Education and Training

The CiBER-IGERT’s general training objective is to create leaders with an interdisciplinary vision of education and research.

To achieve our general training goals, the IGERT Educational Program will have three stages.

Stage 1 – IGERT Trainees will begin to develop a common scientific language, gain new skills, and discover opportunities to contribute to and benefit from bio- and bio-inspired motion systems by taking lecture courses, a new interdisciplinary teaching laboratory, an IGERT Participant Seminar and a student-led IGERT Visitor Seminar.

Stage 2 – IGERT Trainees will have an opportunity to conduct structured interdisciplinary research projects in CiBER, in their interdisciplinary lab rotation, and in their international experience.

Stage 3 – Trainees will learn how to apply their interdisciplinary discoveries by attending a Biomimetics Design Seminar, taking professional development and entrepreneurship workshops, competing in design contests and pursuing industrial internships.

CiBER-IGERT Specific Courses

Biomimetics – seminar/lecture course with presentations from IGERT Faculty and Trainees
Mechanics of Organisms Laboratory – interdisciplinary research-based teaching laboratory course in CiBER
Biomechanics Seminar – student-led seminar
Biomimetic design graduate seminar – from discovery to product development.

Professional Development & Entrepreneurship Courses

Academic survivorship
Communicating science to the public
Public and K-12 outreach
Entrepreneurship courses and workshops
Industrial internships

General Course Lists

Control systems
Materials, sensors and actuators
Evolution and organismal diversity


CiBER IGERT’s General Training Objectives

Create leaders with an interdisciplinary vision of education and research. The barriers that prevent interdisciplinary training remain formidable. “Because of the finite nature of our minds we have subdivided biology into disciplines and specialties. These disciplines are artifacts of convenience and history. They give psychological support to us by setting limits on what we are supposed to know and limits to what we have to think about. They give us identity when we are young and honors when we are old. They become bureaucratically entrenched and often achieve a depressing kind of institutional immortality, and they also obscure our view of biology.” [48]. The same can be said of engineering.

It is insufficient to create a new department merging two disciplines, to create another joint major, and to add yet another course from another discipline to already overburdened students. Instead, research experiences, teaching laboratories, and both lecture and seminar courses must provide opportunities for students with different expertise to interact, just as they will need to do in the future. Interdisciplinary training requires a paradigmatic shift in approach. We must create a culture that values, seeks, embraces, and is enhanced by interdisciplinary collaborations. We must create fundamentally different kinds of graduates and mentors for the future. Our IGERT training approach has been derived from both the successes and failures of training graduate students to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations.

Traditionally, biologists and engineers have been trained in a particular area characterized by specific approaches, techniques and/or organisms. A student trained in a specialty becomes a more productive specialist in that area at the end of training (tunnel approach, which results in a specialized biologist or engineer; e.g., you receive training in molecular biology and you become a molecular biologist; Fig. 10). 10.gifA second approach to training that has become increasingly important is the incorporation of additional approaches and techniques into an area of specialized training (funnel approach, which results in a synthetic biologist or engineer; e.g. a biomechanist may use information from evolution and ecology as well as from biomechanics to answer a question). Whereas the funnel approach has advantages over the purely specialized training approach, it still creates a biologist or engineer whose major contributions will be only in the area of his/her specialty. A solution frequently advocated is to attempt to train students deeply in several areas. For example, we often see statements that biologists must take more mathematics. Although true, this approach taken to an extreme with several other disciplines results in students who are a “jack-of-all trades and masters of none.” They are knowledgeable, but lack the expertise to contribute to any interdisciplinary collaboration.

We propose to train IGERT Trainees to become integrative biologists and engineers. Our trainees will learn the power of approaches and techniques derived from diverse areas. They will be specialists in one area (Area A), but will benefit from other diverse areas in and outside their expertise and will be able to contribute to those areas as well. Our approach follows the recommendations of the National Academies of Science report entitled “Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research” [49], whereby one should “ensure that each participant strikes an appropriate balance between leading and following and between contributing to and benefiting from the efforts of the team”. More importantly, integrative students will be able to make advances in these diverse areas after training and are more likely to create a new field (Area D). To be competitive globally, the student of the future must become more interdisciplinary, and both flexible and capable of addressing new questions that span levels of organization and disciplines. Such expertise requires knowledge of and judicious selection from the diversity of organisms and materials when posing research questions.


