Noah J. Cowan, professor of mechanical engineering, was selected to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers awarded by the United States government.
At Johns Hopkins, Cowan directs the Locomotion in Mechanical and Biological Systems (LIMBS) Laboratory. His research studies how animals process sensory information to control their movements. The group also designs sensory-based robotic control systems inspired by animal models.
“This is a tremendous honor,” says Cowan. “And I feel as though I am carrying the torch for all the talented students and colleagues I have been fortunate enough to work with during my career.”
Cowan was selected for his innovative research in biologically inspired robotic systems with application to disaster recovery and space exploration and for motivating students to explore careers in science and engineering. His work includes:
- investigating how weakly electric knifefish use sensory feedback to control their swimminh, much like humans use feedback from their eyes and inner ear when they walk or run;
- discovering how cockroaches use their antennae to guide their movement along surfaces in their surroundings and using these discoveries to design biologically inspired tactile sensors for robot navigation;
- designing robots that use vision-based control systems when reaching for objects or moving around obstacles; and probing how humans adapt their movement in rhythmic tasks such as walking, running, and juggling.
President Obama in September announced the 94 researchers who received the award; Cowan was among 21 honorees nominated by the National Science Foundation. Two other Johns Hopkins University scholars received the award this year: Brian S. Caffo and Katherine L. O’Brien, both of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Sri Sarma (left), assistant professor of biomedical engineering and a member of the Institute for Computational Medicine, received an Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation award from the National Science Foundation to support her research in brain-machine interactive control of prosthetic limbs.
Joelle Frechette (left), assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received the 2011 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award for her proposal, “Understanding the Role of Hydrodynamic Forces on Wet Adhesion.”