Research

My research answers why organisms have specific shapes, sizes and ways of moving around. It combines evolutionary and physical perspectives to addresses the ecology, evolution and biomechanics of complex biological designs. My research features biological processes across a wide range of size scales and appreciates the significance of behavioral and evolutionary dimensions.


Biomechanics and evolution of insect flight

I developed the stick insects as a model system to address the evolutionary transition between flapping flight and flightlessness. A framework for the evolution of flight morphology is published in a recent manuscript, and incoming manuscripts will elucidate the evolutionary transitions.

Evolution of flight morphology

Flight without wings: why and how

Diverse animals can perform righting, gliding and landing in the air without wings. Studying these control aerial behaviors helps understand the origins of animal flight and learn about the evolution of multimodal neuromechanical systems from cognitive and engineering perspectives.

Aerial righting maneuvers

Canopy parkour

Visual ecology of gliding

Functional leaps: novel locomotion capability

Evolution of novel biomechanical capability, such as extreme maneuverability, can be fostered by predator-prey interactions. In flat spiders, we found the fasted turning on land, performed with specialized legs and gait control.

Omnidirectional strikes


Biophysics at the cellular scale

In the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus, I showed that the aggregates between immotile and motile cells can perform active, long-distance dispersal, and exhibit wheel-like rolling near liquid-solid interface. Ongoing research continues to address the diversity of incipient collective motility and the role of motility in evolution of multicellularity.

Bacterial ridesharing and rolling

Evolution and morphogenesis at the subcellular level

Ongoing research addresses the development, morphogenesis and evolution of the hagfish slime thread, a proteinaceous fiber (~ 20 cm in length and 1–4 μm in diameter) generated and packaged within a single cell of ~ 150 μm in length.

Evolution of hagfish thread cell

Ethno-entomology

A first systematic investigation on the entomology of Nuosu (彝) people, a minority group living in mountain villages of southern Sichuan, China.


with supports from