CiBER-IGERT Educational Program

To achieve our general training goals, the IGERT Educational Program will have three stages (Fig. 11).


In Stage 1, IGERT Trainees will begin to develop a common scientific language, gain new skills, and discover opportunities to contribute to and benefit from bio- and bio-inspired motion systems by taking lecture courses, a new interdisciplinary teaching laboratory, an IGERT Participant Seminar and a student-led IGERT Visitor Seminar. In Stage 2, IGERT Trainees will have an opportunity to conduct structured interdisciplinary research projects in CiBER, in their interdisciplinary lab rotation, and in their international experience. In Stage 3, trainees will learn how to apply their interdisciplinary discoveries by attending a Biomimetics Design Seminar, taking professional development and entrepreneurship workshops, competing in design contests and pursuing industrial internships.

Stage 1 – Customized core curriculum to develop a common scientific language, gain new skills, and discover opportunities to contribute to and benefit from bio- and bio-inspired motion systems

Customized core curriculum. A “one-size fits all” core curriculum is not feasible or desirable given the varied background of our perspective IGERT Trainees and their differing departmental requirements. Our IGERT Mentoring Teams (see Section 5) will work with students and their home department advisors to create a custom core curriculum.

IGERT Trainees will have three course requirements: 1) our new IGERT Seminar/lecture course, 2) our new interdisciplinary research-based teaching laboratory, and 3) a cross-disciplinary course in their potential area of thesis research (e.g., a mechanical engineering trainee would be required to meet a biomechanics requirement).

Mentoring teams will ensure that IGERT Trainees meet our program goals of having sufficient knowledge to see the benefits from integration across all four research focus areas and between biology and engineering. In year one and two, mentoring teams will advise trainees on selection from the rich array of courses we offer with respect to bio- and bio-inspired motion systems that are directly aligned with our research focus areas.

Mechanics. Trainees can select from courses in mechanics and dynamics offered by Mechanical Engineering (three levels of Engineering Mechanics; Intermediate and Advanced Dynamics). They can take a biomechanics course from either a biological or engineering perspective (Biomechanics from Bioengineering and Mechanics of Organisms in Integrative Biology). Biomechanics courses include a diversity of organismal perspectives ranging from invertebrates to humans (Mechanics of Organisms; Intro to Biomechanical Analysis of Human Movement – Kinesiology; Orthopedic Biomechanics). Mechanics courses are available that span size ranges from cells (e.g., Models of Cell Mechanics, Cell Locomotion, Biophysics of Cell Motility) to how organisms and engineered systems move in their environment (e.g., Engineering Aerodynamics, Elementary and Advanced Fluid Mechanics, Marine Hydrodynamics, Transport and Mixing in the Environment). Design courses for motion systems are available from Electrical Engineering (Mechantronic Design Lab) and Mechanical Engineering (Design of Microprocessor Based Mechanical Systems). We also offer weekly seminars in Biomechanics and Locomotion Energetics and Biomechanics.

Control systems. Engineering offers several levels of courses on control systems (Intro to Control Design Techniques, Signals and Systems, Dynamics Systems and Feedback, Advanced Control Systems, Control of Nonlinear Dynamic Systems). In biology, trainees can select courses dedicated to control (Motor Control, Motor Control Lab, Seminar in Motor Control, Systems Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience). Both introductory (Intro to Robotics) and advanced robotics courses (Learning for Robotics and Control; Dynamic Control of Robotic Manipulators) are available. Physiology courses (Human and Mammalian Physiology Labs, Comparative Physiology) emphasize systems control.

Materials, sensors and actuators. Mechanical engineering (Mechanical Behavior of Engineering Materials) and Materials Science (Properties of Materials) both offer courses in materials. Properties of biological materials are presented in Bioengineering (Biological Performance of Materials, Structural Aspects of Biomaterials), Mechanical Engineering (Advanced Tissue Mechanics) and Integrative Biology (Mechanics of Organisms, Intro to Human Osteology, Evolution of Vertebrates). Introduction to Bionano-science and -technology in the Bioengineering provides chemical and physical principles of biological materials through case studies of spider webs, silks, seashells, diatoms, bones, and teeth, as well as self-assembled nanostructures inspired by nature. Sensors and actuators are covered in courses in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (Sensors, Actuators, and Electrodes; Intro to MEMS, MEMS).

