Professor Robert Full
My primary interests reside in the area of comparative biomechanics and physiology. My research program quantifies whole animal performance in general and locomotion in particular as it relates to an animal’s structure, physiology, and behavior. We use biomechanical, computer simulation (dynamic musculo-skeletal modeling), physical modeling (robot and artificial muscle construction), isolated muscle, biochemical, whole-animal exercise physiology and field-tracking techniques to seek general design principles for species which have evolved different solutions to the problems of locomotion and activity in general. The study of arthropod, amphibian and reptilian locomotion continues to offer an excellent opportunity for comparison. Animals such as crabs, cockroaches, ants, beetles, scorpions, centipedes, geckos and salamanders show tremendous variation in body shape, gas transport system, leg number, musculoskeletal arrangement and mode of movement. Diversity enables discovery. We use these “novel” biological designs as natural experiments to probe for basic themes concerning the relationship between morphology, body size, energetics, dynamics, control, stability, maneuverability, maximum speed and endurance. An understanding of the diverse biological solutions to the problems of locomotion contributes to the development of a general theory of energetics, neuro-mechanics and behavior. We collaborate closely with engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists by providing biological principles to inspire the design of multi-legged robots, artificial limbs and muscles, novel control algorithms, and self-cleaning, dry adhesives.
Professor Mimi Koehl
I study the physics of how organisms interact with their environments. My goal is to elucidate basic physical rules that can be applied to different kinds of organisms about how body structure affects mechanical function in nature. I combine techniques from fluid and solid mechanics with those from biology to do experiments in the field as well as in the laboratory. Using both organisms and physical models, I have studied a variety of problems: the fluid dynamics of how molecules are captured by olfactory antennae and how food particles are filtered from the water by aquatic animals, the mechanisms by which bottom-dwelling marine organisms withstand waves and currents, the evolution of aerodynamic performance in insects and gliding vertebrates, the dispersal of chemical cues and of larvae in turbulent aquatic habitats, and the mechanics of how shape changes are produced in soft-bodied animals and developing embryos. I investigate structure and function on several levels of organization: tissue, organismal, and environmental. I place a strong emphasis on field work as well as on laboratory experimentation.
Professor Robert Dudley
My research focuses on the biomechanics, energetics, and evolution of animal flight, particularly in insects and hummingbirds. Flight mechanisms are investigated with high-speed three-dimensional videography, metabolic measurements, and experimental manipulations using physically-variable gas mixtures. One current interest is to describe hummingbird flight maneuverability and the dynamic regulation of three-dimensional force vectors. Laboratory studies of flight biomechanics are complemented by fieldwork at varied sites around the planet, focusing particularly on the ecophysiology of butterfly migrations in Panama and the biomechanical correlates of butterfly behavioral mimicry. Additional projects include the evolution of gliding in Southeast Asian flying lizards, hummingbird flight performance across elevational gradients in Peru, and the paleophysiology of arthropod gigantism. Research students are encouraged to ask idiosyncratic biomechanical and ecophysiological questions to which a diversity of technological and phylogenetic approaches available in the lab may be applied.