We are proudly international!
The diversity of backgrounds in the group – cultural, educational, or any other dimension – enriches our work as a team, and provides additional and welcome opportunity for learning.
Keeping everyone motivated & happy
I joined the Department as a Lecturer in May 2018, after having spent almost 8 years in a small bubble called Cambridge, where I was a fellow of Clare College, conducted postdoctoral work at the Department of Engineering, and obtained my PhD at the Department of Zoology. My first degree is in Biomimetics (I kid you not), and comes from the City University of Applied Sciences in Bremen,
I consider myself lucky to work in my dream job, with a group of wonderful and inspiring people. My research themes all have in common that… the principal underlying question can be explained to a 7-year old! Questions that interest me lie exclusively at the intersection between physics, engineering and biology, with the occasional leaning to one side or another. Broadly speaking, I use methodological approaches from physical sciences and engineering to study questions of relevance in biology.
It is important to me that my group’s research holds up to the highest standards, but does so in a friendly, collaborative and supportive way. We work together, not only in our group, but in our Department, the College, and in an international community. I firmly believe that science should be open, and my group hence makes an effort to make the results of our work available to whoever might be interested or benefit from them.
The biomechanics of herbivory in leaf-cutter ants
I joined the Department as a PhD student in October 2018 after having completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biomimetics at City University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, Germany. Two years ago, I spent one semester abroad in Cambridge (Department of Zoology), where three momentous events took place:
First, I was introduced to scientific work and learned how it feels to fail and … fail again, and then, … perhaps succeed, but more probably fail another time first. In short, I had a very hands-on experience in what it means to practise science.
Second, I encountered the wonderful world of insect biomechanics as I worked on the cutting mechanics of leaf-cutter ants. Insects have mastered all kinds of challenges including flying, diving, cutting, piercing surfaces, and even farming. I am interested in studying the behavioural ecology of leaf-cutter ants by understanding the biomechanical determinants of successful herbivory.
Third, I experienced the benefits of a friendly and supportive group, highlighting the importance of collaboration and scepticism in science. I appreciate being a part of the scientific community, and maintaining and proclaiming the scientific method.
Computer vision & Machine learning methods to study insect behaviour
More than anything, I love developing new technologies and tools that help us to better understand the world around us. Because I am equally passionate about natural sciences as well as the applicability of engineering, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biomimetics at the City University of Applied Sciences in Bremen. In October 2018, I began studying Human and Biological Robotics at Imperial College as an ideal combination of these interests.
I am especially fascinated by the emerging properties of swarming intelligence we can find in nature. In large groups of individuals, whether humans, birds, or arthropods, we find a finite set of simple interaction rules. These lead to a behaviour of the group which can be far more complex than the sum of its parts. The underlying rules can be incredibly hard to identify by traditional means, which is why I aim to employ machine learning and computer vision algorithms to automate the identification of individuals and their task distribution.
Whenever I am not trying to decipher the rulebook of leafcutter ants, I design and build biologically inspired autonomous aerial and underwater vehicles.
Energetics of insect herbivory
I have recently joined the group as a PhD student in October 2020 and am enjoying taking my first exciting steps into the world of insect biomechanics, specifically focusing on the energetics and biomechanical interactions of foraging in leaf cutter ants.
I previously gained a Masters Degree in Physics from Nottingham Trent University where I was first introduced to the joys of multidisciplinary research through my master’s thesis studying how shear forces effect the bioluminescent glow of dinoflagelletes.
Applying physical laws I studied throughout my degree to intricate biological phenomenon is what I am truly passionate about and I feel privileged to continue this further through PhD study.
Bio-inspired robotics to study the biomechanics of insects
Biomechanics of wear in Insect mouthparts
As a graduate of Mechanical Engineering whose undergraduate research was primarily focused on the mathematical modelling of vehicle dynamics, the question I am asked most often is why I decided to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering. Me, as a first year undergraduate would have asked the same question. It took me four years studying mechanics as an undergraduate to realize that we are living in the greatest engineering creation of all time; nature itself. Evolution has devised the best solutions for most of the problems that living beings have stumbled across. So, why re-invent the wheel? Since the dawn of this understanding, I have decided to explore more into the brilliant and creative solutions found in nature for the questions that has always baffled us.