Evolution and organismal diversity. The Integrative Biology Department offers a general course on Evolution. Using our Natural History Museums, trainees will have the opportunity to take courses focusing on their taxa of interest for inspiration (Invertebrate Zoology, General Entomology, Herpetology, Ornithology, Mammalogy). These courses include labs and field trips (e.g., Natural History of the Vertebrates) that allow students to observe animals in their environment. In addition to the evolution of structure, several courses detail behavior (e.g., Animal Behavior Biology: An Evolutionary Perspective, Animal Behavior). Through our Human Evolution Research Center, we offer courses on human evolution (Human Paleontology), their anatomy (General Human Anatomy and Lab) and their behavior (Evolution of Hominid Behavior), as well as the anatomy, function, and histology of vertebrates through time (Evolution of Vertebrates and Lab, Morphology of Vertebrate Skeletons and Lab).

ew seminar/lecture course with presentations from IGERT Faculty and Trainees . Professor Dharan will run a new version of his course, Biomimetics, a weekly seminar/lecture for IGERT Faculty and Trainees that is cross-listed with biology and engineering. The first orientation meeting will offer a detailed overview and update of the program. We need to immediately familiarize trainees with the program, faculty and resources on campus, and to break down barriers among trainees from different disciplines. After the introduction, IGERT Faculty and trainees give presentations, but they are unlike a typical seminar describing research results. Presenters are required to address the fundamental principles behind discoveries, explain the jargon used, and directly state what their discipline needs from others to answer cutting-edge questions and what tools and approaches they may bring to advance other disciplines. The PI and all Co-PIs have given several of these seminar/lectures in the pilot version. The excitement of the graduate students was, in part, the impetus for CiBER and this IGERT. First-year trainees will be required to attend, while second year trainees and third year students will also give presentations.

New interdisciplinary research-based teaching laboratory course (Mechanics of Organisms) in CiBER. [click here to read about it in Science Matters]
In the second semester, IGERT trainees will take a research-based teaching laboratory in CiBER’s common laboratory that results in original discoveries from the teaming of biologists and engineers and lays the groundwork for our mentoring approach. The course will be taught by the PI and all Co-PIs.

Many studies in education show conclusively that a research-based approach results in better teaching [50]. This spring, we piloted our new interdisciplinary, research-based, integrative biomechanics teaching laboratory that allows students to move toward original discovery every week. We use diverse species including insects, crabs, squid, lizards and hummingbirds. Laboratories include the energetics and efficiency of locomotion using treadmills and O2 analyzers, 3D kinematics and dynamics of running using high-speed video cameras and force platforms, control of rapid running using electrical monitoring of muscles (EMGs), materials testing (Instron) of bird, squid and insect muscle, particle image velocimetry of hummingbird flight in a wind tunnel, fluid mechanics on physical models in a water flume, flow measurements in nature (both on campus streams and the seashore) and simulation of motion using 3D musculo-skeletal dynamic models (SIMM) as well as other dynamics packages.

The laboratory is highly structured, but not “cookbook”. Teams of students do not conduct the same experiment with duplicated equipment at the same time with an expected “right” answer. Approximately 20-25 students in teams of 4-5 conduct experiments using state-of-the-art research equipment. Each team has two 3-hour class periods to conduct experiments. A team rotates to a new station each week. After becoming familiar with the equipment and procedures, they are given a problem thought to be solvable based on lectures and readings. We intentionally design the laboratory so that their results do not meet their expectations, often because they must consider another parameter. In the second laboratory using the same station, the team must design its own simple experiment to explain more of the data. Often these experiments represent novel research contributions that when followed up can be published.

Teams have a 3-week period at the end of the course in which they must conduct an original research project. Students must present and defend the results from each experiment. The remarkable transformation of a student who expects to find facts given by authorities to a more independent, skeptical, and critical thinker can occur in a single semester. This approach will move trainees through the stages of critical thinking development as described by Perry and modified by Nelson [51, 52].


Our pilot effort was successful. Teams of engineers and biologists made original discoveries in the second period of the structured laboratories. Six major discoveries from their independent projects will lead to publications including how hummingbirds fly backwards at high speed and how they dissipate heat. Discoveries on how iguanas use their tail to control running and cockroaches use muscles running up inclines are providing inspiration for a legged micro-robot [20].

