Animal's understanding of physics: 3-D printing and animal mechanics

Project Description : 

How do animals interpret shapes and their mechanics? The Patek Lab (Biology Dept) focuses on extremely fast and powerful motion in organisms and this particular project examines mantis shrimp shell-smashing mechanics. Specifically, this project will explore experimental design, animal behavior, and 3-D printing capabilities on Duke's campus and in the Patek Lab in the Biology Department. The student would learn how to manipulate basic geometries and biological shapes (such as shells) using 3-D printing software and then print them using different materials and scales. Then, mantis shrimp would be filmed manipulating these shapes in experiments to assess how mantis shrimp understand the physics of fracture.

Read more at the Patek Lab's website ( about the broader mechanical and evolutionary questions underlying this research program.

The student must be willing to work in the lab during predictable daytime hours, work independently and resourcefully, and to actively search out the knowledge and skills of 3-D imaging and printing. This project is both exploratory and experimental, requiring careful and creative thinking about how to connect experimental design on animal behavior with engineered shapes.

This project requires a firm commitment, including enrolling in an independent study credit. The commitment requires at least 9 hours/week accompanying the course credit.

The application should include a statement of your interests in this project and how this project fits with your broader career or academic goals. Please confirm that you are interested in taking this project on for credit, in the context of an independent study.

Name of Lab: 

Patek Lab

Lab website:
Logistics Information

Expected number of students to be accepted to position: 


Student Ranks Applicable: 

Hours Per Week: 


Contact Information

PI Name: 

Sheila Patek

PI Email:

Contact Person: 

Sheila Patek

Contact Position: 


Contact Email: