Animals have evolved novel techniques for interacting with their surroundings during locomotion. The physics dictating their interactions have inspired engineered systems, such as pick-and-place grippers, climbing robots, and pumps for microfluidic systems. In my research, I focus on the methods by which animals, particularly insects, locomote successfully through unstructured and contaminated environments via climbing and jumping. The prevailing theme of my work is the controlled transfer of complex media through interactions across interfaces. What role does morphology play in successful locomotion through natural environments? How can we translate what we learn from biology to designs and technologies?
I obtained my PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. Through my dissertation, titled How Insects Stay Clean, I investigated the methods by which plants and animals, especially insects, maintain a stable external state, either by preventing airborne particle deposition or effectively removing accumulated particles. I made several discoveries during my dissertation, including how: mammalian eyelashes evolved to a specific length to protect the vulnerable, wet eye from contamination and evaporation, flying insects use hairs interspersed throughout their compound eyes to divert particle-laden airflows, the hairs throughout the bodies of pollinating insects are tuned for effective accumulation and removal of pollen grains, and splash-cup plants use conical flowering bodies to catch falling raindrops that disperse their micrometer-scaled seeds up to 10 plant heights away. After my PhD, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Physical Intelligence group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, where I investigated the controlled transfer of complex media through interactions across interfaces, especially how fibrillar adhesives on the footpads of beetles remove microparticles while climbing. Then, I moved to the Netherlands where I worked as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Leading Fellow in the departments of Process & Energy and Bionanoscience at TU Delft studying how cells interact with their fluid environments.
Through my research, I hope to address many questions concerning the physical role of biological form, as well as motivate bio-inspired solutions for interfacing with complex environments. I am part of the 4TU consortium on Soft Robotics, and through this network collaborate with engineers and roboticists to realize bio-inspired designs. More info on the consortium can be found at: https://dutchsoftrobotics.nl/.