How Flies Fly topic of Jan. 27 lecture
Ever wonder how flies or other insects get off the ground so effortlessly? That’s the topic of a special lecture at 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27. Michael H. Dickinson, professor of Bioengineering and Aeronautics at Caltech will explain “How Flies Fly.”
“Insects were the first animals to evolve active flight and remain unsurpassed in many aspects of aerial endurance and agility,” Dickinson said. “By exploiting experimental methods in a variety of disciplines ranging from fluid mechanics to genetics, my lab is attempting to identify the neurobiological and biomechanics specializations that underlie the flight capabilities of flies and other insects.”
Dickinson said principles garnered from flies provide insight into how animals employ unsteady aerodynamics to generate sophisticated flight maneuvers and how their miniature brains can rapidly transform sensory signals into precise motor actions.
The lecture is hosted by Department of Aerospace Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It will be held in the auditorium on the first floor of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at 1205 W. Clark Street, in Urbana.
Dickinson attended Brown University, originally with the intent of majoring in visual arts, but eventually switched to neuroscience, he said, “enticed by a fascination for the mechanisms that underlie animal behavior.”
In 1991, he earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle. His dissertation focused on the physiology of sensory cells on the wings of flies. It was this study of wing sensors that led to an interest in insect aerodynamics and flight control circuitry.
Dickinson worked briefly at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, and served as an assistant professor in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of Chicago. He moved to University of California, Berkeley in 1996 and was appointed as the Williams Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology in 2000. From 2010 to 2014, he was the Ben Hall Professor of basic life science in the Dept. of Biology at the University of Washington. He is now the Abe and Esther Zarem Professor of Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech.
He has published almost 200 scientific papers in journals including Science, Nature, Current Biology, and The Proceedings of the National Academy. His work has been featured in many television programs including NOVA and Discovery Channel in several countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Japan. His awards include the Larry Sandler Award from the Genetics Society of America, the Bartholemew Award for Comparative Physiology from the American Society of Zoologists, a Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and the Quantrell award for Excellence in Undergraduate
As part of the Department of Aerospace Engineering's 75th anniversary year celebration, rather than a single lecture, it is offering four Stillwell Lectures, each in a different discipline within the department. This is the third of the four.
The H.S. Stillwell Memorial Lecture was established in honor of Professor H.S. “Shel” Stillwell. In 1944, when he was 27 years old, he founded the Department of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the department head for 32 years. Stillwell was influential in the design of the first ramjet-powered missile and highly respected for his contributions to aerospace engineering education.