New student-led seminar with short-term visitors. A weekly student-led seminar will invite university and industry speakers to facilitate discussion of biological inspiration in motion systems, and the search for a common language, while identifying research opportunities in diverse disciplines. Our IGERT Student Committee will propose speakers to the Steering Committee for approval. Many IGERT Faculty who have presented to other IGERT groups nationwide agree that this is one of the program’s most rewarding experiences. Two initial CiBER Industry Seminars confirmed the students’ excitement.


Stage 2 – Structured interdisciplinary research in bio- and bio-inspired motion systems

In the second stage of the program, IGERT trainees will have the opportunity to continue research projects started in the interdisciplinary teaching laboratory, to start new research projects in the CiBER common laboratory, and to begin research rotations and international experiences.

Common laboratory for research in CiBER. In Stage 2, IGERT trainees will interact with other students, faculty, post docs and visitors from academia and industry in CiBER on continuing and new research projects. Our new interdisciplinary research-based teaching laboratory will lead to new lines of research in biology because of novel engineering approaches. The teaching laboratory fosters learning from each other and serving as mentors to those interested in pursuing interdisciplinary research. Our pilot effort supports this model. Engineering and biology students will continue to collect more data in CiBER to publish their discoveries in biology and bio-inspired engineering. Trainees will have the opportunity to use all the research stations of CiBER when they conduct research in their rotations, as well as their thesis research. Feedback from all CiBER engineering and biology researchers who use the research stations will be used to develop new teaching laboratories. Education and research will be inseparable just as they must be when we teach others in interdisciplinary research teams, so that collective discoveries emerge that are beyond what any single group can accomplish alone. IGERT trainees will have opportunities to learn how to function in diverse groups that are more typical of their future workplace than the artificial environments of our traditionally structured academic experiences.

Laboratory rotations. Trainees will be required to conduct a semester, year-long or summer research project in one or more of the research focus areas before the end of the second year (Fig. 11). The project may be an extension of a discovery made in the research-based teaching laboratory or a new proposal. Trainees must complete at least one of the rotations in a different discipline (i.e., biologists must do an engineering-based project and engineers a biology-based project). The trainee’s Mentoring Team will facilitate the project choice and completion. Our mentoring teams will work closely with our Education and Assessment Director and the trainee’s departmental graduate student advisory or thesis committees. We will ensure that students have at least one CiBER-IGERT engineer and biologist for advising on courses and the research rotation projects. We anticipate that these research projects will often lead to part of the IGERT Trainee’s thesis research.

Undergraduate researcher recruitment and mentoring. IGERT Trainees will recruit undergraduate researchers by participating in our introductory course called BioMotion, taught by Professor Full and Dudley. The course highlights biologically inspired research on motion systems, the focus of this IGERT. The class features an independent project that requires teams of undergraduates to design bio-inspired devices or robots, and then defend their projects as if they were a company or team of researchers at a BioInventors Night. IGERT trainees can make presentations about their proposed research, assist the design teams and/or function as judges. The goal of the participation is to attract highly motivated undergraduates that will assist trainees in their research.

International collaborative experiences. After consultation with their mentoring team, IGERT Trainees will submit a proposal for an international experience in their first year (Stage 1). When approved by the Steering Committee, IGERT Trainees will begin a one to three month international experience during year two (Stage 2; Fig. 11; Section 9).


Stage 3 – The practice of discovery and application in bio- and bio-inspired motion systems

New biomimetic design graduate seminar – from discovery to product development. This semester we are piloting a new graduate level seminar on biologically inspired design entitled, “How Would Nature Do That?” The course uses case studies from research labs, bio-design consultants, and companies that currently use or market biomimetic products. It features problem-solving in interdisciplinary teams, visits to field sites and laboratories and draws from experts in Integrative Biology, Bioengineering, the College of Environmental Design and the Haas School of Business. IGERT PI Full is an instructor, along with Professor Isaacs, the Director of the Management of Technology Program in the Haas School of Business, the associate Dean of the College of Natural Resources and a moderator from the California College of the Arts. IGERT Trainees will be encouraged to take this in their third (Stage 3) or fourth year.

