Meet the Directors of CBID

Jeannette Yen, Director and Founding Member - Professor, School of Biology

 Jeannette Yen received her Ph.D. in Oceanography at the University of Washington in 1982. She received tenure at SUNY-Stony Brook in 1995 and was promoted to Full Professor in Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2002. In 2004, Dr. Yen was Chief Scientist on a twelve day oceanography research cruise to Antarctica. With the formation of the Center for Biologically Inspired Design, Jeannette became Director of CBID at Georgia Tech in 2005. Dr. Yen is an oceanographer working at the interface between animal behavior, fluid mechanics and environmental sciences.

Her research in aquatic ecology examines signal recognition by planktonic copepods in a transitional fluid regime and their capability for three-dimensional information processing. The goal of this research is to determine how aquatic microcrustaceans are able to discriminate biological signals from background small-scale turbulent fluid flow. Using high resolution optical techniques, her laboratory team examines plankton responses to physically-derived flow and biologically-created cues. One current research focus is on 3D mating strategies of oceanic plankton, and how copepods use their asymmetric linear array of sensors to guide chemical trail tracking in a low Re regime. Research is supported by the National Science Foundations Offices of Biological Oceanography, Sensory Systems, and Polar Programs as well as by the Office of Naval Research. Professor Yen teaches freshman biology, animal behavior, and sensory ecology. By supporting efforts to raise the visibility of women in science, Jeannette continues to promote diversity and equity in academia.

Marc Weissburg, Founding Member and Co-Director - Professor, School of Biology

Marc Weissburg received a PhD from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at SUNY Stony Brook in 1990, received tenure at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2003, and became co-Director of the Center for Biologically Inspired Design in 2005. He is a Brook Byers Institute  of Sustainable Systems Professor. Dr. Weissburg has a long standing interest in comparative and interdisciplinary approaches that lead to understanding animal solutions. His research concerns the mechanisms of information acquisition for fluid mechanical and chemical signals by animals, and the consequences of perceptual abilities for populations and communities. This work merges sensory physiology, biology, ecology, fluid physics and chemistry.

Dr. Weissburg has substantial collaborations with engineers and chemists to both understand the structure of natural signals, and use principles derived from biological sensing strategies to enhance sensing techniques in human built systems. He also has an active research program in using ecological network analysis to develop more sustainable manufacturing and human infrastructure systems. Work in these areas has been funded by the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the NSF Office of Polar Programs, and NSF programs in Oceanography and Sensory Systems and Sustainable Manufacturing. He teaches comparative physiology, ecology, and Bio-inspired design methodology. 

Bert Bras, Founding Member and Co-Director - Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Bert Bras is a Professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. He came to Georgia Tech in 1992 and started working on incorporating environmental issues into mechanical engineering.

His research focus is on sustainable design and manufacturing, including design for recycling and remanufacture, bio-inspired design, and life-cycle analysis. His primary research question is how to reduce the environmental impact of companies while increasing their competitiveness, i.e., how to promote sustainable development from a triple bottom line perspective. For his research, he has collaborated and received funding and donations from institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the Georgia Research Alliance, Army Environmental Policy Institute, AT&T, Motorola, Chrysler, Lucent, Interface Flooring Systems, and Ford Motor Company, among others. He has authored and co-authored over 140 publications in his research area. He has developed and taught undergraduate courses related to Environmentally Conscious Design & Manufacturing since 1993. He is also a member of the Systems Realization Laboratory.

A native of The Netherlands, Dr. Bras obtained his Master of Science (“Ingenieur”) degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Twente, The Netherlands, in August 1987. After completion of his M.S. thesis he was hired as a full time research associate at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands’ (MARIN) Design Research department. He was sponsored by MARIN to obtain his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Operations Research from the University of Houston. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in May 1992, he received a Post-Doctoral grant from the Institute of Space Systems and Operations at the University of Houston.

Michael Helms, Co-Director - Senior Research Scientist, School of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Helms received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where his research focused on improving design creativity.  In addition to teaching biologically inspired design and cognitive science at Georgia Tech, Dr. Helms has over 40 peer reviewed publications in the field. Dr. Helms current research focuses on improving engineering education in K-12 engineering courses, and on developing a pipeline of innovative and environmentally conscious future engineers. Through his work with various industries and working groups such Kimberly Clark, Boeing, and the Innovation Research Interchange, Dr. Helms works with external partners to understand and implement biologically design in industrial settings to increase design innovation and better manage uncertainty. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Helms provided data strategy consulting to Fortune 500 companies for more than a decade.


Prior Directors

Ashok K. Goel, Founding member & Co-Director Emeritus- Professor, School of Interactive Computing. Director, Design Intelligence Laboratory

Ashok K. Goel is a Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Director of the School’s Design & Intelligence Laboratory. Ashok develops cognitive theories of biologically inspired design and design learning as well as artificial intelligence technologies for supporting the practice and learning of biologically inspired design.

Craig Tovey, Founding member and Co-Director Emeritus- Professor School of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Craig A. Tovey is an operations researcher with specialties in combinatorial optimization and probabilistic analysis. He has made many contributions to basic theory and application in OR, particularly in local search algorithms. In addition he has done influential work by cross-pollinating OR with political science and animal behavior, such as the introduction of computational complexity and epsilon-equilibria to voting theory, and of probabilistic modeling to the study of honey bee colonies. He has published papers in a wide variety of highly ranked journals and conferences, including, in the following fields:


Kate Fu, Director Emeritus - Assistant Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering

Professor Fu was awarded the ASME Atlanta Section Award “Early Career Engineer of the Year” in 2015 for her role in the creation of a new Atlanta Council’s Own Junior Girl Scout Badge in Mechanical Engineering.  She serves as the ME faculty Liaison to the Georgia Tech LGBTQIA Resource Center. In 2018, she was awarded the Georgia Tech Faculty Diversity Champion Award for her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  

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