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Nicholas La Delfa
PhD, MSc, B. Sc. kin (hon)

Associate Professor

Faculty of Health Sciences

Contact information

Science Building - Room B347
North Oshawa
2000 Simcoe Street North
Oshawa, ON L1G 0C5

905.721.8668 ext. 2139

Research topics

  • occupational biomechanics
  • neuromechanics
  • proactive ergonomics
  • neuromuscular fatigue and recovery
  • upper extremity strength prediction
  • digital human modelling and work simulation
  • musculoskeletal modelling

Research and Expertise

  • Background

    Dr. Nicholas La Delfa completed his undergrad and graduate studies at McMaster University with a focus in occupational biomechanics and ergonomics. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Waterloo in the areas of clinical and occupational shoulder biomechanics. He started his faculty appointment at Ontario Tech University in 2017, and is the director of the Occupational Neuromechanics & Ergonomics Laboratory (

    Research Interests:

    Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) cause tremendous pain and suffering to workers, but also place financial strain on our industry and healthcare systems. The study of ergonomics aims to mitigate WMSDs through the reduction of common risk factors linked to musculoskeletal injury, including poor posture, high repetition and excessive forces. Ergonomics has traditionally been a reactive discipline, where changes to a workplace are often implemented after an injury has occurred. In a proactive ergonomics process, digital human models (DHMs), or virtual human avatars, can be inserted into computer-aided design & manufacturing (CAD/CAM) simulations of the workplace, allowing engineers & ergonomists to analyze the feasibility and safety of work task elements and product designs before they ever exist in reality.

    Proactive work simulation represents a cost-effective approach to minimize injury-related expenses late in the production cycle, but the ergonomics tools within DHMs are currently restricted by a lack of fundamental knowledge on occupationally relevant human capability and function. As such, the long-term goal of my research program is to reduce costly work-related musculoskeletal injuries, primarily through the enhancement of ergonomics strength and fatigue assessment tools within DHM work simulation. To achieve this goal, I organize my research into four predominant themes/objectives:

    1. Human Strength Capability
    2. Neuromuscular & mental fatigue
    3. Digital Human Modeling in proactive task analysis
    4. Applied Ergonomics Research (e.g. dental hygiene, office ergonomics, exoskeletons, etc.)
  • Publications

    For a comprehensive list of publications, please visit Research Gate or Google Scholar.


    • Watterworth, M.W.B., Wakeely, F., Fitzgerald, S.A., La Delfa, N.J. The effect of handedness on upper extremity isometric strength symmetry. Applied Ergonomics, 114: 104133. 2024.


    • Watterworth, M., Dharmaputra, R., Porto, R., Cort, J., La Delfa, N.J. Equations for estimating the supportive torque provided by upper-limb exoskeletons. Applied Ergonomics, 113: 104092. 2023.


    • Jenkins M., O’Rourke N, Lustosa L, LaDelfa N.J., Dogra S. Self-Selected Pedal-Assist E-bike Use in Older Adults is Moderate-Vigorous Intensity. Journal of Transport and Health. 31: 101647. 2023.


    • Campbell, D., Murphy, B., Burkitt, J., La Delfa, N.J., Sanmugananthan, P. & Yielder, P. Cervico-Ocular and Vestibulo-Ocular Reflexes in Subclinical Neck Pain and Healthy Individuals: A Cross-Sectional Study. Brain Sciences, 13(11): 1603. 2023.


    • Ambalavanar, U., La Delfa, N.J., McCracken, H., Zabihhosseinian, M., Yielder, P., Murphy, B.A. Differential changes in somatosensory evoked potentials and motor performance: Pursuit movement tasks versus force-matching tracking tasks. Journal of Neurophysiology, 128 (6):1453-1465. 2023.


    • La Delfa, N.J., Whittaker, R.W., Lockley, R., Fournier, D., Dickerson, C.R. The sensitivity of shoulder muscle fatigue to vertical hand location during complex manual force exertions. Accepted in International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. 2022


    • Russell, M., La Delfa, N.J., Murphy, B. The effect of neck muscle fatigue on shoulder humeral rotation joint position sense. Journal of Electromyography & Kinesiology, 59 (102554). 2021.


    • Hall, A.D., La Delfa, N.J., Loma, C.M., Potvin, J.R. What is the validity of linear arm strength estimates from the 3DSSPP software? Applied Ergonomics, 94(103415). 2021.


    • Bulbrook, B., La Delfa, N.J., MacDonald, A., Liang, C., Callaghan, J.P., Dickerson, C.R. Higher body mass index and body fat percentage correlate to lower joint and functional strength in working age adults. Applied Ergonomics, 95(103453). 2021.


