Curiosity-driven Science: How insects urinate and how BBQ lighters help mRNA/DNA vaccine delivery

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community



Saad Bhamla

Georgia Institute of Technology


In this talk, I will share two stories. First, I will discuss the unique mechanism sharpshooter insects use to eliminate high-volume excreta. They employ a phenomenon called droplet superpropulsion, allowing them to eject droplets at speeds higher than their underlying actuator can achieve through temporal tuning. I will explore the evolutionary reasons behind this biofluidic mechanism using energetic and scaling arguments.


Next, I will introduce a frugal tool we created called the 'ePatch'. Combining BBQ lighters and micro-needles, this tool addresses some of the current bottlenecks in nucleic acid vaccine delivery. I will discuss the role frugal science can play in addressing large-scale challenges, including enabling synthetic biology studies at high schools and making essential biomedical hardware accessible and affordable for all.





Saad Bhamla studies biomechanics across species to engineer knowledge and tools that inspire curiosity.

Saad Bhamla is an assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at Georgia Tech. A self-proclaimed "tinkerer," his lab is a trove of discoveries and inventions that span biology, physics and engineering. His current projects include studying the hydrodynamics of insect urine, worm blob locomotion and ultra-low-cost devices for global health. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, CNN, Wired, NPR, the Wall Street Journal and more.

Saad is a prolific inventor and his most notable inventions includes a 20-cent paper centrifuge, a 23-cent electroporator, and the 96-cent hearing aid. Saad's work is recognised by numerous awards including a NIH R35 Outstanding Investigator Award, NSF CAREER Award, CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, and INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award. Saad is also a National Geographic Explorer and a TED speaker. Newsweek recognized Saad as 1 of 10 Innovators disrupting healthcare.

Saad is a co-founder of Piezo Therapeutics.

Outside of the lab, Saad loves to go hiking with his partner and two dogs (Ollie and Bella).