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Moving Beyond Muscles: The Tuning of Elastic Systems in Biology

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

11:00am – 12:00pm

310 Kelly Hall, Virginia Tech Campus

Suzanne Cox

Postdoctoral research in kinesiology

Penn State


Organisms operating at the limits of performance in biology often do so by co-opting the same basic principle: elastic energy storage. Storing energy in a biological spring enables animals to accelerate much faster, move with more economy and absorb greater impacts than could be done with muscle alone.  Yet our attempts to mimic, augment or repair biological elastic mechanisms have had unimpressive or highly unpredictable results.  This suggests that our simplified understanding of how biological springs improve performance is not sufficient.  Here I present work that explores how the components of biological elastic systems interact to influence performance and how organisms maintain or alter this tuning neuromechanically in response to changes in functional demand. 


Suzanne Cox earned a BA in philosophy and a BS in physics from the University of New Hampshire and a BFA sculpture at Mass College of Art and Design. She earned a masters in philosophy at Brown University studying the relationship between mind and world. In 2012, she completed a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, working with David Schmidt (fluid dynamics of cavitation) and a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology in 2016 working under Gary Gillis (sensory feedback in controlled toad landing) and Sheila Patek (fluid dynamics of ultra-fast aquatic systems). Presently she is a post-doctoral research in kinesiology at Penn state in the Rubenson Lab.