Taking the Mantis Shrimp to Hong Kong

UC Riverside student advances to international lecture competition in Hong Kong

Steven Herrera stands in front of projected image of a mantis shrimp slide

Steven Herrera after winning the regional competition that advanced him to 2013 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) competition in Hong Kong.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — For the second consecutive year, a University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering student has been selected to take part in an international lecture competition.

Steven Herrera, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in December and continues to work in the lab of David Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, will travel to Hong Kong in October to represent the United States at the 2013 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) competition. He will compete against students from Brazil, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“I’m very excited, and can’t wait to represent UCR in Hong Kong” said Herrera, who is 25. “This is gratification that the research performed here is valued, interesting, and definitely useful.”

Steven Herrera, left, and David Kisailus, hold materials that were inspired by the structure of the mantis shrimp in Kisailus' lab.

Steven Herrera, left, and David Kisailus, hold materials that were inspired by the structure of the mantis shrimp.

Last year, Brian Weden, another student who worked with Kisailus, won the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) competition, which was held in London. He won, beating students from seven countries, despite being the only undergraduate in the competition.

Herrera, a graduate of Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, won the regional competition held at UC Riverside in May. That win advanced him to the international competition in Hong Kong.

At the regional competition, his lecture focused on his research with the mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, a 6-inch long crustacean found in tropical waters. It has a club-like arm that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-caliber bullet.

Kisailus is interested in the ultrastructure within the club that enables it to withstand up to 50,000 high-velocity strikes on prey before it grows a new one. He believes specific regions within the club could be replicated, using engineering materials, to transform current materials used to create everything from military body armor to vehicle and aircraft frames to football helmets.

Herrera was one of the authors of a paper, guided by Kisailus, the principal investigator, that published in June 2012 in the journal Science. It detailed the structure of the club.

Herrera, who has applied for the materials science and engineering master’s program at UC Riverside, started working in Kisailus’ Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab in February 2010.

Since then, Herrera has played a key role in the mantis shrimp research. He is an expert on electron microscopy, which provided extremely fine detailed images of structures within the mantis shrimp club, and Kisailus’ nanoindentor, a $500,000 instrument that is capable of measuring mechanical properties of materials with ultrahigh resolution. He also has designed and built models of body armor and helmets that were inspired by the mantis shrimp club’s ultrastructure.

Kisailus said Herrera is reliable, dependable, motivated and has very good insight.

“He is much more mature than many peers his age,” Kisailus said. “He gets the big picture. He understands the implications of what we study and where it can go.”

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