Julia is a junior undergraduate student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. Her academic interests lie in the intersection of architecture and engineering. Currently, Julia is exploring this intersection by conducting independent work with Professor Adriaenssens and visiting Professor Irmgard Lochner Aldinger. Their project utilizes topology optimization software to study structural applications of biomimicry, or how natural forms can be translated to the built environment.
Beginning with simplified structures, such as beams and cantilevers, they use this optimization software to identify where structural material is necessary under specific loading conditions. Structures and loading conditions are chosen based on the forms of plants and the forces they must resist. For example, a columnar cactus can be thought of, structurally, as a slender, cylindrical column. In its natural environment the cactus must resist wind loads from all directions. To replicate the cactus in the optimization software, Julia can construct a similarly-shaped solid cylinder and apply distributed “wind” loading from multiple directions. The result of the optimization will show where structural material is needed to resist the applied loading. From this result, the optimized structure can be compared with the natural form of the cactus.
By conducting these topological optimization experiments Julia and Professors Adriaenssens and Aldinger are able to compare structurally optimized forms to naturally optimized forms. Additionally, this work may lead to the architectural development of these forms as building-sized structures.