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MechSE's Raman wins Research Live! competition


Christina Oehler

MechSE graduate student Ritu Raman won first place at this year’s campus-wide Research Live! competition at the Krannert Center on Tuesday. 
This year, four of the event’s 14 finalists were from MechSE:  Arif Abdullah, Kamalika Chatterjee, William Davies, and Raman.
Raman’s winning presentation, "Bio-Bots: Building Beyond Biology,” focused on her research of utilizing biological advancement concepts and applying them to robotics. 
“When I cut my skin, it heals. When I work out, I get stronger,” Raman said in her presentation. “If we could harness this adaptive functional behavior that biological materials have, we could really target the next generation of engineering challenges.”
Raman explained that during her first few years at the university, she developed a range of 3D printers that could replicate biological materials such as living cells, meaning that the machines could essentially reverse engineer. However, she said that this was only the beginning of her research process. 
“I consider myself a creative person, and I didn’t become an engineer to just reverse engineer what already existed in nature,” she said. “So that’s where this idea of forward engineering comes in. Can we take these biological materials and make something that is capable of non-natural or even hyper-natural functional behaviors?”
Bio-Bots are robots that use biological materials to sense, process, and respond to signals in real time. By 3D printing bones and muscles that respond to blue light, Raman said that it’s possible to have a robot execute tasks such as walking like a human can. 
She said this research was the first demonstration of a skeletal muscle-powered robot in the entire world. Raman helped design and co-lectures her own class at the university called Bioengineering 306: Bio fabrication. This class teaches students the science of working with biological materials in mechanical engineering as well as the ethics of doing so. 
Research Live! is a competition among graduate students across the university that provides a chance to showcase their work in short, three-minute, two-slide presentations. The program not only allows the students to practice their presentation skills, but also awards the winners with a cash prize. 
The three other MechSE finalists’ presentations included Abdullah’s "Mimicking Venus Flytrap: Autonomous Structures That Sense and Respond"; Chatterjee’s "Studying mechanical deformation of aircraft materials: Have a safe flight!"; and Davies’ "Condensation on an Inclination."