Organisms operating at the limits of performance in biology often do so by co-opting the same basic principle: elastic energy storage. Storing energy in a biological spring enables animals to accelerate much faster, move with more economy and absorb greater impacts than could be done with muscle alone. Yet our attempts to mimic, augment or repair biological elastic mechanisms have had relatively unimpressive or highly unpredictable results. This suggests that our simplified understanding of how biological springs improve performance is not sufficient. Here I present work that explores how the components of elastic systems work together to augment motors (i.e muscles) and describe the approaches we are taking to flesh out whether and/or how organisms maintain tuning between components as they adapt neuromechanically during an event and plastically over an animal’s lifetime.
About the Speaker:
Post-doctoral researcher at Penn State in the Rubenson Muscle Function and Locomotion Lab (biomechanics and neural control of locomotion in guinea fowl). Research fellow at Umass with Al Crosby in Polymer Science (dynamic behavior of springs). PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Umass Amherst working with Gary Gillis (sensory feedback in controlled toad landing) and Sheila Patek (power-amplified biological systems). MSME from Umass under David Schmitt (fluid dynamics of cavitation). MA from Brown in Philosophy (relationship between mind and world). BFA in sculpture from Mass College of Art (furniture making). BS in physics and BA in philosophy from University of New Hampshire.