form and function within an evolutionary framework, and 3) addressing biomedical problems using bioinspired approaches. To accomplish this, she applies a broad range of in vivo, comparative, and computational methods, using a diversity of animal models.

The tongue is particularly interesting because of its unique anatomical and functional characteristics and its participation in a wide variety of tasks. For example, it is only partially reliant on an external skeletal support system and has no internal bony skeleton, yet it can perform highly complex movements and deformations contributing to a range of oral behaviors, from feeding to vocalizations. Furthermore, as a muscular hydrostat, deformation of the tongue in one dimension is compensated for in others without major changes in volume. Historically, these movements and deformations have been hard to quantify in vivo, however modern methods now make this possible. To test hypotheses about diet and tongue kinematics, Dr. Olson has taken an experimental and anatomical comparative approach that captures the high diversity in tongue morphology across mammals. Experimentally, she uses marker-based X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (XROMM) to reconstruct the 3D movements of the tongue and jaw accurately and precisely in 3D space.

Research Interests

Biomechanics of feeding, soft-tissue biomechanics, muscular hydrostats, anatomy


Olson RA, Montuelle SJ, Curtis H, Williams SH. (2021). Regional tongue deformations during chewing and drinking in the pig. Integr Org Biol 3:obab012. https://doi.org/10.1093/iob/obab012

Olson RA, Montuelle SJ, Chadwell BA, Curtis H, Williams SH. (2021). Jaw kinematics and tongue protraction-retraction during chewing and drinking in the pig. J Exp Biol 224:jeb239509. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.239509

Montuelle SJ, Olson RA, Beery SM, Curtis H, Williams SH. 2020. Effects of food properties on chewing in pigs: flexibility and stereotypy of jaw movements in a mammalian omnivore. PLOS One https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228619

Montuelle SJ, Olson RA, Curtis H, Williams SH. 2020. Unilateral lingual nerve transection alters tongue-jaw coordination during mastication in pigs. J Appl Physiol 128:941-951. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00398.2019

Montuelle SJ, Olson RA, Curtis H, Sidote J, Williams SH. 2019. The effects of unilateral lingual nerve injury on the kinematics of mastication in pigs. Arch Oral Biol 98:226-237. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2018.11.024

Montuelle SJ, Olson RA, Curtis H, Sidote J, Williams SH. 2018. Flexibility of feeding movements in pigs: effects of changes in food toughness and stiffness on the timing of jaw movements. J Exp Biol https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.168088

Olson RA, Glenn ZD, Cliffe RN, Butcher MT. 2017. Architectural properties of sloth forelimb muscles (Pilosa: Bradypodidae). J Mammal Evol 25:573-588. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-017-9411-z

Olson RA, Womble MD, Thomas DR, Glenn ZD, Butcher MT. 2016. Functional morphology of the forelimb of the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus): comparative perspectives on the myology of Dasypodidae. J Mammal Evol 23:49-69. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-015-9299-4