Giving to Brown

Interdisciplinary Bat-Flight Researcher Joe Bahlman Shares Through Story, Video

Joe Bahlman, Ph.D. Candidate

“I’m in my fourth year of a six-year program, working in the bat flight labs on campus.  We’ve done a lot of exciting projects and had some fantastic experiments going on this summer. My work is highly interdisciplinary—although I come from a biology background, I find myself learning to be an engineer. Last spring, I even took a robotics course (learning to program microcontrollers, build mechanisms, and work with material properties) that proved tremendously helpful.

Brown is a great place to be, socially as well as intellectually. When everything works well, it feels wonderful! — Joe Bahlman, Ph.D. Candidate in Biology

“I watch live bats to learn how they move and dissect dead bats to study their anatomy. Then I use that information to help build robotic bat wings. The one I've constructed this summer is more complicated than my previous model: it can bend several joints, allowing a wider range of motions and dynamic shapes. Then I can compare the performance of this model to the live bats.

“My fellowships have been a tremendous help. They’ve freed me up to move outside my department for various areas of expertise (particularly in math and engineering) and do all the research I need. That wouldn’t have been possible if I’d had to carry a heavy teaching load every semester.

“Brown is a great place to be, socially as well as intellectually. When everything works well, it feels wonderful!”

Joe Bahlman
Ph.D. Candidate in Biology

This story originally appeared on the Boldly Brown: Campaign for Academic Enrichment website in September 2010.