Radhika Nagpal: One of 10 people who mattered this year in science


Source: Reflection Films

From Nature, volume 516, issue 7531, December 17 2014.
“When Radhika Nagpal was a high-school student in India, she hated biology: it was the subject that girls were supposed to study so that they could become doctors. Never being one to follow tradition, Nagpal was determined to become an engineer. Now she is — leading an engineering research team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But she also has a new appreciation for the subject she once disliked. This year, her group garnered great acclaim for passing a milestone in biology-inspired robotics. Taking their cue from the way in which ants, bees and termites build complex nests and other structures with no central direction, Nagpal’s group devised a swarm of 1,024 very simple ‘Kilobots’. Each Kilobot was just a few centimetres wide and tall, moved by shuffling about on three spindly legs and communicated with its immediate neighbours using infrared light. But the team showed that when the Kilobots worked together, they could organize themselves into stars and other two-dimensional shapes.”
Earlier entry: Inferring simple rules from complex structures.

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