A sample of CRABLab research, the joining of robotics, simulation, soft matter and biomechanics.

Our work focuses on problems that involve complex interaction of matter (physical and biological) with materials that can display solid and fluid properties (like sand, mud, bark, brush). For example, how do organisms like lizards, crabs, and cockroaches cope with locomotion on complex terrestrial substrates (e.g. sand, bark, leaves, and grass)? We seek to discover how biological locomotion on challenging terrain results from the nonlinear, many degree of freedom interaction of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems of organisms with materials with complex physical behavior. The study of novel biological and physical interactions with complex media can lead to the discovery of principles that govern the physics of the media. Our approach is to integrate laboratory and field studies of organism biomechanics with systematic laboratory studies of physics of the substrates, as well as to create mathematical and physical (robot) models of both organism and substrate. Discovery of the principles of locomotion on such materials will enhance robot agility on such substrates.

Sandfish lizard emerging.


Organisms must contend with a complex terrains in their natural habitats. We study a variety of animals in order to describe the interaction between the animal body and the environment, and to understand the purpose these interactions serve in animal locomotion.

Learn more



We use physical models (robots) to test hypotheses and explore principles of locomotion, which can aid design of future robots.

Learn more

A mass of entangled granular media, interconnected staples.

Soft Matter

In our lab, we study the rheology of complex granular materials to understand the fundamental physics of limb-ground interactions during locomotion.

Learn more