Shawkey, He and Bishop featured at Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials symposium

International leaders in biomimicry at the nanoscale were featured at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center Nanoscience Initiative’s Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials symposium on Tuesday, February 21.

Matthew D. Shawkey of Ghent University, Ximin He of the University of California, Los Angeles and Kyle Bishop of Columbia University were among the speakers at the event, which drew nearly 100 attendees to the half-day conference held in the CUNY ASRC’s auditorium.

“Our speakers showed examples of how concepts from the living world can be used as inspiration for functional materials design,” said Rein V. Ulijn, Director of the Nanoscience Initiative. “The sophistication of nature’s nanostructures is truly amazing; it’s very exciting to see how researchers are getting closer and closer to mimicking these materials and putting them to use.”

Shawkey began the event with his talk on the diversity of structural colors present in birds, focusing specifically on how the colors are produced at the nanometer scale and how evolution has shaped what hues have resulted from avian diversification. Hauber, of CUNY’s Hunter College and Interim University Vice Provost for Research, then spoke about structural and pigmentary bases of egg color and its mimicry in birds.

The focus then shifted to synthetic approaches to mimicking biological materials. Dr. Ayala Lampel from CUNY ASRC discussed her recent work using peptide nanotechnology for the formation of melanin-like materials with tunable morphological, electrical and optical properties. This was followed by Ximin He of UCLA who spoke on design of environment-adaptive, dynamic material systems that have potential applications in biomedicine and energy.

Columbia University’s Kyle Bishop presented a more abstract version of biological inspiration, demonstrating dynamic assemblies that could propagate wave-like motions, similar to cilia. The ASRC’s Xi Chen wrapped up the symposium with a discussion of his work analyzing nanoscale structures developed by biological organisms to facilitate their functions and utilizing them to derive energy from evaporation.

“While the speakers were deliberately selected to provide a broad spectrum,” Ulijn said, “clear themes emerged during the afternoon, especially in the use of nanomaterials to manipulate light, to achieve motility, and how materials can pick up information from their environment and respond to it. There is an exciting future ahead where these concepts may be incorporated in a variety of areas, including sustainable energy production and soft robotics.”


The City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a University-wide venture that elevates CUNY’s legacy of scientific research and education through initiatives in five distinctive, but increasingly interconnected disciplines: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience and Environmental Sciences. The center is designed to promote a unique, interdisciplinary research culture with researchers from each of the initiatives working side by side in the ASRC’s core facilities, sharing equipment that is among the most advanced available.