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New Biomimicry Center, Graduate Degree Programs Put ASU at Forefront of Emerging Discipline

Image credit: Biomimicry Institute

A new cooperative venture at Arizona State University aims to make ASU a key academic hub for the emerging discipline of biomimicry.

Since Janine Benyus first observed and named the field in her 1997 book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, designers, engineers, businesses and other innovators have increasingly turned to nature in search of inspired ideas.

The Biomimicry Center at ASU, which officially launches with a symposium on March 3, is a co-branded collaboration between ASU and Biomimicry 3.8 — the consulting and training firm co-founded by Benyus and Dr. Dayna Baumeister.

“The primary mission of the Biomimicry Center is to enhance academia’s ability to address a variety of sustainability challenges using strategies inspired by nature,” said Baumeister, who will serve as co-director of the new center along with Professor Prasad Boradkar of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The practice of biomimicry is transdisciplinary by nature, bringing biologists into collaboration with disciplines as diverse as architecture, management, engineering and even psychology. ASU has embraced biomimicry in recent years as part of the university’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. The Biomimicry Center will coordinate new and ongoing research and curriculum initiatives amongst campus institutions and the fast-growing global network of companies and consultants practicing biomimicry.

“Biomimicry has the unique ability to inspire and synchronize the work of diverse disciplines to mirror the unification of nature,” ASU president Michael Crow said. “The Biomimicry Center will serve a similar function within the ASU community while preparing students to apply their skills and interests to solving society’s most complex challenges.”

The Center is supported by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Sustainability, W. P. Carey School of Business, School of Life Sciences, and Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, as well as the Office of Knowledge and Enterprise Development and the Provost’s Office.

In addition to coordinating broad sustainability initiatives related to biomimicry, the Biomimicry Center also will offer the first-ever Master’s of Science in Biomimicry and the first-ever Graduate Certificate in Biomimicry. These online programs are accredited versions of professional training programs developed by Biomimicry 3.8 since 2008. Both the master’s and certificate programs have begun accepting applicants through ASU Online, and development of an on-campus master’s program is underway.

“Biomimicry thinking is a skill set for 21st-century careers,” Boradkar said. “It allows professionals in any field to contribute to sustainable solutions through systems-thinking, creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration.”

The Center officially launches on March 3 with an interactive symposium on ASU’s Tempe campus. The event will feature TED-style talks, hands-on activities, artistic performances, and a discussion between Benyus and Crow about the role biomimicry can play in generating innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.

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