Email: alyssa.stark at louisville.edu; alyssaystark at gmail.com

Mailing Address:
Department of Biology
University of Louisville
139 Life Science Building
Louisville, KY 40292

Phone: 502-852-5941


Research Interests

  • Study of Natural and Synthetic Adhesives
  • Functional Morphology, Ecomorphology and Behavior
  • Biological Materials Testing
  • Biomimicry and Bio-inspired Design
  • Wettability of Natural and Synthetic Surfaces

I am interested in the functional morphology of organisms, specifically how particular morphological features, such as geometric structure and chemistry, relate to an organism’s overall performance, behavior and ecology. My primary focus is investigating the material properties and behavior of biological structures as well as the biomechanics and overall performance of the natural system where these features are found. I am also interested in applying the design principles of these complex biological systems to biomimietic and bio-inspired design.

Currently I work on the gecko adhesive system. As a graduate student in the Integrated Bioscience (IB) program I worked both in the Department of Biology (advised by Peter Niewiarowski) and in the Department of Polymer Science (advised by Ali Dhinojwala). Recently the adhesive system of the gecko has gained popularity in both the fields of biology and material science. I work to bridge these fields by testing the performance of the adhesive system at various levels of organization using techniques rooted in both disciplines. For example, I test adhesion and sprint performance at the whole-animal scale using a custom-designed force apparatus and racetrack. Scaling down, I also measure the material properties, chemical components and behavior of individual adhesive elements – small hair-like structures found on the toes of geckos. Finally, I develop and test synthetic mimics which allow us to 1. design better performing gecko-inspired synthetics and 2. remove some of the complex variation in the natural system (i.e. dynamic surface chemistry and material properties) so that we can clarify the more basic, fundamental properties utilized by geckos and other adhesive organisms. I am interested in the similarities and differences found at each level of organization in both the natural and synthetic systems, and how they may relate to the natural ecology of the organism.

In September 2014 I joined the lab of Steve Yanoviak at the University of Louisville as a postdoctoral associate. Please check back later for updates on ants!