Research Interests

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Among animal taxa, there is a vast amount of morphological variation in vertebrate locomotor systems, and I am interested in how various morphological phenotypes (from micro- to macroscale) can have differential effects on the performance of these systems. For example, the gecko adhesive system is composed of microscopic, beta-keratin fibrils that terminate into nanoscopic, triangular-shaped tips. There appears to be microscale variation in the morphological properties of these structures both within and between individuals and species, but it is unclear how this morphological variation affects performance or particular attributes of the gecko adhesive system (e.g. self-cleaning, adhesion to rough substrates, etc.). Additionally, of the thousands of pad-bearing lizard species, there is immense variation in adhesive toe pad morphology, but it is unknown whether this variation results in differential performance or specialization for a particular habitat. I plan to investigate these topics utilizing both micro-scale (e.g. scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy) and macro-scale measurements (e.g. adhesive and locomotor performance) in both laboratory and ecologically relevant conditions. Beyond researching these themes in a biological context, I am interested in applying this information to the design and fabrication of gecko-inspired synthetic adhesives.

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