Her research primarily focuses on the functional anatomy of extinctvertebrates, especially dinosaurs, using computational methods such as finite element analysis (FEA). In the landmark paper Rayfield et al. (2001), the skull of the theropod dinosaurAllosaurus was analysed using FEA in order to quantitatively assess different feeding hyoptheses. This paper was the first use of FEA on a three-dimensional structure in palaeontology (in collaboration with CT scanning), and spurred the current trend of CT-scanned skull FEA on feeding biomechanics in zoology and palaeontology.
In addition, she helped elucidate the cranial biomechanics of the noted carnivorous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus using two-dimensional FEA. This study was expanded upon in a comparative finite element analysis of 2D theropod skulls (namely AllosaurusCoelophysis and Tyrannosaurus), in order to quantitately compare cranial biomechanics.