Jake Socha, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

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

  • 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

Harrison, J.F., J.S. Waters, T.A. Biddulph*, A. Kovacevic, C.J. Klok, and J.J. Socha. 2017.  Developmental plasticity and stability in the tracheal networks supplying Drosophila flight muscle in response to rearing oxygen level. In press, Journal of Insect Physiology.

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

Laha, B., D.A. Bowman, and J.J. Socha. 2016. Bare-hand volume cracker for raw volume data analysis. Frontiers in Robotics and AI 3: 56.

Pendar, H., J.J. Socha, and J. Chung. 2016. Recovering signals in physiological systems with large datasets. Biology Open 5, 1163-1174.

Gart*, S., J.J. Socha, P.P. Vlachos, and S. Jung. 2015. Dogs lap using acceleration-driven open pumping. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (52): 15798-15802. [cover]

Webster*, M., J.J. Socha, L. Teresi, P. Nardinocchi, R. De Vita, 2015.  Structure of tracheae and the functional implications for collapse in the American cockroach.  Bioinspiration and Biomimetics 10 (2015): 066011.

Pendar*, H. and J.J. Socha. 2015. Estimation of instantaneous gas exchange in flow-through respirometry systems: A modern revision of Bartholomew's Z-transform method. PLoS ONE 10 (10): e0139508.

Pendar*, H., M.C. Kenny*, and J.J. Socha. 2015. Tracheal compression in pupae of the beetle Zophobas morio. Biology Letters 11 (6): 20150259.

Socha, J.J., F. Jafari*, Y. Munk, G. Byrnes. 2015. How animals glide: from trajectory to morphology.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 93: 901-924.

Socha Jake 1
  • (540) 231-6188
  • jjsocha@vt.edu
  • 332 Norris Hall
    495 Old Turner St.
    Blacksburg, VA 24061