Associate Professor Hilary Bart-Smith, a mechanical engineer, uses nature as her inspiration for new, high-performance methods to propel underwater vehicles. This year, Bart-Smith secured her second highly competitive Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the Department of Defense to expand on her pioneering investigation of aquatic propulsion. The award totals $7.4 million over five years.

Bart-Smith used her first MURI to understand the issues that affect batoid ray movements through water, including wake structure, structural dynamics, and kinematics. For the second MURI, Bart-Smith will study trout, tuna, and dolphins, all known for being fast, efficient swimmers.

Bart-Smith now knows much more about aquatic animals than she ever thought possible. “When I was growing up, I watched David Attenborough’s nature programs on the BBC,” she says. “At the time I was much more interested in chemistry and physics than biology. Thanks to my work on the MURI grants, I have a whole new appreciation for marine biology.”

Alumni support helps make these activities possible.


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