Position: Engineering and biomechanics tutor, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).
Field: Sports engineering, track cycling aerodynamics, aerodynamics of high-performance sports, biomechanics.
Lindsey Underwood (also known as Lindsey Alton) moved from the UK to New Zealand in 2008 to begin her PhD in mechanical engineering (track cycling aerodynamics) at Canterbury University. She now works at CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) and also helps some of New Zealand’s top cyclists prepare for major international competitions. Her work combines both her passion for sport and engineering.
Lindsey grew up just south of Birmingham, UK. She loved physics and mathematics at school and went on to the University of Birmingham where she completed a master’s degree studying mechanical engineering and business management.
Lindsey’s passion for sports and the opportunity to come to New Zealand to do a PhD in sports engineering made her follow the sports engineering route.
She’d also heard how beautiful the country was and how many opportunities there were for people like her who enjoy sports and the outdoors.
One of the aims of Lindsey’s PhD was to look at optimal positions and equipment for cyclists to reduce their aerodynamic drag. She also developed a model to predict finishing times for track cyclists so that they can work out the ideal power strategy to win races.
In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Scholarship to work with BikeNZ to help some of New Zealand’s top cyclists prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games, and she visited the impressive wind tunnel facilities at the San Diego Air and Space Technology Centre.
I think scientists everywhere are pretty much the same – they are passionate about finding out how and why things work and will not stop until that problem is solved.
What impresses Lindsey most about New Zealand is that there is so much to do within such a small distance, and she says the laid-back attitude to life here suits her.
Lindsey loves tramping and tries to go somewhere most weekends. She has been rock climbing since December 2009 and also enjoys running.
She plays squash in the winter and has converted herself from a snowboarder to a skier so she go back-country skiing.
Lindsey isn’t really a cyclist as such, but she enjoys cycling around Christchurch as her preferred means of transport. She enjoys mountain biking when she gets time, but she has only been on a track bike in a velodrome once when the New Zealand track coaches made her have a turn, which she enjoyed.
In the future, Lindsey thinks she would like to be a test engineer for outdoor equipment and/or high-speed sports equipment in general.
One of Lindsey's current projects is working on determining the physical demands of kī-o-rahi, a fast-paced traditional Māori ball game. GPS units and heart rate monitors are being used to collect data on players’ heart rates, distance and speeds to analyse their movement patterns to help establish successful performance profiles for the game. The goal is to assist coaches and players to implement appropriate training strategies for competition.
This article was updated in September 2014.
In this issue of Connected, Beating the wind is about cycling aerodynamics and features both Lindsey Underwood and Science Learning Hub resources.