Course Syllabus

Graduate Seminar (BIO8250, Section 4):

Biomimetics and Bioinspiration

Wednesdays, 1-4PM

332 Bio-Life Sciences Building

Instructor: S. Tonia Hsieh

Office: 219A Bio Life Sciences

Email: or

Summary: The emerging fields of biomimetics and bioinspiration use biology to inspire solutions to challenging problems, or speed biological progress by reaching outside of biology to other disciplines for inspiration. Common examples include the invention of Velcro, a product mimicking burrs when they stick to fur; or the development of game theory for ecological applications, originating from economic theory. In this course, we will explore how these ideas of biomimetics and bioinspiration permeate our daily lives, examining past and present examples, and creating some of our own.

Goals: The primary goal is to introduce the ideas of biomimetics and bioinspiration, simultaneously developing and honing your abilities to think across disciplines for active problem-solving. Over the course of the semester, you will be encouraged to identify problems and to think cross-disciplinarily for creative, effective solutions. By the end of the course, you should clearly understand what are biomimetics and bioinspiration, and provide examples of each. You should also be able to reach into other disciplines for addressing challenges. Finally, you will be able to evaluate your progress and what you have learned in the course through the completion of a public blog that you can continue building upon after the course is finished.


  1. Develop an understanding of biomimetics and bioinspiration, and how these fields can aid human progress and sustainable living;
  2. Develop and hone skills for thinking and communicating cross-disciplinarily for creative problem-solving;
  3. Practice teamwork and collaboration skills, as well as become more comfortable with presenting in front of an audience;
  4. Enhance communication skills by creating and maintaining individual blogs for the course;
  5. Increase awareness of how disciplines outside of biology can enrich the field, and likewise, how biology can speed progress in other industries.

Organization: The seminar will consist of a mix of guest lectures, discussions, and student presentations, ending with a final course project. Topics will be adjusted to complement the student composition in the course.

Assigned Reading:

All assigned readings will be made available through emails, as needed.

Here are some books that may be of interest (not required reading for the course):

Bar-Cohen, Yoseph. Biomimetics: Biologically-Inspired Technologies. 2006. CRC Press.

Temple on-campus access:

Temple off-campus access:

* Note: Do NOT purchase this book – access it as an e-book through Temple’s libraries. *

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.1997. New York: Harper Collins.

Braungart, M and W, McDonough. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. 2002.

Forbes, Peter. The Gecko’s Foot: Bio-inspiration: Engineering New Materials from Nature. 2006.

Vogel, Steven. Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People. 2000.


The final grade will be determined based on the following:

  • Attendance/Participation (20%)
  • Student-led Discussion (20%)
  • Blog (20%)
  • Final Project/Presentation (40%)


You are expected to arrive on time to class, having read all assigned readings and be prepared to contribute to the class discussion.

You will be expected to lead one to two discussions based on a relevant journal article selected from the primary literature. You will be expected to email the class with your selected journal article by the Sunday (11:59PM) preceding class.

You will create a blog in WordPress for this course, to which you will contribute with at least one entry per week about a topic of your choice, but with clear relevance to the overall topic of biomimetics and bioinspiration. While there is no minimum or maximum length limitation, your classmates and members of the greater internet community will serve as judges of the quality of your contributions.

You will also be expected to work as a group to complete the final project. The efficacy of this course is built upon active discussion and creativity, which requires that we will not be personally judged for our ideas. Therefore, all students are expected to be respectful and open-minded of other people’s ideas, views and beliefs.

Student-Led Discussion:

Each student in the course will lead two class discussions covering a topic in the field of biomimetics and bioinspiration. All associated reading must be emailed to the class by Sunday night (11:59PM) preceding the class when it will be discussed.


Blogs are defined as a web log that can be used as a diary or log of rantings, thoughts, discoveries, etc. Blogs are typically written in an informal or journalistic style and encourage interaction and/or comments from readers. With this in mind, each student will create a blog on WordPress ( for this course. Blogs should consist of any thoughts or comments you would like to share that has any relevance at all to biomimetics, bioinspiration, or biodesign. You will be expected to post one entry at minimum per week and to comment on at least one of your classmate’s blogs each week. To receive credit for your blog assignment, you must complete this assignment by 11.59PM on Friday of each week. Blogs will not be evaluated so much for content as for clarity of presentation and the effective use of engaging language to “hook” your audience. Creativity and taking measured risks are looked upon favorably! Please note that to encourage academic expounding of ideas, students are encouraged to post as many entries as they are inspired to do. Please keep in mind that these blogs will be public and freely available on the web, so keep your postings tasteful. Students are strongly encouraged to link (via RSS feeds, or similar) to other students’ blogs in the course, and to actively comment on each others’ posts as a means of discussion.

Final Project: Details to be provided during class.

Course Schedule


* Student-led discussion dates will be adjusted to accommodate the availability of guest speakers.


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