Bio-Inspired Engineering


Bio-Inspired Engineering covers a range of topics where we seek to understand biological systems, either because they are intrinsically interesting or important (the spread of cancer cells), or because the quantitative understanding and modeling might be extended to human-designed systems (small-scale flying devices). A number of faculty work on problems of this kind, many motivated by asking questions of the form: ‘what is the simplest possible model that can explain XXX?’ Very often, the construction and invention of this model yields insight into what the most important natural mechanisms are.

Following the faculty links and research pages, you will find examples of flexible structure/fluid interactions (sea-grass with the ocean, cilia with lung fluid), with transport systems (robotic flies, small wing aerodynamics and control, wheel-chair vibrations, dynamics and control), with medical applications (mathematical modeling of metastatic cells in the human body, cardiac rhythms and wave impedance in normal and at-risk patients, fluid transport in the human eye) and with basic dynamical systems models (stability and instability in hovering, minimal fish locomotion).

The AME department has strong and developing ties with the Michelson Center for Convergent Biosciences, with the Keck Medical School, and with the Biomedical Engineering Department.

Bio-inspired thinking infuses our research world and our lectures. We may note that bio-inspiration is not the same as bio-copying, and that truly innovative engineering solutions more than likely do not seek to slavishly copy, but rather to understand and then re-invent. And is this not what engineering is all about?