Attend a seminar on bioinspiration, biodiversity and the quest for autonomy in natural environments, April 5

Rolf Mueller portrait

Join the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks as they host Rolf Mueller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, for a seminar on bioinspiration, biodiversity and the quest for autonomy in natural environments.

Bioinspiration, Biodiversity, and Quest for Autonomy in Natural Environments
Friday, April 5, 2024
10:30 a.m.–noon
Technology Center (TECH) 162, Polytechnic campus [map]


Accomplishing useful tasks in complex natural environments poses the highest-level challenge for autonomous systems. Bat species that rely on a combination of biosonar sensing and flapping flight to navigate dense vegetation are exceptional model systems for these abilities, as they routinely navigate complex habitats in a dexterous, reliable, and highly parsimonious fashion, where all sensory information about the environment is conveyed by one-dimensional echo trains received at the two ears. Applying a combination of biomimetic robotics and deep-learning data analysis can shed light on how bats encode and extract the sensory information they need to navigate in dense vegetation, explaining capabilities such as location identification and passageway finding. Furthermore, the analysis of bat behavior, combined with soft-robotic reproduction, has revealed a new nonlinear encoding mechanism for target direction. Future work will focus on the complexity of maneuvering flight in bats and its integration with biosonar sensing.

About the speaker

Rolf Mueller has dedicated more than 20 years to the study of bat biosonar, approaching it from the perspectives of biophysics and bioinspired engineering. He earned his degrees from the University of Tuebingen in Germany, followed by a postdoctoral position at Yale University. Mueller has held faculty positions in Germany, Denmark, China and the U.S. Presently, he serves as the Lynn Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and is affiliated with the university’s Center for Bioinspired Science and Technology.

In his international engagements, Mueller established a joint laboratory with the University of Brunei in 2019. His research on bat biosonar and its engineering replications has been published in prestigious journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Physical Review Letters, Nature Machine Learning and the Journal of Experimental Biology. He attained Fellow status with the Acoustical Society of America in 2019.

Follow Mueller on LinkedIn.