Breakfast Club Seminar Series

Breakfast Club Seminar Series

"Coordination and Control with Precise Spike Timing in a Comprehensive Motor Program for Agile Movement"

Simon Sponberg, Ph.D.
Dunn Family Associate Professor of Physics and Biological Sciences
Department of Physics
Georgia Institute of Technology


Simon Sponberg, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he studies neuromechanics and locomotor control. He received his joint honors Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Physics from Lewis and Clark College in 2002 before moving to complete his Ph.D. with Bob Full at the University of California, Berkeley. He then completed a postdoc at the University of Washington, with Tom Daniel and Adrienne Fairhall. Simon won a Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Neuroethology in 2014.

A central challenge for many organisms is the generation of stable, versatile locomotion through irregular, complex environments. Animals have evolved to negotiate almost every environment on this planet. To do this, animals' nervous systems acquire, process and act upon information. Yet their brains must operate through the mechanics of the body’s sensors and actuators to both perceive and act upon the environment. Our research investigates how physics and physiology enable locomoting animals to achieve the remarkable stability and maneuverability we see in biological systems.  Conceptually, this demands combining neuroscience, muscle physiology, and biomechanics with an eye towards revealing mechanism and principle -- an integrative science of biological movement. This emerging field, termed neuromechanics, does for biology what mechatronics, the integration of electrical and mechanical system design, has done for engineering. Namely, it provides a mechanistic context for the electrical (neuro-) and physical (mechanical) determinants of movement in organisms. We explore how animals fly and run stably even in the face of repeated perturbations, how the multifuncationality of muscles arises from their physiological properties, and how the tiny brains of insects organize and execute movement.

The IBB Breakfast Club Seminar Series was started with the spirit of the Institute's interdisciplinary mission in mind to feature local IBB faculty member's research in a seminar format. Faculty are often asked to speak at other universities and conferences, but do not often present at their home institution - this seminar series is an attempt to close that gap. IBB Breakfast Club Seminars are open to anyone in the bio-community.