How can marine animals inspire new technologies?

Alumni Spotlight: Eva Kanso​​​​

Unlike her peers in the mechanical engineering class of 1997, trailblazer and University of Southern California (USC) Professor Eva Kanso draws inspiration not from Formula 1 race cars but rather another class of high-g competitors: aquatic animals. Intrigued by their ability to follow moving objects even when blindfolded, Professor Kanso set out to understand how the harbor seal and other animals can infer important information from water disturbance patterns. Deploying computational mechanics and a machine learning algorithm, she and her team at USC recently showed that swimmers leave in their wakes information that can be sensed and interpreted by others, like the harbor seal, to answer life-and-death questions. For example, she says, “the animal wants to understand — is it a prey that created this vortex or is it a predator that created this flow pattern.”

Eva Kanso joined the USC faculty in August 2005 after a two-year post-doctoral appointment at Caltech in the fields of Control and Dynamical Systems and Computing and Mathematical Sciences. She earned her PhD degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, she also earned master's degrees in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering in 2002 and 1999, respectively. Kanso is Zohrab A. Kaprielian Fellow of Engineering and Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at USC. She is a member of MSFEA’s international advisory board.​

Learn more about Eva Kanso and her research: 

USC Eva Kanso's Biodynamics Lab on​ Facebook

See these articles: USC News, Cambridge Core

​​Listen to Kanso’s interview aired on NPR’s Joe's Big Idea​ (Joe Palca)​​​

Watch the animation below