Saturday, February 11, 2006

To discover the sublime in the mundane

L. Mahadevan, the winner of the 2005 Young Investigator Award for Special Achievement in Applied Mechanics, is interested in the mathematical and experimental exploration of the nonlinear and non-equilibrium mechanical behavior of living and nonliving matter in all its forms. For inspiration he looks to the natural world on our scale (with occasional outside forays) to connect everyday experiences of the mundane to quantitative experiments and analysis. He uses a variety of mathematical tools ranging from scaling analyses and geometrical methods to computations, and has a small (but growing) laboratory for tinkering with simple table top experiments.

Specific topics of current interest include the geometry, mechanics and physics of low-dimensional systems such as interfaces, filaments and membranes, and multiscale integrative physiology of biological systems, ranging from macromolecular assemblies through cells and tissues to whole organisms, with a focus on the physical limits and design principles behind biological function viewed comparatively.

A joy of Mahadevan’s work is "to discover the sublime in the mundane". He uncovers explanations of everyday phenomena that are easy to observe, often not so well understood, and are of relevance far beyond what might be first envisaged. His approach to science has been covered by National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Guardian (London), The Daily Telegraph (London), Le Monde (Paris), Die Zeit (Berlin), National Geographic etc. Here is an
article about him in Harvard Gazette.


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