    • Cregg, A., Foley, C.A., Livingston, L., La Delfa, NJ. A biomechanical evaluation of different footrest heights during standing computer work. Ergonomics, 64(3): 342-353. 2021.


    • La Delfa, N.J., Kunasegaram, A., Whittaker, R.L., Dickerson, C.R. Upper extremity muscular exposures using a manual pill crushing device. Applied Ergonomics, 90: 103275. 2021.


    • DeBoon, B. Foley C.A., Nokleby, S., La Delfa, N.J., Rossa, C. Nine Degree-of-Freedom Kinematic Modelling of the Upper Limb Complex for Constrained Workplace Evaluation. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 143(2): 021009. 2021.


    • Abdel-Malek D, Wakeely F, Foley C.A., Graham JD, La Delfa N.J. Calibrating ratings of perceived fatigue relative to objective measures of localized muscle fatigue using a feedback-based familiarization protocol. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 2020.


    Abdel-Malek D, Foley R.C.A., Wakeely F, Graham JD, La Delfa N.J. Exploring localized muscle fatigue responses at current upper extremity ergonomics threshold limit values. Human Factors: August 2020.
  • Research Collaborators
    • Dr. Joel Cort (University of Windsor)
    • Dr. Bernadette Murphy (Faculty of Health Sciences, Ontario Tech University)
    • Dr. Jim Potvin (Faculty of Science, McMaster University)
    • Dr. Clark Dickerson (Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Waterloo)
    • Dr. Michael Holmes (Brock University)
    • General Motors
  • Courses Taught


    KINE 2040 – Biomechanics
    KINE 4475 – Occupational Ergonomics
    KINE 4476 – Clinical Biomechanics
    KINE 4478 – Advanced Ergonomics & Human Factors


    HLSC 5322G – Theory & Application of Biomedical Signals

  • Graduate Student Research

    Doctoral Students:

    • Ryan Foley
    • Michael Watterworth


    Masters Students:

    • Adam Murphy
    • William Auray
    • Ryuta Dharmaputra
    • Benjamin Allen
  • Grants
    • NSERC Research Tools & Instruments ($68,638). A high-density electromyography system for non-invasive functional motor unit characterization. Role: Principle Investigator. (Co-applicant: Bernadette Murphy).


    • CRE-MSD Seed Grant ($12,500). Project Title: Computational and experimental evaluation of exertion/rest order effects on muscle fatigue development during complex repetitive work. Role: Co-investigator (Principle applicant: Ryan Foley). 2022.


    • Mitacs Accelerate ($60,000). Project Title: Upper limb exoskeleton performance during fatiguing overhead work tasks. Role: Principle investigator/Academic supervisor. 2022.


    • Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI-JELF) ($400,153). Project Title: Climactic Human Factors and Performance Laboratory. Role: Co-applicant. (Principal applicant: Heather Sprenger).


    • CRE-MSD Seed Grant ($10,000). Project Title: Refining acceptable manual force prediction in digital human models: The effect of handedness on upper extremity strength. Role: Principle Investigator (co-investigators: Fahima Wakeely, Ryan Foley). 2021.


    • NSERC Discovery Grant ($240,000). Project Title: Advancing digital human modeling and work simulation methods for proactive ergonomics assessments. Role: Principle Investigator. 2020.


    • NSERC Accelerator Supplement ($120,000). Project Title: Advancing digital human modeling and work simulation methods for proactive ergonomics assessments. Role: Principle Investigator. 2020.


    • NSERC Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500). Project Title: Advancing digital human modeling and work simulation methods for proactive ergonomics assessments. Role: Principle Investigator. 2020.


    • CRE-MSD Seed Grant ($10,000). Project Title: Neuromechanical response to repetitive workloads relative to current upper extremity ergonomics thresholds. Role: Principle Investigator (co-investigator: Daniel Abdel-Malek). 2018


    • CRE-MSD Seed Grant ($9,500). Project Title: Assessing upper extremity muscular demands while operating a pill crushing device: Towards best practices. Role: Principle Investigator (co-investigators: Archana Kunasegaram & Dr. Clark Dickerson). 2016


    • CRE-MSD Seed Grant ($7,600). Project Title: Improving the prediction of wrist and elbow strength based on distal upper extremity posture. Role: Principle Investigator (co-investigators: Dr. Jim Potvin). 2014.
  • Education
    • Post-Doctoral Fellowship: Shoulder Biomechanics (University of Waterloo)
    • PhD: Occupational Biomechanics (McMaster University)
    • MSc: Biomechanics (McMaster University)
    • B.Sc.kin: Kinesiology (Honours) (McMaster University)