Cheng Receives NSF CAREER Grant for Understanding Insect Flight Mechanics and Control


Bo Cheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

Cheng received a five-year, $500,000 grant to support his proposal "Towards Integrated Understanding and Informed Mimicry of Insect Flight Mechanics and Control with Application to Micro Air Vehicles."

Flying insects, when compared with man-made air vehicles, display exceptional agility, stability, endurance and efficiency in highly changeable environments. Cheng will overcome the challenge of performing controlled experiments on live insects in natural conditions by using novel experimental approaches, such as magnetic levitation, to study the closed-loop mechanics and control of insect flight with minimal interference from cumbersome mechanical constraints.

Cheng’s research will focus on understanding the flight performance of insects, especially their flight dynamics, control and efficiency, to replicate their unique aerodynamics, sensing and control techniques. The results of his research will advance the fundamental theories underlying animal aerial locomotion and aid in the development of miniaturized sensing, actuation and computational technology for future micro air vehicle design.

“Receiving an NSF CAREER Award offers both financial and moral support in my academic pursuits, at probably the most critical stage of my career," said Cheng.

Cheng joined the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in 2014. He directs the Locomotion Biomechanics and Control Lab at Penn State. His research focuses on animal aerial locomotion, aerodynamics of flapping wings and biologically inspired micro air vehicles.

He received his bachelor’s degree in control science and engineering from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware, and his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.

The NSF CAREER Award is designed to support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.


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Shea Bracken

setting moth for research

A student places a moth for an experiment. The group is studying insect flight mechanics and control.

“Receiving an NSF CAREER Award offers both financial and moral support in my academic pursuits, at probably the most critical stage of my career."


Bo Cheng



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