UA Biomimicry Researchers Featured at Nature-Inspired Exploration for Aerospace Summit


NIEA-LogoOctober 4th, 2017 is the beginning of the Nature-Inspired Exploration for Aerospace Summit, a gathering of the scientific community that promotes new research and technology in fields like biomimicry. The three-day event held at the Ohio Aerospace Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, will feature many speakers and presentations in addition to a reception and group tour held at UA’s Goodyear Polymer Center and Integrated Biosciences Department.

Each year the NIEA Summit, which is sponsored by NASA, Great Lakes Biomimicry, and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, brings together practitioners, disciplines, bio-inspired philosophy, tools, and research to benefit NASA, the nation, and the planet. The theme this year is “Materials, Structures, and Processes for Extreme Environments,” which is a topic that the study of biomimicry is closely related to.

Biomimicry is the study of nature in order to apply elements of it to our lives, solving everyday human problems, and it is a focus in many of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering’s prestigious research labs. Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, H.A. Morton Professor of the Department of Polymer Science, has plenty of experience in researching biomimicry. His group, in collaboration with his colleagues in biology, Drs. Peter Niewiarowski and Todd Blackledge, has been studying geckos and spiders for their adhesive qualities, among many other polymer and biomimicry related subjects. His lab will be open for observation during the reception and tour Thursday evening, as well as the lab of Dr. Hunter King, Assistant Professor in the Department of Polymer Science. Dr. King’s research interests include mechanics of structures engineered by plants and animals, non-equilibrium and soft matter physics, and open-source instrumentation for table-top experiment and field measurement. Dr. Henry Astley, Assistant Professor in Biology and the Department of Polymer Science, has also been heavily involved in biomimicry research in his lab. His studies focus on the biomechanics of animal locomotion, and how the motions of animals can be applied to robotics. Dr. Astley will be setting up a portable lab for visitors to observe.

All of the researchers involved in the event are working together to showcase UA’s Biomimicry Research Innovation Center (BRIC) for the nearly 100 people who will be visiting the campus on October 5th. Three of them are also giving a talk on their field of study at the NIEA Summit. Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Petra Gruber, Associate Professor in the Mary Schiller Myers School and Art and the Department of Biology, will be giving a talk titled “Biomimetic Design Concepts for NASA Zero-Gravity Exercise Devices.” Dr. Astley will be presenting “Snakes in Space: Biomimetic Snake Robots for Extraterrestrial Exploration” on Thursday morning. That same afternoon, Dr. Dhinojwala will present the Day 2 Wrap-Up.

The NIEA Summit includes more than 50 sessions, presentations, and activities based on nature-inspired technology and research. Whenever the scientific community gathers to make connections and share research, wonderful things happen. Not only will this summit be a meeting of scientific minds, it will also be a great opportunity to show the community the wonderful work that our researchers have been doing.

After all, UA is a pioneer in the field of biomimicry education. Our Integrated Bioscience program the only one in the world that offers Ph.D. training in biomimicry and we cannot wait to see what comes next for our students and faculty who stand at the forefront of the biomimicry frontier.

Click here to view the NIEA 2017 Summit program and agenda.