NSF CAREER award for bio-inspired research of burrowing animals


Credit: The University of Akron

Dr. Junliang (Julian) Tao is the latest University of Akron faculty member to be awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

An assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, Tao was awarded $500,00 for his research in adopting a variety of burrowing strategies by animals in the natural world to guide design of underground construction technologies. This five-year project will begin on July 1, 2017.

Burrowing organisms can inhabit a wide range of subsurface soil types, and adopt a variety of burrowing strategies facilitated by rhythmically changing their body shape. His findings will guide the design of next-generation, high-efficiency underground construction technologies and versatile small-scale underground robots.

"Dr. Tao's work is just one of many research projects within the College of Engineering to be influenced by biomimicry," says Dr. Donald P. Visco, interim dean of the College of Engineering. "Dr. Tao was certainly inspired by the work and efforts of the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center on campus and, in particular, its seminar series."

The educational aspect of Tao's CAREER award will focus on generating enthusiasm among K-12 students and the public about STEM education as it relates to bio-inspired approaches.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award is one of the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.


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