Dr. Junliang (Julian) Tao, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, has won a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from its Geotechnical Engineering and Materials Program.

Tao’s work will promote the scientific understanding of the highly efficient burrowing mechanisms of animals in the natural world. Burrowing organisms can inhabit a wide range of subsurface soil types, and adopt a variety of burrowing strategies facilitated by rhythmically changing their body shape. His findings will guide the design of next-generation, high-efficiency underground construction technologies and versatile small-scale underground robots. The educational aspect of Tao’s CAREER award will focus on generating enthusiasm among K-12 students and the public about STEM education as it relates to bio-inspired approaches.

“Dr. Tao’s work is just one of many research projects within the College of Engineering to be influenced by biomimicry,” says Dr. Donald P. Visco, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “Dr. Tao was certainly inspired by the work and efforts of the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center on campus and, in particular, its seminar series.”

According to the National Science Foundation, the CAREER Program is among its “most prestigious awards to help a junior faculty member develop activities that can effectively integrate research and education within the context of his/her organization.”