University Programs and Labs

Become inspired with the fascinating projects and interdisciplinary approaches that these universities lab groups have taken in areas as diverse and elegant as bio-robotics, self-assembly of nanostructures, sensory behavior applications, biocatalysis, remanufacturing, artificial neural networks, and outreach centers.


From the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) Institute:

The Biologically Inspired Robotics Group(BIRG) Our research interests are at the intersection between robotics, computational neuroscience, nonlinear dynamical systems, and machine learning. We carry out research projects in the following areas: numerical simulations of locomotion and movement control, dynamic simulators of articulated rigid bodies, systems of coupled nonlinear oscillators for locomotion control, adaptive dynamical systems, design and control of amphibious articulated robots, control of humanoid robots, design and control of reconfigurable robots. We are interested in understanding the fascinating control and learning abilities observed in animals, and to develop systems -programs, simulations, and robots- that exhibit and replicate those abilities. In particular, we are interested in developing systems that evolve, adapt, self-organize, and self-repair.

Movie file of a lamprey tracking a randomly moving object
watch video  | BIRG site


Center for Design Research
at Stanford University

Technology is imitating nature with a new class of biologically inspired robots called "Biomimetic Robots." They include robotic lobsters for underwater mine research or flying insect-based robots for future spatial missions. Other projects are about cricket-inspired robots to be used in rescue missions or scorpion-like robots to be deployed in hostile environments for humans. and of course, there are the now famous and robust "sprawling" robots based on cockroaches The "Sprawl" family of hand-sized hexapedal robots are prototypes designed to test ideas about locomotion dynamics, leg design and leg arrangement and to identify areas that can be improved by Shape Deposition Manufacturing.

Sprawl robots are some of the fastest (up to 5 body-lengths per second) and most robust (hip-height obstacles) legged robots out there. They are the result of close collaboration between roboticists, manufacturing engineers and biologists. . The Sprawl family of robots is developed at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University.

read article |  learn about The Sprawl family
watch Hydro-Sprawl video clip


Northeastern University

A program in neurotechnolgy is undertaking the implementation and in-water testing of two classes of biomimetic autonomous underwater vehicles. The first is an 8-legged ambulatory vehicle that is based on the lobster and is intended for autonomous remote-sensing operations in rivers and/or the littoral zone ocean bottom with robust adaptations to irregular bottom contours, current and surge. The second vehicle is an undulatory system that is based on the lamprey and is intended for remote sensing operations in the water column with robust depth|altitude control and high maneuverability.

These vehicles are based on a common biomimetic control, actuator and sensor architecture that features highly modularized components and low cost per vehicle. Operating in concert, they can conduct autonomous investigation of both the bottom and water column of the littoral zone or rivers. These systems represent a new class of autonomous underwater vehicles that may be adapted to operations in a variety of habitat.

visit site | view an eight-legged walking animation with forward/backward/and lateral leaning motion


The Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab
at Case Western Reserve University

The Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab at Case Western Reserve University is directed by Dr. Roger Quinn. We are dedicated to the advancement of the field of robotics using insights gained through the study of biological mechanisms.

Data from biological organisms such as the Deathhead Cockroach and crickets are used to create robots that can flexibly traverse irregular terrain. The resulting robots are also serving as models for understanding the dynamics of biological systems.

 visit site |  learn more |  view trial video clip

Center for Interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration, Integrative Biomechanics in Education and Research (CIBER)
at UC Berkeley

CIBER represents two major objectives. The Center for Integrative Biomechanics in Education and Research will lead the development of a new field of Integrative Systems Biomechanics and train the next generation of integrative biologists. The Center for Interdisciplinary Biological Inspiration in Education and Research will innovate methods to extract principles in biology that inspire novel design in engineering and train the next generation of scientists and engineers to collaborate in mutually beneficial relationships.

Link below for biographies of the founding members -- Robert J. Full, Mimi Koehl, and Robert Dudley

bios |  learn more

Dickinson Lab Caltech

The main way that flies maintain stable flight is through sensory feedback from their visual system and their mechanosensory haltere system. The halteres are modifications of the hindwings (recall that dragonflies have four wings, while "true" flies are defined by having only two) into complex sensors that detect Coriolis forces proportional to the angular velocity of the fly. Thus, if a freely flying fly were to be rotated by an external force such as wind, its visual system would be capable of detecting this rotation, but the haltere system would also be stimulated, and is capable of initiating a compensatory response even in the absence of visual feedback. The halteres and visual system act in a complementary fashion, as the rotational frequency bandpass characteristics of each ensure that no matter how slowly or quickly the fly rotates, at least one of these two systems will be sensitive to the rotation (the halteres are most sensitive to fast rotations while the visual system responds better to slower rotations). The Rock-n-Roll arena allows us to quantitatively assess the relative contributions from these two systems to equilibrium flight control. Additionally, studies are currently underway to elucidate the role these two sensory systems play in terminating the rapid turns observed in free flight, called saccades.

