Posted October 20th, 2010
Maurizio Porfiri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is one of this year's "Brilliant 10" — an elite group of scientists under age 40 whose work stands to dramatically impact their fields.
Popular Science magazine today hailed Maurizio Porfiri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) as one of the nation's brightest young researchers. The magazine, which is the nation's largest consumer science publication, named Porfiri one of this year's "Brilliant 10" — an elite group of scientists under age 40 whose work stands to dramatically impact their fields.
Porfiri, 34, is recognized for his work on biologically inspired robots that mimic the near-silent movement of schooling fish so convincingly that real fish are enticed to follow them. His goal is to create self-powered underwater robots capable of steering fish populations away from hazards such as oil and chemical spills or power turbines. Porfiri, who brings a lifelong passion for wildlife to his research, told Popular Science, "If we borrow design from nature to build our robots, why not use the robots to assist nature?"
NYU-Poly Provost Elizabeth Dianne Rekow congratulated Porfiri on his "Brilliant 10" honor. "This is an opportunity for a worldwide audience to get a glimpse of the creativity and tireless innovation that drive Dr. Porfiri's work, and for him to take the stage alongside scientists and engineers from nationally recognized universities much larger than NYU-Poly," she said. "Dr. Porfiri's robotic fish hold great promise for humans and the inhabitants of our oceans, and I join with his students and colleagues in congratulating him for this high honor."
Porfiri, who came to NYU-Poly in 2006, is also the recipient of the National Science Foundation's prestigious CAREER award. The grant supports early career development activities for teachers and scholars, and in this case, enabled Dr. Porfiri's studies of fish behavior and the development of his biomimetic robots.
Another component of the award allows Porfiri to team with the New York Aquarium, where he brings the thrill of robotics to life in workshops with elementary and middle school students from area schools.
Up next for Porfiri? Research to develop methods for harvesting untapped energy from small eddies in ocean currents to power self-sustained marine microsensors.
These sensors could be used for multiple purposes, including monitoring ocean environments for contaminants.
"The Brilliant 10 is our annual salute to young scientists who are shaking up their fields," said Popular Science Editor in Chief Mark Jannot. "This year's group brings fresh perspective and extraordinary smarts to bear on issues ranging from infectious diseases to endangered marine life, and their solutions won't just change the world — they'll make it better."
Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in a 156-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: i-squared-e. The institution, founded in 1854, is the nation's second-oldest private engineering school. In addition to its main campus in New York City at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it also offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. Globally, NYU-Poly has programs in Israel, China and is an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi.