The Kier Lab
I use a highly integrative approach because it provides the most powerful method of gaining novel insight into biological processes. My research is conducted at levels ranging from the behavior of the entire organism to the ultrastructure of its tissues, incorporating molecular and biochemical approaches, light and electron microscopy, whole cell patch clamp, muscle mechanics, mechanical testing, electromyography, and high-speed photography. I am interested in musculoskeletal systems, especially a type of hydrostatic skeleton that K.K. Smith and I termed a “muscular hydrostat”, common in soft, highly manipulative structures such as cephalopod mollusc appendages, vertebrate tongues and elephant trunks. I have collaborated with robotics engineers to design soft robotics that incorporate the principles of support and movement I discovered for these structures. I am also interested in the evolution of muscle specialization and have examined a fast-contracting muscle type that achieves high shortening velocity by structural rather than biochemical changes.