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Opportunity at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

Efficient Robust Sensing and Processing Based on Biological Design Principles


Munitions Directorate, RW/Advanced Guidance

RO# Location
13.45.03.C0602 Eglin Air Force Base, FL 325426810


name email phone
Rummelt, Nicholas Ian 850.883.0886


Flying insects provide an existence proof of low size, weight, and power (SWaP) goal-oriented autonomous agents that exhibit many of the same behaviors we desire in engineered systems.  Our goal is to discover and understand the principles underlying the incredible performance of flying insects and apply those principles to the design of future Air Force systems.   Biological sensing is multi-modal, robust, and efficient, employing distributed arrays of mechanical sensors, exquisite chemical detection, wide field-of-view multi-aperture optical systems, and inertial sensors.  The neural processing of sensor information is fast, parallel, and efficient. 

There are engineered mechanical sensors that can sense the same types of information as that being sensed by the biological sensors such as accelerometers, force and torque sensors, bending and shear sensors, pressure and flow sensors.  In addition, there are cameras that are based on the principles of compound eyes that have been developed in recent years.  But we are still a long way from being able to match the robust efficiency of the biological systems with engineered systems.  One important aspect is the information processing or “algorithms” that the biological systems are using, and this is not very well understood yet.  A deeper understanding of the underlying principles involved in the sensing and processing that enables the exceptional performance we observe in biological systems is needed in order to translate those design principles to engineered systems.

We are soliciting candidates with a passion to conduct research in any or all of the following areas:

1)      the use of structure and information processing in natural systems, such as matched filters, to achieve efficient processing with high quality output, including anatomical mapping of sensory and processing circuitry in biological systems

2)      concepts for information encoding and processing that are descriptive of biological sensory and neural processing systems, including the use of sparse and compressive sensing in biological systems;

3)      measurements of the natural world stimulation available to biological systems (e. g. dynamic UV and broadband polarization wing signatures) and implementation of stimulation in biological experiments that closely match the natural world;

4)      measurements of characteristics of invertebrate optical systems that uncover the underlying design principles (e.g. acuity maps);

Relevant References

Laura E. Bagge, Arthur C. Kenton, Bridget A. Lyons, Martin F. Wehling, and Dennis H. Goldstein, "Mueller matrix characterizations of circularly polarized reflections from golden scarab beetles," Appl. Opt. 59, F85-F93 (2020)

Andrej Meglic, Marko Ilic, Primož Pirih, Aleš Škorjanc, Martin F. Wehling, Marko Kreft, and Gregor Belušic,“Horsefly object-directed polarotaxis is mediated by a stochastically distributed ommatidial subtype in the ventral retina,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Oct 2019, 116 (43) 21843-21853; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1910807116

Clément Vinauger, Floris Van Breugel, Lauren T. Locke, Kennedy K.S. Tobin, Michael H. Dickinson, Adrienne L. Fairhall, Omar S. Akbari, and Jeffrey A. Riffel, “Visual-olfactory integration in the human disease vector mosquito Aedes aegypti,” Curr. Biol. 29, 2509–2516.e5 (2019)

Bioprinicipic; Sensing and processing; Multi-modal; Biologically-inspired; Neuromorphic; Matched Filters; Sparse and compressive sensing;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral and Senior applicants


Base Stipend Travel Allotment Supplementation
$76,542.00 $4,000.00

$3,000 Supplement for Doctorates in Engineering & Computer Science

Experience Supplement:
Postdoctoral and Senior Associates will receive an appropriately higher stipend based on the number of years of experience past their PhD.

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