The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Anne Staples, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering, for studying natural systems and creating bioinspired solutions for the 21st century.
Staples’ research focuses on computational biomechanics, which involve modeling single and coupled physiological systems in biological organisms. For example, she studies how water moves through corals or how insect respiratory and circulatory systems coordinate fluid flows at the microscopic level.
Another example is the honey bee: it holds two microfluidic systems that can increase its metabolic rate about 100 times when it takes flight — a dynamic range and level of control that is unparalleled in current engineered microfluidic systems.
Understanding fluidic flow in insects is valuable for building devices that handle small volumes of fluid, such as fuell cells, biochips, DNA microarrays, tools for biological research, and nanotechnology applications.
Meanwhile, Staples believes it’s vital to understand how corals manage fluid flow in order to protect them and preserve their role in the ecosystem. Corals are home to 25 percent of marine life, despite covering only 2 percent of the ocean floor. One of their remarkable properties is their ability to change the ocean’s currents.
But most previous models have studied only the way water flows around a coral, and ignored the water flow within it. Staples is working to develop a model that will be able to connect those external currents to the complex flow patterns within the coral itself.
She will spend four months with colleagues in Israel next spring developing computer models of fluid flow through corals, with support from a Fulbright Scholarship.
The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science also supports her work to develop bioinspired artificial reefs to protect coastlines.
Staples has doctoral degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University, where she received the Larisse Rosentweig Klein Memorial Award for excellence in doctoral research. She also received master of arts and a master of engineering degrees from Princeton. She received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Cornell University.
In 2006, she joined the Laboratory for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics at the Naval Research Laboratory as a National Academies/National Research Council postdoctoral research associate. She is a member of the American Physical Society and the Biomedical Engineering Society.