Professional development & entrepreneurship courses
Academic survivorship course. This course meets once a week for two hours and offers a series of lectures, presentations and workshops to prepare graduate students and post docs for many aspects of academic careers such as the granting process, publication, teaching, lab and time management, interviews, tenure, ethics, gender issues and career choice. PI Full, Co-PI Koehl and Co-PI Dudley have co-taught the course in the past. We plan to restructure the course to include a different IGERT engineering faculty member each time so as to offer better advice for engineers (e.g., ABET accreditation, more on IP issues, right of first refusal, industrial partnerships and entrepreneurship). IGERT Trainees will be encouraged to take this course in their third (Stage 3) or fourth year.

Communicating science to the public course. This course meets once a week for two hours and offers lectures and class discussions on how to convey research issues, processes, and findings to a varied scientific audience through different media (e.g., posters, web, newsletters, newspaper and magazine articles, books, television and museum exhibits). Co-PI Koehl, PI Full and Co-PI Dudley have co-taught the course in teams of two in the past with Graduate School of Journalism presentations. These faculty have considerable media experience. IGERT Trainees will be encouraged to take this course in their third (Stage 3) or fourth year.

Public and K-12 outreach. Trainees taking the Communicating Science to the Public Course will have the opportunity to build a museum exhibit or classroom kit for K-12 on bio-inspired motion systems. Past graduate students have helped design new hands-on demonstrations such as one on gecko adhesion featured in the Nanozone Exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The children’s science show Dragonfly TV will feature Professor Fearing and Full’s research on gecko adhesives, with the upcoming show starting from the Nanzone Exhibit and moving to their labs.

Fortunately, one of our Directors of Education, Professor Caldwell, can involve trainees in two NSF funded education projects for which he serves as PI. The first, Understanding Science, will develop a freely accessible website that provides an accurate portrayal of the nature of science, as well as tools for teaching associated concepts. This project seeks to improve teacher understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise and provide resources and strategies that encourage and enable K-16 teachers to incorporate and reinforce the nature of science throughout their science teaching. The second project, “WWW.Evolution,” aims to improve teacher understanding of the processes of evolution, the history of evolutionary thought, and to increase their ability to teach these subjects effectively through a website.

New and existing entrepreneurship courses and workshops. The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haas School of Business and the new Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology in the College of Engineering will offer four courses to IGERT Trainees. The courses meet once a week for two to three hours. One new course on an Introduction to Entrepreneurship will feature guest speakers and is designed for students who have no business experience. A second course, Engineering Entrepreneurship, was created for beginning graduate students and explores key entrepreneurial concepts relevant to the high-technology world. Topics include, the entrepreneurial perspective, start-up strategies, business idea evaluation, business plan writing, introduction to entrepreneurial finance and venture capital, managing growth and delivering innovative products. A third graduate level course on New Product Development Process: Design Theory and Methods will develop the interdisciplinary skills required for successful product development in today’s competitive marketplace. The Executive Director of the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Laboratory, David Charron, has agreed to work with IGERT Trainees to develop, a new fourth course, Entrepreneurship Workshop for Start-ups. This workshop serves student teams with interests in entrepreneurship and who have their own venture project under development

Design and entrepreneurship competitions. IGERT Trainees will have the opportunity to participate in several competitions that include Big Ideas@Berkeley encouraging student teams to propose the next generation of research, education, and service activities on campus offering more than $170,000 in awards. Last year, bio-inspired innovation was featured and awardees had outstanding ideas related to microfluidic silk spinning and a novel glue inspired from mussels. The Annual UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition serves as the convergence point for entrepreneurs across the greater community. The competition gives students, alumni and local entrepreneurs the opportunity to work together to turn innovative ideas into real businesses. IGERT Trainees could compete in the new Venture Lab Competition granting awards office furnishings/supply budget, workspace, meeting space and access to a extensive mentoring network for up to four teams seeking to start a venture.

Industrial internships. Trainees will be encouraged to seek internships in their second year with the help of the Career Development Director and the student’s IGERT Mentoring Team. Internships will begin in Stage 3 (Year 3 and beyond). Creation of internships directly relevant to the IGERT will stem from CiBER’s Monthly Seminar Series and Industrial Affiliates Program. Thus far, we have had the founders and presidents of two major robotics companies (iRobot and Boston Dynamics Inc.) present seminars. CiBER’s first Industry Day Symposium was on Gecko-inspired Adhesives. The dozen companies that attended have already inquired about the possibility of internships. Other internships will come from diverse sources that include IGERT Faculty industry associations, over 60 corporations associated with The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and 30 industrial member companies associated with The Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center.







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