Patek Lab Members

Active Lab Members

Sheila Patek's picture

Sheila Patek

Research Focus: Evolutionary mechanics of movement and communication

Patek is the Hehmeyer Professor of Biology and a Bass Fellow at Duke University. Patek received an A.B. with honors in Biology from Harvard University followed by a Ph.D. in Biology from Duke University. She was then awarded a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Berkeley. Patek leads a five-university basic research team funded by a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI). She serves as Associate Chair of Duke's Biology Department (Chair of the EEOB division). She is the Deputy-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Experimental Biology. She is the Director of Muser, which is both a program at Duke and an open source software application that she and others developed to facilitate equitable and transparent access to research experience for students. She has received several honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the George A. Bartholomew Award for distinguished contributions to comparative physiology, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a NSF CAREER award, and the Brilliant 10 award from Popular Science magazine. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Hellman Family Foundation, Armstrong Fund for Science, Department of Defense, and others.Patek is past Chair of the Biomechanics Division at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. In addition to training graduate and postdoctoral scientists, Patek teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in animal physiology, biomechanics, introductory biology, invertebrate biology, and comparative evolutionary analysis. Patek led an NSF-funded Research Experience for Teachers program for five years which enables teachers to integrate their research experience with curriculum development. The Patek Lab involves high school students and undergraduate summer researchers from around the country through fellowship programs, such as the Army Educational Outreach Program. Patek regularly presents her research internationally, through both academic and public lectureships - including a mainstage TED talk. The lab's research has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC), British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), National Geographic and others.

Elizabeth Clark's picture

Elizabeth Clark

Research Focus: Analyzing Organismal Motion for Bio-Inspired Engineering

Elizabeth Clark is a postdoctoral associate in the Patek Lab. She completed her Ph.D. at Yale University in 2018 where she worked with Derek Briggs to elucidate the evolution of movement and locomotion in echinoderms. She has led two collaborations at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, which resulted in the creation of the first 3D kinematic models of living and fossil echinoderms. As an NSF EAPSI fellow, she led a collaboration at Tohoku University in Japan which illuminated the control setup underlying brittle star locomotion and served as inspiration for the design of damage-resilient robotics. As a postdoc at Yale, she integrated 3D imaging, digital visualization and computational fluid dynamics to reveal the morphology of key fossil plant taxa which shed light on major functional innovations in terrestrial plant evolution. At Duke, she is working with Sheila Patek on the DOD-funded MURI project analyzing the fastest organismal motion on the planet to engineer the next generation of ultrafast synthetic systems. Read more at her website:

William Ray's picture

William Ray

Research Focus: Marine biology and biomechanics

William Ray is the Lab Manager of the Patek Lab and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Scientific/Leadership Diving from Humboldt State University. While at Humboldt, William conducted sub-tidal field research concerning keystone species of fish, invertebrates and algae for the ecosystems in marine protected areas along the northern coast of California and southern Oregon. He most recently finished his Peace Corps Service in the Philippines where he worked with rural Filipino government units and universities on coastal resource management, environmental education and alternative livelihood projects. While at the Patek Lab, William utilizes his background in marine biology and ecology to build research questions regarding the kinematics and mechanisms of ultra-fast movements and locomotion.

Jacob Harrison's picture

Jacob Harrison

Research Focus: Evolution and Biomechanics of Defensive Morphology

Jacob is a PhD student in the biology program at Duke University and member of the Patek Lab. He attended the University of California Santa Cruz where he received a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. While at UCSC, Jacob worked as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Rita Mehta’s lab researching the scaling of dentition and diet in the California Moray, Gymnothorax mordax. His interest in defensive morphology was sparked during a class at the University of Washington at Friday Harbor Labs, where he worked on the ontogeny and performance of cranial spines in the Great Sculpin, Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus. While at Duke, Jacob hopes to build his research questions around the evolution and biomechanics of defensive morphology.

Justin Jorge's picture

Justin Jorge

Research Focus: Trap-jaw ant biomechanics

Justin is pursuing his interests in biomechanics as a PhD student in the Patek Lab. He finished his undergraduate degree with a B.A. in integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 where he worked in Dr. Mimi Koehl's lab to investigate the biomechanics of single cell predators feeding on choanoflagellates. Justin is currently interested in ultra-fast movements in nature, specifically those of trap-jaw ants and seed shooting plants such as the witch hazel. Specifically, he is interested in developing new techniques to track the flow of energy throughout these motions as well as uncovering how, mechanistically, these motions are produced. Justin hopes to develop new ways of thinking about the generation of fast motions through his research that can potentially be used to improve technology.
Photo credit: Clarence Burke Photography

Jason Dinh's picture

Jason Dinh

Research Focus: Marine bioacoustics

Jason is a Ph.D. student in the Patek Lab. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Duke University in 2018. Jason is broadly interested in the ecology, evolution, and biomechanics of acoustic communication. He is particularly excited about questions surrounding arthropod communication. Jason’s background in bioacoustics includes signal processing, the biomechanics of sound production, and soundscape ecology. He has researched larval recruitment in oyster larvae and coral reef fishes, sound production in snapping shrimps, and vocal performance in swamp sparrows. Jason is currently developing research questions to understand the behavioral function of the ubiquitous yet enigmatic snapping behavior in snapping shrimp. He is also interested in developing metrics that use snapping shrimp and other biogenic sounds to inform ecosystem health in local oyster reefs. Read more on his website:

Abhijay Suhag's picture

Abhijay Suhag

Research Focus: Animal and plant biomechanics

Abhijay is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2022) studying Biology and Computer Science. With a passion for learning and the natural world, he currently works in the Patek Lab with Justin Jorge researching ballistic seed dispersal biomechanics. He hopes to be able to integrate techniques in computer science with biology in order to find or improve ways to view phenomena we take for granted in nature and eventually contribute to animal and plant conservation.

Michael Buckmire's picture

Michael Buckmire

Research Focus: Biomechanics and physiology

Michael is a Duke undergraduate (Class of 2021) studying Biology with a concentration in biomechanics and physiology. Being a member of the Duke Men's Basketball team, Michael has an focused research interest in the study of movement and the biomechanics of injury. He will be working with Dr. Patek in studying the Biomechanics of movement in jumping physiology and jumping loading forces in the knee/hip joints by using the software OpenSim for his research.

Sophie Hanson's picture

Sophie Hanson

Research Focus: Shrimp biomechanics

Sophie is a Duke undergraduate student (Class of 2022) studying biology and environmental science and policy. After taking environment classes at Duke and a summer abroad in Australia studying marine ecosystems, her new passion for marine science and research brought her to the Patek lab to get more hands-on experience. Sophie conducted research on the effects of varying temperatures on the system of biological springs and latches of snapping shrimp strikes, which centered the spring-driven mechanism theory of their claws. She is currently interested in the locomotion and morphology of mantis shrimp, and the ultra-fast mechanisms that allow for such propulsion and maneuverability in water.