Moody Lecture Explores the Mathematics Behind Biologically Inspired Design

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Many natural systems have evolved to perform certain tasks—climbing, sensing, swimming—as perfectly as possible within the limits set by the laws of physics. This observation can be used both to guide engineering design and to gain insights into the form and function of biological systems.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Anette (Peko) Hosoi explores these themes in the context of crawling snails, digging clams and swimming microorganisms April 3 at 7 p.m. in the Shanahan Center Auditorium. Hosoi will describe how an analysis of the physical principles exploited by snails and clams leads to the development of novel robotic diggers and crawlers and will explore the role of mathematics in the design, control and assessment of unconventional robotic systems.

Hosoi is known for being an innovative teacher, an inspiring mentor for women in engineering and an outstanding communicator of science. Her research interests include fluid mechanics and bio-inspired design and locomotion, with a recent focus on optimization of crawling gastropods, digging bivalves, swimming microorganisms and soft robotics. She is a recognized international leader in the study of the hydrodynamics of thin fluid films and in the nonlinear physical interaction of viscous fluids and deformable interfaces. Her work spans multiple disciplines including physics, biology and applied mathematics and is being used to guide the engineering design of robotic crawlers and other mechanisms.

Hosoi was the recipient of the 3M Innovation Award and has held the Doherty Chair in Ocean Utilization. She is currently a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Dessert and refreshments will follow the presentation. The Michael Moody Lecture Series illuminates the joy, wonder and applicability of mathematics. The series was established by the Harvey Mudd College Mathematics Department in honor of Professor Michael Moody, who served as the department chair from 1996 to 2002. Under Moody’s leadership, the department revised its curriculum, rejuvenated the senior-thesis program and tripled the number of math majors. He was also a guiding force that led to the department’s receipt of the American Mathematical Society’s inaugural award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department in 2006. Moody passed away in January 2010, and later that year was posthumously named an Honorary Alumnus of Harvey Mudd College.