Wear has always been an area where scientific community has struggled to make progress because of the inherent difficulties in modelling and understanding complex interactions between multiple bodies specially in the nano and micro levels. Not only humans but many living creatures have to manage wear in their interactions with the environment. Hence, investigating the solutions that nature has come up with to manage this issue can provide us valuable insights and inspiration for better designs. In my PhD, I’ll be looking into the strategies used by herbivorous insects to reduce wear in their mouthparts and how plants are adapted to induce more wear. This will not only transform the way we understand nature, but it will open up new avenues in the field of engineering where managing wear is crucial.
When it is time to come back to the macro world, I love to let off the steam by designing and operating RC aircraft and cars, engaging in motorsports, or forgetting myself in a world of pencil drawings.
Biomechanics of biological needles
Needles are used widely in medicine. They are simple to use and effective, and there are many cases where delivering drugs or extracting a sample for testing from a precise location is needed, with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue. My PhD is on the question, can the needles we used be made sharper, and what would a sharper needle design look like?
Sharper needles would mean more precision, more predictability of the insertion path and less damage to surrounding tissue. It could possibly also mean needles that are simpler to use. This would further expand the use cases for needles in many ways. It is certainly possible for needles to be sharper. It is widely seen in nature, mosquitoes for instance, pierce skin with lower forces than currently engineered needles. Leaf footed bugs are a common pest that can pierce fruits and even nuts.
Part of the challenge of understanding the performance of these biological needles is in understanding the soft materials that they are used on – these often have complex deformations and the stress and strain patterns under the needle are not obvious. What I am working on currently is using Light Sheet Microscopy to analyse the strain fields under a sharp indenter in order to shed light on how needle geometries effect the force needed to puncture a soft material.
I did my undergrad here at Imperial and my first UROP (undergraduate research placement) with this group, and am very happy to be back!
Development of 3D digitisation systems
I’ve been working in the lab since 2021: starting with a 3rd year group project as part of the Biomedical Engineering in the departement, then completeing my Master’s thesis in the field of computer vision and leaf-cutter ant herbivory, and now as a research assistant developing our affordable photogrammetry system scAnt.
I’m commited to the principles of open science and aim to contribute to science communication and outreach wherever possible. I’m fascinated by the development and use of machine learning and computer vision tools, especially in relation to animal behaviour studies, and I feel lucky to be able to work in this field in such an a great lab!
Outside of the lab you’ll find me singing in Goldsmiths Choir down the road or at the local cinema.
Biomechanics of insect tendons
I am interested in material properties and their impact on overall performance, particularly how they influence the behavior of living organisms. My curiosity extends to exploring the similarities and differences in tendons between humans and other animals throughout evolution. Understanding these aspects can provide valuable insights for developing artificial tendons with superior strength and toughness. I also enjoy cooking (Material preparation is a kind of cooking. Mixing things together and see what happens. Just kidding). By the way, Friday Pasta is my favorite activity
Biomechanics of Insect Locomotion
I joined the group as an MRes student majoring in Bioengeering. My MRes project is about the design and fabrication of an omnidirectional insect treadmill, which can be applied to observe/capture/track the locomotion trajectories/gaits/emergency response of insects. It will be compatible with insects of all sizes, and even robots. Out of enthusiasm for living creatures and robotics, my whole undergraduate research was about bio-inspired robotics (aerial, underwater, and multi-mode) at Beihang University, China, where I also got my B.Eng in Mechanical Engineering.
Biomechanics of insect tendons
I recently graduated with a Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering from Queen Mary University of London, under the School of Engineering and Materials Science. For years I studied and tested many synthetic biomaterials used around the world. The answer was always the same – there’s still more work to do. I wanted to join this lab to get to the root of this work.
I’m currently studying the mechanical properties of stick insect and cockroach tendons. I find it fascinating that organisms on a micro scale have similar mechanical adaptations to humans. Solutions for perfect tendon regeneration are almost unknown within biomedicine. However, stick insects can grow back whole legs!
My goal is to learn as much as I can about the properties of insect apodemes.
MEng AND MSc Students
MSC | DEPARTMENT OF BIOENGINEERING | IMPERIAL COLLEGE
MENG | DEPARTMENT OF BIOENGINEERING | IMPERIAL COLLEGE
Undergraduate and Summer Students
UROP| DEPARTMENT OF BIOENGINEERING | IMPERIAL COLLEGE
UROP | DEPARTMENT OF Mecahnical Engineering | IMPERIAL COLLEGE
We are lucky to collaborate with brilliant scientists around the world, and across disciplines.