Biomechanics of Cone Snail Feeding Strikes

This project seeks to develop a simplified mechanical model and experiment to characterize the biomechanics and fluid mechanics behind cone snail feeding strikes. Cone snails feed by rapidly ejecting a venomous tooth into prey (video example). The tooth is propelled by pressurized fluid and released by a biomechanical latch when pressure builds sufficiently high. We seek to develop a simplified mechanical model of the pressurization, unlatching, and trajectory of the projectile tooth to evaluate how different variables (e.g. pressure, latch stiffness, wall flexibility) affect propulsion of the tooth. This project is complementary to broader research efforts characterizing rapid underwater accelerations (Prof. Mendelson's Flow Imaging Lab at Mudd) and ultrafast bioinspired mechanisms (Prof. Ilton's Physics of Soft Matter lab).

The research student hired for this project will develop a simplified experiment and corresponding mathematical model to isolate some of the variables mentioned above. Experiment development will include design, prototyping, and testing, likely using high-speed imaging to characterize projectile trajectories.

Essay prompt: Why are you interested in working on this research project? What will you bring to the project and what do you hope to learn? Please also submit the names of two HMC professors who can comment on your work habits. It's ok if this response is short (~1-2 paragraphs).

Name of research group, project, or lab
Flow Imaging Lab at Mudd, Physics of Soft Matter Lab
Why join this research group or lab?

This is an early-stage interdisciplinary and hands-on project. Research students hired for this position will play a critical role in steering the direction of the experiment that we develop. Students will also have the opportunity to work with both the Flow Imaging Lab at Mudd (PI: Mendelson) and the Physics of Soft Matter Lab (PI: Ilton).

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Fluid Mechanics
Mechanical Engineering
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

Students from all course years will be considered for this position. Enthusiasm for developing and answering research questions and hands-on experimental work are the only requirements.

Coursework in mechanics, broadly-defined (e.g., Phys24, Phys111, Engr83, Engr131) and experience with CAD and fabrication (e.g. machine shop training, 3D printing) are valued, but not required.

Time commitment
Fall - Part Time
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

High-speed imaging
Experiment design (research question generation, experiment prototyping and fabrication)
Data analysis

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Leah Mendelson
Mentor email
Mentor position
Name of project director or principal investigator
PI: Leah Mendelson, Co-Investigator: Mark Ilton
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 4 appl.
Hours per week
Fall - Part Time (+1)
Fall - Part TimeSpring - Part Time
Project categories
Biomechanics (+3)
PhysicsBiomechanicsFluid MechanicsMechanical Engineering