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Engineer studies tensional integrity of biological structures
Date:2/11/2010

Blacksburg, Va. Cornel Sultan, assistant professor of aerospace and ocean engineering at Virginia Tech, is the latest faculty member at the university to learn he has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.

Sultan joins a phenomenal list of more than 70 Virginia Tech CAREER award winners, of which some 60 have been members of the College of Engineering since the award was created in 1994. He will receive some $400,000 from NSF to help him in his research and teaching endeavors. http://www.aoe.vt.edu/people/faculty.php?fac_id=csultan

Sultan, who joined the AOE department in 2007, is looking at biological discoveries to develop new controllable structures that, in engineering terms, have "tensional integrity" or tensegrity. This concept means that the integrity of the structure is primarily due to its tensioned elements.

"For example, in biology the membrane, intermediate, and actin filaments of a living cell's framework are crucial in achieving structural integrity and morphing shape capabilities as well as allowing for its sensing, control, and information transmitting functions," Sultan said.

Sultan, who spent two years at Harvard University as a research fellow studying the mathematical modeling of biological structures, said his research could lead to improvements in multiple areas. His findings could further the understanding of the connection between heart disease and a cell's structure, aid tissue and organ reconstruction research, and explain how nature controls motion in a fast and energy efficient manner.

When the biology is applied to engineering principles, Sultan believes the resulting mathematical models and control strategies will be "critical in validating tensegrity applications such as space telescopes, antennas, and robots, thus enabling the jump from feasibility to impleme
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Contact: Lynn Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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