School of Architecture College of Design

Professors Brownell and Swackhamer Awarded Grant for New Interdisciplinary Graduate Group

Professors Brownell and Swackhamer Awarded Grant to Support a New Interdisciplinary Graduate Group: Biologically Motivated

“Biologically Motivated” is a broad approach that seeks to pose new questions, identify goals and solve problems by looking to the diverse ways that organisms adapt and survive. This interdisciplinary graduate group brings together students from the College of Biological Sciences with students from the School of Architecture in the College of Design and the Department of Art within the College of Liberal Arts. We anticipate that this initial group will expand to engage with engineering and computer science students and faculty, as well as other groups interested in using bio-inspired approaches.  In bringing together these diverse fields, this group hopes to accomplish the following goals over a three year period:

  • Provide an opportunity for students of biology, design, and art to learn from and engage with potential peer collaborators from diverse disciplinary backgrounds by introducing the cultures of practice and ways of knowing that inform research in each of these fields.    
  • Provide training for biology students in design thinking processes and visual communication techniques, like data and experiment diagramming (for papers and presentations), model construction (for experimentation and outreach), and visualization for educational applications.
  • Provide training for design students in research and scientific methods while offering specific ideas and insights for their particular interests (e.g., suggesting organisms that may be useful to investigate for an art or design application).
  • Provide a context in which art students learn from scientific and design methodologies and introduce perspectives and practices informed by contemporary modes of artistic inquiry, process, and engagement
  • Use biologically motivated approaches to advance problems that address grand challenges -- for instance drawing on altruistic animals to design spaces that promote interaction across diverse cultures or studying air flow in animal structures to build energy efficient buildings.


Biological image of an insect eye


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