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Combining mathematical modeling, numerical simulation, and experiment: A case study in tiny insect flight

Mathematical Biology

Speaker: Laura Miller, University of North Carolina
Location: 2112 MSB
Start time: Mon, Jan 25 2010, 3:10PM

A growing number of mathematical scientists use a combination of experiments, simulation, and theory to understand complex problems in the biological and physical sciences. The benefits of such a combined approach are numerous. In this presentation, I will discuss how I have used these methods to understand the aerodynamics of tiny insect flight. My approach consists of measurements of morphology and kinematics in actual animals, the use of physical models to measure forces and flow velocities, analytical methods to understand related simplified problems, and numerical simulations to understand the fluid dynamics of unsteady three-dimensional systems. These approaches complement each other in a variety of ways. Measurements of morphology and kinematics are used to set appropriate parameter values for simulations and physical models. In many cases, physical models can be used to study a large range of parameter values that would be difficult to investigate using computational fluid dynamics. Numerical simulations can be used to obtain detailed descriptions of flow fields and to design biological systems with complicated mechanical properties.