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Structures Research Group

Watson work 2

Our objective is to create unusual, useful, lightweight structures inspired by nature.


Structures from Nature have minimal mass and undergo large displacements; yet, they survive and thrive under extreme loading. Geometrical non-linearity is inevitable; they contain multiple, interacting materials; there is rarely homogeneity.  At first glance there seems to be little in common with traditional civil engineering structures yet perversely these natural phenomenon offer tremendous opportunities to create physical structures that would otherwise be inconceivable. 


We consider how natural structures perform and we mimic these processes to make interesting, unusual, and non-standard physical structures. Mostly, we are interested in highly deformable structures - either very compliant, elastically, or mechanistic. These deformations can describe how a virus shifts shape during the infectious stage: how DNA is packaged within a cell; how the sugar content in plants cells affects their overall stiffness; how skin tissue absorbs heat during laser treatment; how the edges of petals become rippled during growth.

We then design novel deployable structures - landing gear for future aircraft, retractable roofs for stadia, rollable laptop screens and bicycle mudguards, unfurlable membranes for satellite antennae; multistable shells as new types of two-way valve, as morphing winglets for aircraft, or as active spoilers in high performance cars.

Example areas

  • biological and natural structures
  • deployable and morphing structures
  • aerospace structures
  • highly deformable structures
  • impact tolerant structures

Academic Staff

KeithSeffen CP

Dr Keith Seffen

simon guest

Prof. Simon Guest

Alan   Copy

Prof Allan McRobie


Dr Fehmi Cirak


Dr Christelle Abadie


Emeritus staff


    Prof. Calladine