TheGrio’s 100: John Dabiri, turning jellyfish motion into wind turbine technology

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This Nigerian-American professor at California Institute of Technology is making waves with his research on jellyfish locomotion and biomechanics. His research yields information to fields as valuable and disparate as cardiology and alternative energy. Dabiri’s work earned him a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, which insiders call a Genius Grant.

John Dabiri is making history … by inventing a method by which divers use tiny, reflective particles to visually map-out the jellyfish’s propulsion system. Comprehension of the fluid dynamics involved in such a process has proved essential, both in understanding the evolution of movement in jellyfish and other animals, and in other fluid-physics-dependent fields, such as blood’s motion through the cardiovascular system, or the movement of wind around various generator-turbines, contributing to our personal health as well as the health of the planet.

What’s next for John?

The MacArthur Fellowship affords John Dabiri to take greater risks with his unconventional research. Currently studying the motion of fish in schools or packs, John hopes to apply the physical laws sea-creatures naturally take advantage of to harvesting wind energy using smaller, closely-situated structures. The current, most popular model of wind turbine, is 10 times larger and requires much more land than Dabiri’s proposed design.

In his own words …

Dabiri told the Los Angeles Times that part of his grant would go towards swimming lessons, saying, “Oddly enough, I never learned to swim,” he said. “For once, it will be nice to study jellyfish from close up instead of from the other side of the glass.”

A little-known fact … At age 30, John Dibiri is the youngest recipient of a MacArthur fellowship this year.

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