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Jake Socha, Ph.D.

Samuel Herrick Professor
Socha Jake 1
332 Norris Hall
495 Old Turner St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Research Areas

  • Biomechanics

Research Interests

Our lab studies the biomechanics of animals. We focus on how animals deal with fluids, both in locomotion (e.g., flight) and internally (e.g., circulation).

Flying snakes are the only limbless animals that glide through the air. Despite a lack of limbs, these arboreal snakes take off by jumping, glide through the air without using obvious control surfaces, maneuver, and safely land without injury. Our research focuses on how these snakes produce forces for these behaviors.

Skittering frogs use another unusual form of locomotion: they leap out of water in a single stroke, and then hop on top of the surface, akin to the water-running lizards.

Insects can be viewed as exquisite microfluidic systems: they pump air, blood, and food through their bodies, all within one small package. Compared to engineered systems, they are far smaller, controllable, and efficient than anything that humans have designed. How do insects produce these flows?


  • The University of Chicago: Ph.D., 2002
  • Duke University: B.S., Physics, 1994 
  • Duke University: B.S., Biology, 1994

Award, Honors, and Service

  • 2020 Leader in Research Award, BEAM department, Virginia Tech
  • 2018 Dean's Award for Excellence in Outreach, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
  • 2016 College of Engineering Faculty Fellow, Virginia Tech 
  • 2014 NSF CAREER Award, Physics of Living Systems (PoLS) 
  • 2012 Scholar of the Week, Virginia Tech (September 24, 2012) 
  • 2011 Invited symposium participant, National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education 
  • 2010 Liviu Librescu Faculty Prize, Virginia Tech 
  • 2010 Outstanding New Assistant Professor Award, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech 
  • 2008 U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (USNC/TAM) Fellowship Grant Award 
  • 2004 Ugo Fano Named Postdoctoral Fellowship, Argonne National Laboratory 
  • 2001 Harper Fellowship, University of Chicago 
  • 1999 Berkman Fellowship, University of Chicago 
  • 1998 Stoye Award in General Herpetology, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists 
  • 1998 Biodiversity Training Grant, University of Chicago 
  • 1996 Pre-doctoral Graduate Fellowship Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation 
  • 1992 NASA Langley Aerospace Summer Scholar, summers of 1992 and 1993

Recent Publications

Yeaton, I.J.*, G. Baumgardner*, S.D. Ross, and J.J. Socha. 2020. Undulation enables gliding in flying snakes. Nature Physics 10.1038/s41567-020-0935-4.

Harrison, J.F., K. Adjerid, A. Kassi, C.J. Klok, J.M. VandenBrooks, M.E. Duell, J.E. Campbell, S. Talal, E. Alanis, C. Abdo, H. Pendar, J.J. Socha. 2020. Physiological responses to gravity in an insect. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117 (4): 2180-2186.

Graham, M.* and J.J. Socha. 2020. Going the distance: The biomechanics of gap-crossing behaviors. Journal of Experimental Zoology A 333: 60-73. Invited paper for special issue in honor of R. McNeil Alexander.

Pendar*, H., J. Aviles*, K. Adjerid*, C. Schoenewald*, and J.J. Socha. 2019. Functional compartmentalization in the hemocoel of insects. Scientific Reports 9(1): 6075.

Hochgraf, J.S.*, J.S. Waters, J.J. Socha. 2018. Patterns of tracheal compression in the thorax of the ground beetle, Platynus decentis. Invited paper for special issue on ecology and evolution, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 91(4): 409-430.

Kenny, M.C.*, M.N. Giarra*, E. Granata*, J.J. Socha. 2018. How temperature influences the viscosity of hornworm hemolymph. Journal of Experimental Biology 221(21): jeb186338.

Harrison, J.F., J.S. Waters, T.A. Biddulph*, A. Kovacevic*, C.J. Klok, and J.J. Socha. 2018.  Developmental plasticity and stability in the tracheal networks supplying Drosophila flight muscle in response to rearing oxygen level. Journal of Insect Physiology 106: 189-198.

Kikuchi, K., M.A. Stremler, W.-K. Lee, S. Chatterjee*, O. Mochizuki, and J.J. Socha. 2018. Burst mode pumping: A new mechanism of drinking in mosquitoes. Scientific Reports 8(1): 4885.

Jafari, F.*, S. Tahmasian, S.D. Ross, and J.J. Socha. 2017. Control of gliding in a flying snake-inspired n-chain model. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics: 12(6) 066002.

Yeaton, I.J.*, J.J. Socha, and S.D. Ross. 2017. Global dynamics of non-equilibrium gliding in animals. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics 12(2): 026013.