Effects of non-natural morphology on ctenophore swimming
Ctenophores are, evolutionary speaking, among the oldest animals on the planet; they have been swimming in the oceans for the last 350 million years. In this project, we are interested in exploring potential physical-mechanical constraints on the evolution and development of their ancient rowing system. Morphological data from ctenophores ranging from 7 to 40 mm in size will be used to inform a reduced-order analytical swimming model previously developed on our research group. The student will use the analytical model to explore the effects of non-natural morphology, such as: changing the aspect ratio of their body, increasing/decreasing the number of propulsors or changing its size, etc. Evolution is a multi-objective optimization problem; ctenophores perform many other activities besides swimming. Our objective is to focus on their swimming performance. Understanding the impact of ctenophore morphology on their swimming performance will provide us with valuable information for future bioinspired underwater vehicles.
Mentor: Adrian Herrera-Amaya and Margaret L. Byron (Environmental and Biological Fluid Mechanics Lab -- see https://sites.psu.edu/byronlab)
In the first stage, the student will gather morphological data from previously recorded videos of ctenophores. This task will allow you to become familiar with photography and video recording as a scientific tool. The second part of the project is to use the analytical swimming model to perform a parametric study. Here you will have the opportunity to use ordinary differential equations to model a real-life situation, comparing your results with animal experiments. Once you gain the confidence that the model can reproduce the swimming behavior of ctenophores, you will use it to explore non-natural parameter combinations in the pursuit of an outstanding swimmer. This opportunity may be completed remotely in exceptional circumstances, but in-person meetings are preferred.
Minimum qualifications include an introductory engineering course in fluid dynamics like ME320: Fluid flow (though majors outside ME are welcome to apply). Knowledge in ordinary differential equations and rigid body dynamics is desired but not necessary.
To apply, please send a brief resume, your transcript, and a couple of paragraphs describing why you want to join the project to firstname.lastname@example.org (Adrian Herrera-Amaya).