IAS Benjamin Meaker Visting Professor Barry Trimmer, Tufts University, USA

Barry Trimmer large

Polymeric Soft Robots for Terrestrial Locomotion

15 October - 15 December 2017


Barry Trimmer PhD is the Henry Bromfield Pearson Professor of Natural Science in the Biology Department at Tufts University and holds secondary appointments in Biomedical Engineering and in Neuroscience at the Tufts Medical School. He received both his undergraduate and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge in England and carried out post-doctoral training in Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Oregon, Eugene.

His research focus is on the Neuromechanics of Locomotion, the science of how animals control their movements. In addition to his work on living systems, Professor Trimmer is Director of the Tufts Neuromechanics and Biomimetic Devices Laboratory which specializes in the application of found biological principles to design and fabricate Soft Robots.

Professor Trimmer is also Director of the NSF-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program in Soft Material Robotics and Editor in Chief of the journal Soft Robotics. His lab designs and builds a variety of soft robots that are used to test hypotheses about locomotion and to explore new types of control systems. His interests in living systems and robots converge in his recent research that seeks to "grow" robotic devices using a combination of biosynthetic materials, cellular modulation, and tissue engineering. These Biosynthetic Robots will be versatile, safe, biocompatible, and biodegradable. 


Most man-made machines are constructed of stiff materials such as metals, plastics, ceramics and glass. In contrast, animals may contain stiff materials such as bone and cuticle but their fundamental building blocks are soft, active and elastic. This material difference between living and most man-made objects can limit the capabilities, adaptability and robustness of current robots. It is a particular problem when robots need to interact closely with humans and natural environments. The increasing demand for more adept, adaptable, cheap and safe machines has led to the emerging field of soft robotics.

Professor Trimmer will work with the Bristol SoftLab, led by Professor Rossiter, to collaborate on the design of a new generation of mobile machines called Polyworms. These machines will be soft, macro-scale, terrestrial robots capable of electrically powered locomotion in diverse environments. A long term goal is to make these robots available as a powerful platform for research into the design and control of soft, moving structures. 

During his stay in Bristol Professor Trimmer will be hosted by Professor Jonathan Rossiter (Engineering)

Professor Trimmer will be giving a public lecture on 12 December at 1720 in the Peel Lecture Theatre, School for Geographical Sciences.