Our lab participates in outreach to students and the broader public whenever possible. Below are brief highlights of some of our outreach efforts.


NSF EFRI-REM: Complex microsystem networks inspired by internal insect physiology

NSF RET: Biomechanics from molecular to organismal scales

RET stands for “Research Experiences for Teachers”, an NSF program designed to enable school teachers to conduct real research.

This program will involve 30 in-service high school STEM teachers primarily from the Appalachian region of southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. Each teacher will be paired on a one-to-one basis with a biomechanics research laboratory, conducting research and developing new educational material over six weeks in the summer.

REM stands for “Research Experience and Mentoring”, an experimental NSF program designed to bring new mentoring experiences to the public.

Our program is related to a currently active NSF research program that uses insects as inspiration for new engineering devices.  Insects possess multiple systems that pump fluids through their bodies using flexible channels and complex networks. Our research team consists of 8 laboratories that work together to understand the mechanics and physiology of these internal insect flows. 

Participating teachers, undergraduates, and high students experience a real-world research environment and gain high-tech skills.  Participants conduct original research in a host laboratory at Virginia Tech, with research in fields including: microfluidics, fluid mechanics, insect physiology & biomechanics, synchrotron x-ray imaging, tissue mechanics, and microfabrication. This research experience is inherently interdisciplinary, exposing participants to concepts that lie at the intersection of engineering and science.

During the 8-week summer program, teachers develop novel educational material to bring back to their home school, with the aim of enriching curricular activities in their class and beyond. They also maintain contact with their partnered laboratory and professor throughout the following year, to help further develop the new biomechanics-based material.

Dr. Socha is the PI of this program, with co-PI Dr. Rafael Davalos. So far, this program has run twice, in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

Teachers will be working alongside faculty and graduate students, developing new skills toward addressing specific biomechanics research questions using a hypothesis-driven approach. The partnership and interaction with the laboratory will continue throughout the following school year. Room, board, and stipend will be provided, with teachers housed on-site on the campus of Virginia Tech.

During the summer research experience, teachers will develop a novel standards-conforming educational module to bring back to their home school, enriching their curricular activities. Teachers will qualify for professional development points that can be used toward fulfilling the requirements for license renewal with the approval of their school systems.

Dr. Socha is the co-PI of this program, with PI Dr. Daniel Dudek. This program is scheduled to begin in 2014 and will run for three years.

Pre-Virginia Tech: Chicago

Bio Outreach

In 1999 Dr. Socha founded the Bio Outreach program at the University of Chicago. This U. of C. Community Service organization partners graduate students in biology with local Chicago Public Schools high school biology teachers. Each graduate student works with one teacher, designing hands-on lessons and activities that they lead in five separate classroom visits throughout the year.  In addition to providing interesting and cutting-edge lessons, an additional goal is simply to expose students to real, flesh-and-blood scientists.  Dr. Socha was the director of this program for most of its existence.

Global Village

Dr. Socha is a former member of Global Village, a similar program in the Oak Park (IL) schools.

School visits

Periodically we visit local schools to talk about our research and about science in general. 

The images here are from a visit to Rainbow Riders to conduct a program on insects, movement, and robotics with pre-K students. This program was developed in conjunction Dr. Raffaella De Vita.


We have served as scientific consultants and subjects for numerous television documentaries.

For a sample, check out the National Geographic documentary “Snakes That Fly” to the right.