About Duncan

Photo by Jim Abernathy

Duncan J Irschick is an integrative biologist and innovator interested in the evolution and ecology of animal athletics, and how biological form can inform synthetic design.  His research on gecko adhesion, animal movement, and biomimicry has garnered international acclaim and many honors and awards.

He obtained a BS from the University of California at Davis, and a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis,  After postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati and UC Berkeley, he assume a Faculty position at Tulane University, and later moved in 2006 to a Faculty position at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Prof. Irschick has published 125 papers on animal function and evolution, and has three patents.  Many of his publications are in high-impact journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and Advanced Materials.  He has been widely cited in the literature (4479 citations) and has an H-Index of 38.

Irschick has been invited to 64 talks for Universities all over the world.  Most recently, he gave a TEDx talk at the Sorbonne in Paris in 2012 in the conference entitled "The New Age of Enlightenment".  He is the Keynote speaker for Graduate student symposiums at the University of Utah, and Iowa State, and was the Hilgendorf Lecturer for the University of Tubingen in Germany, and the OCIB plenary lecturer for Carelton College in Canada.  In 2012, he was also honored as a Fullbright Specialist by the Fullbright Foundation in 2012, and has served as a consultant for Pixar.  In 2014, he won the College Outstanding Research Award from the University of Massachusetts. His startup for commercializing Geckskin (Felsuma LLC) was one of the winners of the 2013 NASA Launch Challenge.  In 2008, the Discovery Channel called him one of the "Best Brains in America".

He has received generous funding from NIH, NSF, and private foundations, and has received substantial media attention in books, newspapers, the Internet media and on television. Examples include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNET.org, CNN, the Discovery Channel, MSNBC.com, Bloomberg.com, and FOXNEWS.com.

As an example of his work, Irschick has recently collaborated with Al Crosby from the Polymer Sciences Dept at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to apply evolutionary and anatomical principles towards the creation of a novel gecko-like adhesive. In February of 2012, they, along with Mike Bartlett, Dan King, and others, published a paper in the journal Advanced Materials that described GeckskinTM, a synthetic adhesive that mimics gecko feet. Geckskin is capable of holding more than 700 lbs (300 kg) on smooth surfaces (e.g., glass), yet is easily removable, and leaves no residue. Geckskin was hailed by CNN as one of the top five Scientific Breakthroughs of 2012 because of its ability to provide powerful, removable and reusable adhesion at large sizes. Geckskin has now been internationally recognized as a significant technological breakthrough for enabling gecko-like adhesion at larger sizes.

Duncan is currently a professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Phone: 413 545 1696; Email: irschick "at" bio.umass.edu