During the 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting Opening Lecture, Saturday, Nov. 9, David Hu, PhD, will unlock the mysteries of nature in motion, discussing the blend of engineering and biology through his quirky, illuminating research on locomotion. An engaging, energetic speaker, he will share what he calls his “journey with wacky science,” blending humor and cutting-edge discoveries on the dynamics of interfaces—fluid to fluid, solid to fluid, solid to solid. He will share stories about his laboratory’s work in biomimetic technologies based on nature’s innate designs.
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Dr. Hu was a nerdy kid from the suburbs who spent too much time in front of his computer. His science teachers inspired him to get outdoors, study nature and join the cross-country running team—all enabling him to explore the world up close. During one marine biology field trip to a nearby island, Dr. Hu and his classmates studied and imitated turtles in their natural habitat, literally learning how the animals moved by crawling through the mud.
Quirky experiences like these lit a fire in Dr. Hu, who is now an associate professor of fluid mechanics in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and has a joint appointment in the Department of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He studied mechanical engineering and mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then launched a research career on the biomechanics of animal locomotion.
Today, at the Hu Lab at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, the researchers study how and why fire ants build bivouac towers, why frogs’ tongues are so sticky and how snakes slither. In one landmark study, Dr. Hu established that elephants and cats—despite the fact that an elephant’s bladder is 3,600 times larger than a feline’s—both take the same amount of time to pee (20 seconds). Also, elephants urinate at four meters per second, about the same volume of liquid force as five showerheads.
Among his many honors both prestigious and goofy, Dr. Hu won the Ig Nobel Prize for Improbable Research in 2015 for his research on the hydrodynamics of mammal urination, including the duration of the urine streams of a menagerie of different animals. He and Patricia Yang, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, and two undergraduate assistants spent time at Zoo Atlanta filming 32 different mammals as they emptied their bladders. Their goal was to unlock more efficient methods for designing fluid-producing equipment, such as water hoses and tanks. Dr. Hu’s study on mammal urination was published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Hu’s research on animal locomotion and propulsion, including flow-visualization experiments to unlock the secrets of bodies moving across watery surfaces or defying gravity, has been covered by ABC’s Good Morning America, the New York Times, National Geographic, USA Today and National Public Radio. His work has also been featured in Highlights educational magazine for kids, and Dr. Hu answers questions from kid scientists in videos on YouTube.
After the lecture in the Thomas Murphy Ballroom in the Georgia World Congress Center, Dr. Hu will spend time in the Georgia Ballroom answering questions, engaging in conversation. He will also be giving away signed copies of his new book, How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future, published by Princeton University Press.
Don’t miss this funny, fascinating and illuminating talk by one of the world’s leading experts on biolocomotion. As a mathematician, engineer and scientific researcher, he says he gets to be both silly and serious at the same time.
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The 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, Nov. 8–13, in Atlanta is your gateway to global rheumatology education. View the Online Program to find out more about the opportunities for professional development and networking, and obtain firsthand access to the latest rheumatology research and clinical applications. Register now, and don’t miss out.