The Prakash Lab at the University of Miami is a multidisciplinary Organismal Biomechanics Lab, working at the interface of Physics, Engineering and Biology. Our work is driven by a sense of curiosity, fascination and discovery.
Organismal behavior results from emergent properties of a large number of physical and biological processes occurring across multiple scales. Our focus is on understanding how physics shapes biology. The overarching research goal is to reveal how biomechanical phenomena at small-scales determine emergent behavior at large-scales in different animal systems. Our research exemplifies the promise of leveraging physics to unearth the general organizing principles underlying fundamental form-function relationships in organismal biology.
Our research program is focused on two major themes:
(1) Tissue Mechanics:
The goal is to uncover the fundamental physical mechanisms governing local & global cellular flows in tissues of living animals, and to understand how these flows regulate morphogenesis and development.
Past Research: We discovered that physiological tissue fracture and healing dynamics govern extreme plastic shape changes (Prakash et al. 2020) in the early divergent animal Trichoplax adhaerens. We have also investigated cellular flows during early chick embryo development.
(2) Biological Fluid Mechanics:
The goal is to study fluid mechanics in marine invertebrates, and to use physical insights and models to link small-scale biophysics to macro-scale natural behavior and ecology, and to develop bio-inspired engineering applications.
Past Research: In starfish larvae, we demonstrated how swimming-feeding tradeoffs are dictated by hydrodynamics (Gilpin et al. Nature Physics 2017). This work has led to several awards including the Nikon Small World in Motion competition, APS-DFD Milton van Dyke award, NSF ‘Vizzies’ challenge, with wide media coverage by New York Times, Nature, Scientific American, Popular Science and others.