I have been fascinated with the problem of insect flight: how do insects fly, why do they fly the way they do, and how can we infer their ‘thoughts’ from their flight dynamics? Starting from the Navier-Stokes equations governing the unsteady aerodynamics of flapping flight, we worked to build a theoretical framework for computing flight, and have been seeking mechanistic explanations of flight behavior based on physical laws. Recently, we have turned our attention to insects’ equilibrium reflexes. How does a fly balance in air and how does a dragonfly recover from falling upside down? In each case, the physics of flight informs us about the time scales associated with the neural feedback circuitries underlying their fast reflexes. Connecting our stability analysis to the neural physiology studies of fly’s muscles, we made a conjecture on the role of b1 muscle in fly’s equilibrium reflex, which is currently being tested using genetically modified flies.

Awards and Achievements

  • NSF Career ( 2001)
  • ONR Young Investigator Award ( 2001)
  • David and Lucille Packard Fellowship ( 2002)
  • Radcliffe Fellow ( 2007)
  • APS Fellow ( 2014)