Mathematics and Society Speaker Series

Macalester’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is host to the Mathematics and Society Speaker Series, the purpose of which is to enhance classroom learning in mathematics or computer science through lectures by people prominent in these fields.

These talks are free and open to the public. Neighbors of the college, students at local colleges, and high school students are especially encouraged to attend.

The series was established in January 2001 and is made possible through the generous financial support of Macalester alumnus Kurt Winkelmann ’78.

Mathematics and Society Lecture, 2014:

Anette (Peko) Hosoi
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Title: From Razor Clams to Robots: The Mathematics Behind Biologically Inspired Design 


Many natural systems have evolved to perform certain tasks—climbing, sensing, swimming—as perfectly as possible within the limits set by the laws of physics. This observation can be used both to guide engineering design and to gain insights into the form and function of biological systems. We will consider both of these themes in the context of crawling snails, diffing clams and swimming microorganisms. We will discover how an analysis of the physical principles exploited by snails and clams leads to the development of novel robotic diggers and crawlers, and explore the role of mathematics in the design, control, and assessment of unconventional robotic systems.

Thursday, November 13, 2014
John B. Davis Lecture Hall
Ruther Stricker Dayton Campus Center

More details in poster


past speakers





2013-14 Louis J Gross University of Tennessee "Best" in a Biological Context: Optimization Across the Biological Hierarchy
2012-13 Bill Cook Georgia Tech The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Blueprint for Optimization
2011-12 David Kung St. Mary's College of Maryland How Math Made Modern Music Mad Irrational
2010-11 Edward Belbruno NASA Research Associate &
Professor at Princeton University
Low Energy Pathways in Space, Chaos, and Origin of the Moon
2009-10 Jeff Weeks Geometry Games The Shape of Space
2008-09 Ann Watkins California State University,
Fallacies in Elementary Statistics
2007-08 Bart de Smit Leiden University
The Netherlands
M.C. Escher and the Droste Effect
2006-07 Peter Hamburger Western Kentucky University The Art of Venn Diagrams
2005-06 Doris Schattschneider Moravian College  
2004-05 Helmer Aslaksen National University of Singapore The Mathematics of the Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Gregorian Calendars
2003-04 Herb Wilf University of Pennsylvania  
2002-03 Gil Strang MIT
2001-02 Tom Banchoff Brown University  
2000-01 George Andrews Penn State