 learn more


Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems (CBIMMS)
Duke University:

The ultimate vision of the Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems research and educational program is to map traditional engineering onto biology. Through this revolutionary approach, CBIMMS is developing a new paradigm for education and research, using nature as an example for engineering, while explaining nature using engineering principles and rigor. Our new curriculum serves as an integration of natural science, life science, and engineering. Center investigators use biologically inspired approaches to bridge a gap in current biomedical and bioengineering programs.

website  |  read about CBIMMS Director

Autumn Lab Lewis and Clark College

Research in the Autumn Lab focuses on biomechanics, physiology, and evolution of animal locomotion, and has applications in the design of legged climbing robots and novel adhesives.
Please follow link below to read about Kellar Autumn who founded new sub-field of research:gecko adhesion and adhesive nanostructures at the interface between biology, physics, and materials science.

learn more |  bio


Centre for Biomimetics
at the University of Reading

Biomimetics is the abstraction of good design from nature. Nature works for maximum achievement at minimum effort. We have much to learn. Check out their recent projects at the link below:

learn more |  projects


BioRobotics Laboratory
University of Washington

Our mission is to develop science, technology, and human resources at the interface between robotics and biological movement systems.

Our goal is to produce useful, innovative research and technology as well as trained researchers fluent in both technological and biological systems.

website |   learn more

Daniel Lab
University of Washington

Neurons and neuronal networks decide, remember, modulate, and control an animals every sensation, thought, movement, and act. The intimate details of this network, including the dynamical properties of individual and populations of neurons, give a nervous system the power to control a wide array of behavioral functions. We want to know more about neuronal dynamics and networks; about synaptic interactions between neurons; about how neuronal signaling and behavior and control and environmental stimuli are inextricably linked. Consequently, we have begun in a multi-university, multi-disciplinary, multi-sponsor research program to integrate silicon electronics with neurobiology.

learn more |


Self-Organizing Systems Research
Radhika Nagpal Lab

Our group focuses on engineering and understanding self-organizing systems. We investigate programming paradigms for acheiving robust collective behavior in multi-agent systems, drawing inspiration mainly from developmental biology and social insects. We also investigate methods for modeling cell behavior to better understand how robust collective behavior emerges at the multi-cellular level in biological systems. A common focus in all of our work is the relation between local and global behavior.

Our research areas include:

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at Stanford University

One area of research is aimed at developing a new class of biologically inspired robots that exhibit much greater robustness in performance in unstructured environments than today's robots. This new class of robots will be substantially more compliant and stable than current robots, and will take advantage of new developments in materials, fabrication technologies, sensors and actuators. Applications will include autonomous or semi-autonomous tasks such as reconnaissance and de-mining for small, insect-like robots and human interaction tasks at a larger scale. The research involves a close collaboration among robotics and physiology researchers at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities.

The Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab combines experimental and computational approaches to study movement. We investigate the form and function of biomechanical systems ranging from molecular motors to persons with movement disorders. We seek fundamental understanding of the mechanisms involved in the production of movement, and are motivated by opportunities to improve treatments for individuals with cerebral palsy, stroke, osteoarthritis, and Parkinsons disease.

SDM, Shape Deposition Manufacturing,is a developing Rapid Prototyping technology in which mechanisms are simultaneously fabricated and assembled. As shown in this figure, the basic SDM cycle consists of alternate deposition and shaping (in this case, machining) of layers of part material and sacrificial support material.

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Robotic Life Group
Media Lab, MIT

Taking inspiration and guidance from the science of animal and human behavior, our goal is to build cooperative robots that can work and learn in partnership with people. Not only an engineering endeavour, we hope to gain scientific insight into the mechanisms that underlie this human and animal competence, and to develop a science of human-robot collaboration. Given the multi-disciplinary nature of this endeavor, our research explores a wide variety of topics including:

  • Expressive movement and skillful motor control
  • Natural language and gesture interfaces
  • Social learning
  • Psychological modeling
  • Human-robot interaction and collaboration s
learn more |  projects

biomimicry defined

Ecological Design

by Syn Van der Ryn &
Stuart Cowan

Syn VanderSyn/Cowan

"With vision and coherence, Van der Ryn and Cowan lay the basis for a new philosophy and practice of design. Ecological Design expands and enriches the nexus of human and natural systems."

Amory B. Lovins

human plus nature

Restoration is a community-based intergenerational endeavor. It is more a process than a product. It's about relationship. It's about our responsibility as human beings to participate every day in the re-creation of the earth.

Dennis Martinez
ga tech logo

CBID is an interdisciplinary center for research and development of design solutions that occur in biological processes. Founded in 2005, It is one of more than 100 interdisciplinary research units funded at Georgia Institute of Technology,