Zooplankton research garners grant awards
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor Daisuke Takagi is the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant “Hydrodynamics of outer flow at low Reynolds numbers for locomotion and flow control” from the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems division for an amount of $297,941 (starting June 15th, 2016 for a duration of 3 years). The Army Research Office grant ''Modeling the collective behavior of unsteadily swimming zooplankton" is for an amount of $47,414 (starting Aug 1st, 2016 for a duration of 9 months), supported by Dr. Virginia Pasour in the Biomathematics program.
Those grants support his research to examine the movement of plankton, tiny animals “drifting” in the ocean. Far from drifting aimlessly, these zooplankton perform an elegant dance by carefully coordinating their numerous arms and legs, an important survival skill for avoiding predators and capturing food. To understand exactly how they make these maneuvers, the research group will use mathematical techniques and hands-on experiments in Prof. Takagi's laboratory. Observation of these tiny creatures continues to inform us on novel ways of navigating through water and handling objects within it. A longer term goal is to help design and control miniature robots for future applications, for instance by piloting through the human bloodstream for targeted drug delivery and through the ocean for trash detection and clean-up.
Prof. Takagi's laboratory was launched with the help of the College of Natural Sciences, the Mathematics Department and the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. His lab is dedicated to hands-on research and education in applied mathematics and fluid dynamics in particular. The experimental laboratory is the first of its kind in the Department of Mathematics at UHM and occupies space in the Pacific Biosciences Research Center's Bekesy Laboratory of Neurobiology.
The grants support both graduate and undergraduate students in interdisciplinary research and education. Past undergraduates have come from departments in geology & geophysics, information and computer sciences, mathematics, mechanical engineering, microbiology, and physics. Additionally, the lab hosts outreach activities conducted by the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program (STOMP). The focus is to expose younger students to direct hands-on learning opportunities and a chance to delve into the world of autonomous robotics. Currently a high school student is working with Prof. Takagi and his team to develop a robotic swimmer to illustrate the theoretical results in an experimental setting. Moreover, this academic year undergraduate students will work with K-12 schools and teachers to bring STOMP into the classroom.
Daisuke Takagi received his PhD in 2010 from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge, and was then a Postdoc for 2 years at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University. He joined the Department of Mathematics at UH in January 2013.