Bio-Propulsion of Adaptive Systems (BioPAS)

Welcome to the webpage of Bio-Propulsion of Adaptive Systems. Our research focuses on understanding how moving organisms—whether natural or synthetic—perform within an environment or adapt to changing environments. 

Comparisons are frequently made between engineered and natural designs. Engineers optimize complex systems and often borrow from nature at the level of a specific organism (biomimicry); meanwhile, evolutionary biologists work to understand how nature shapes various organisms to maximize their chance of survival within a given environment. An integrated approach to simultaneously work on natural and engineering design problems is expected to provide new insights into evolution by natural selection while revolutionizing the engineering approach to design optimization.  

Nature makes solutions that are just good enough to allow an organism to pass on its genes to the next generation, rather than optimal in the engineering sense; however, nature generates species that demonstrate plasticity (real-time adaptation to new environments and pressures), the ability to sustain considerable damage, the ability to transition between disparate environments, and—at small scales—the ability to out-maneuver any engineered vehicle in the air, land, or sea. 

These incredible abilities are ubiquitous throughout the natural world, despite the limited resources and materials nature has at its disposal, and despite phylogenetic constraints. Recently, Biologists and Paleontologists have advanced their approaches to study evolution in action as well as quantify interactions between environmental pressures and plasticity. In parallel, advances in engineering and computer science include enhanced imaging-based data acquisition techniques, high-fidelity computational models, and machine learning approaches. By combining expertise and these new approaches, biologists, engineers, and paleontologists have the potential to understand evolutionary processes by rigorously examining the interaction between extinct or extant species’ performance and their complex and changing environment.  

In addition to gaining insight into evolutionary processes, our research finds immediate application in topics such as evolutionary medicine, the development of multi-mission optimization techniques, as well as in the design of future, unconventional autonomous vehicles where today’s solutions simply do not work.