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Ritwika Mukherjee
Biology

Bio
I am from India where I received an Integrated BS-MS with a major in Biology and a minor in Physics from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Trivandrum. I am a third year Ph.D. student in the Dept. of Biology at Tufts University. Currently I am working in Dr. Barry Trimmer's lab and my research interests include behavior, neuroscience and design of biomimetic devices.

IGERT Research
Fast, rapid movements in living systems are driven by muscles storing and releasing energy rapidly by a common feature of pre-loading an external structure slowly and releasing the energy quickly by a mechanical trigger. This lever-based velocity amplification system is exploited in different ways in different arthropods. But not all animals have clearly defined elastic structures, catches or stiff levers to aid in these rapid movements. My research is about examining how soft, non-hydrostatic animals make rapid movements. Soft-bodied caterpillars are known to produce fast defensive strikes at noxious stimuli applied to their abdomen. They strike with their mandibles towards the location of the stimuli. We are characterizing the strike behavior in caterpillars quantitatively and investigating the mechanisms underlying it. We examine the potential role of buckling in controlling or powering such movements and test the hypothesis that structural instabilities are used to control precision in targeting, while sustained muscular contractions allow energy to be stored for rapid movements.


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