Head of the Department, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in Physiology
The mechanical challenges that marine organisms face are both complex and inspirational. By studying this natural engineering, we can gain insights that inspire the design of new structures or devices for important biomedical or industrial uses.
With society's increasing expectations for new technology, biomechanics research is now poised to make a significant contribution to this emerging field of biomimetics - a process or system that imitates biology. As Canada Research Chair in Integrative Animal Physiology, Dr. Robert Shadwick is establishing a multidisciplinary research facility at UBC that will build on existing strengths in animal physiology and biomechanics. By combining modern experimental tools of engineering science, physiology, molecular biology, digital imaging, and motion analysis, as well as micro-mechanical testing, he is developing an integrative program of research on biomechanical design - ranging from molecules to tissues, structures, and whole organisms.
The new program focuses on two areas of research. Dr. Shadwick and his fellow researchers are examining the mechanisms used by marine organisms to create materials that we regard as having new and potentially useful mechanical properties. In addition, they are studying the design of propulsive systems in aquatic organisms, looking at fish locomotion mechanics, particularly high speed and unsteady swimming.
The results of this work will provide insights that can be used to design self-propelled aquatic vehicles where speed and manoeuvrability are crucial features. Additionally, Shadwick's studies of mechanics and hydrodynamics of fish locomotion in the context of conservation will help scientists address how commercially important salmon can meet the energy and biomechanical challenges of their migrations.
Ultimately, Dr. Shadwick and his colleagues hope to help develop and apply advanced biomaterials that can be used in medical implants, tissue repair, robotics applications, or efficient and manoeuvrable autonomous aquatic vehicles - all inspired by nature's designs.