“A system is never the sum of its parts, it’s the product of their interactions” – Russell Ackoff

Millions of years of research and development have resulted in many brilliant biological solutions to human problems. While bio-inspired product designs are becoming more common using inspiration from nature for networks/systems design is still relatively rare. The methods by which biotic systems reach their environmentally sustainable state and their ability to survive unexpected disturbances, we in the Bio-inspired Systems Lab (BiSSL) hypothesize can support engineering systems. The events of the last few decades have shown a worrying increase in major environmental/social/health disruptions. The solutions that are desperately needed require a comprehensive systems approach, which thereby raises the level of design complexity e.g. the product’s design is formed in conjunction with its logistical systems and reuse possibilities, while factoring in flexibility for disruptions. A framework for such a systems-based approach to balance sustainability and resilience goals is needed.

The work in our group has demonstrated that biological ecosystem characteristics can lead to sustainability AND resilience improvements at multiple system scales. The specific aim of the research done in our group is to provide solutions to engineering systems problems that result in cost savings, increased efficiency and resilience, and reductions of environmental burdens. Our goal is to move ideas from biology to human systems design in such a way that they become real, implementable design tools and guidelines. We have a track record of design-focused research that addresses sustainability & resilience needs for human systems such as power grids, water distribution networks, supply chains, systems of systems (SoS), cyber-physical systems, industrial resource networks, net zero communities, and the circular economy. The results of our work supports the view that these goals don’t need to be achieved at the expense of each other: i.e. you can have it all!

You can hear about applying bio-inspired design to improve the resilience of power grids with Texas A&M Engineering’s podcast SoundBytes Season 1 Episode 29. It was also featured with ASME “How the Food Web Can Keep the Electricity Flowing” and Texas A&M’s College of Engineering “Pursuing greater resilience through nature-inspired power grids.”

You can learn about how inspiration from the way ecological food webs function is helping to suggest route for improving our recycling/reuse/waste economy with Texas A&M Engineering’s podcast SoundBytes Season 1 Episode 28.

You can learn more about our search to define sustainability/resilience design guidelines using biological food webs in Texas A&M Engineering News’ article “Following nature’s cue, researchers build successful, sustainable industrial networks” by Vandana Suresh (April 26, 2021)

A summary of the general principles of our work can be found in this video:


Dr. Rich Malak, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

Dr. Ahmed Ali, Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University

Dr. Kate Davis, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University

Dr. Kirk Winemiller, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Texas A&M University

Dr. Stewart Borrett, Department of Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Dr. John Reap, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Quinnipiac University

Dr. Julie Linsey, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Cynthia Hipwell, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

Dr. Daniel McAdams, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

Dr. Weiling He, Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University

Dr. Robert Puckett, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University

Dr. Adam Rosenthal, Department of International Studies, Texas A&M University