Faster than Fast: Mantis Shrimp and Dr. Sheila Patek

Throughout BSURF, we have had the opportunity to learn about so many different fields of research and have obtained advice from various faculty members here at Duke. Learning about fields different from my own was incredibly fascinating, and hearing advice from researchers of all different backgrounds was super helpful. 

I was especially intrigued by the research that I had not even thought about before. One example of a talk that especially blew me away was Dr. Sheila Patek’s talk about ultra-fast movements. I had never considered research on the fastest movements on the planet. Dr. Patek first talked about the trap-jaw ant, which closes its jaw to capture prey at a speed of nearly 70 mph. She also talked about the snapping shrimp which has a shooting defense system that is super fast. 

But the main event of her talk was the mantis shrimp, which has an incredibly fast small hammer to break snail shells. The mantis shrimp has peak forces 2500 times its body weight, but somehow manages to not break itself. The smashing motion has likely evolved over time to become one of the fastest motions known. Dr. Patek explained how there are principles underlying this biological diversity that proper industry forward. Material scientists and engineers can use research like hers and apply it to a variety of applications. 

But the one thing that really surprised me about Dr. Patek’s research was the fact that she was faced with much opposition regarding the importance of her research. However, Dr. Patek preserved and worked hard to defend why research like hers is necessary, which I really admire. I was inspired by Dr. Patek to always remember to stand up for your passions and what you believe in, regardless of those who may not agree with you. 

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