Duncan Irschick’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture at UMass Amherst Finds Inspiration in 3-D Animal Reconstruction

Duncan Irschick w/Beastcam Array
Duncan Irschick with Beastcam Array

AMHERST, Mass. – Biologist Duncan Irschick will present the second 2016-17 Distinguished Faculty Lecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Dec. 6, examining nature as an inspiration for solutions to some of our most intransigent problems.

Irschick’s Dec. 6 lecture, titled “Animal Attraction: Bioinspiration and Life in 3-D,” begins at 4 p.m. in the Bernie Dallas Room in Goodell Hall. Following his talk, Irschick will receive the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest recognition given for service to the UMass Amherst campus.

Bioinspiration according to Irschick, refers to integrating methods and insights from the study of anatomy, animal function, evolution and biomechanics as part of an attempt to understand how animals evolve novel biomaterials and functions, and how these properties can inspire equally novel synthetic materials for humans.

Irschick will take a close look at how the study of gecko form and function—and the resulting creation of gecko-inspired adhesives—has contributed to a broader understanding of how bioinspiration works.

Irschick will also discuss the use of “Digital Life” methodology to help researchers understand biological diversity in a way never before possible, using, for instance, 3-D imaging techniques to digitally reconstruct living animals, ranging from lizards to sharks, in full 3-D color and in high resolution.

Capturing the diversity of animal life in high-resolution 3-D color, says Irschick, has been largely inaccessible until development of the Beastcam technology, which allows biologists to capture the complex body shapes of a wide range of living organisms in high-resolution 3-D color.

Irschick earned his Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis after completing his undergraduate work in zoology at the University of California. He joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 2005. The author of dozens of articles, his work has been featured in magazines and newspapers including Natural History Magazine, National Geographic News, Scientific American, Whats UP!, BBC Wildlife Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, Popular Mechanics, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

He also holds several patents pending connected to his work with geckos and bioinspired adhesives.

Upcoming lecturers in the 2016-17 Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series include:

  • David Reckhow of the civil and environmental engineering department, who will discuss “Drinking Water in Crisis: Lead, Lignin, and Legionella” on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
  • Nilanjana Dasgupta of the psychological and brain sciences department, who will address “STEMing the Tide: How Female Professors and Peers Can Encourage Young Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” on Monday, March 6.
  • Christian Appy of the history department, who will discuss “The Atomic Origins of America’s National Security State: How Nuclear Weapons Produced an Imperial Presidency and Degraded Democracy” on Tuesday, April 4.

All lectures in this series begin at 4 p.m. in the Bernie Dallas Room in Goodell Hall.