Finalist entry for the Young Researchers Improving Lives Competition

 Title:  Using insect ‘ears’ to understand novel methods of sound reception

 Describe in 100 words or less how your research will improve lives, using layman’s language.

Insects have evolved hearing at least seven independent times.  Consequently, insect ‘ears’, called tympana, evolved in various locations (legs, wings, thorax, abdomen) working by different mechanisms.  My research focuses on how different types of insects’ tympanal ear drums structurally function.  As a biologist, I work with engineers who model the ears.  Results of our collaboration will yield the ability to mimic these tiny natural hearing devices and build mechanical receivers, such as miniature microphones.  In addition, studying the diverse biological ways of sound reception may have novel implications for sound detection with unknown biomedical, technological, and evolutionary applications.