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Jérôme Casas

University of Tours, France

Jérôme Casas obtained his Ph.D. from the ETH Zurich in 1989. After a short post-doc at Strathclyde University in Glasgow he was hired assistant professor at the ETH Zurich. He migrated to the US in 1993, working at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and returned to Europe as full Professor in 1995 in Tours.

His research interests span physiology and ecology, including work on the physical ecology of insects; the physiology, behavior and population dynamics of consumer-resource interactions; sensory ecology; and biologically- inspired technology, particularly biomimetic flow sensing. One notable feature of his approach is the blending of natural history with both state-of-the-art technology and modeling. His group is composed of applied mathematicians, engineers and biologists. From 2001 to 2008, he was the director of the Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l’Insecte (UMR CNRS), one of the largest institutions in Europe working on insects. He contributes or did so to many scientific boards, the most notable being BIOKON-The International Biomimetics Association (Berlin) as well as the interdisciplinary committee of the Canada Research Chairs program (Ottawa).

He was awarded the ETH medal for a thesis in the University’s top 10%, was nominated junior member of the IUF (Institut Universitaire Français), later senior member of the IUF and was the Distinguished Invited Professor of the Center for Insect Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 2006. He holds the excellency Chair for bio-inspired technologies at the LETI CEA. He got a Humboldt research prize, to work on bio-inspired technology with T. Speck (Freiburg) and P. Fratzl (Postdam). Prof. Casas also served on the editorial board of a number of ecological, physiological and interdisciplinary journals. Currently, he is editor in chief of Current opinion in Insect Sciences, ranked 3rd in the entomological section.

Insects bio-inspired sensors
The millions of insect species are millions of solutions to a huge variety of problems, many involving sensing and actuation. Equipped with countless types of sensors, most insects are small, smaller than one centimeter. They are hence perfect templates for bioinspired microtechnology. I will start my talk with a broad survey of the technological sensors designed according to biological models, from acoustic to optical flow to IR sensors. Then, I will describe our work on flow sensing hairs and the MEMS we designed, with a special emphasis on the interactions between several sensors. The geometry and multiplicity of sensors is at the heart of the transport phenomena around insect antennae in the context of sensing minutes amounts of pheromones and I shall present this as well. We will then dwell into signal processing and tap into the unique ability of invertebrates to process information in a distributed way in their different neural centers: the latest neuromorphic network inspired from insects shows indeed most promising performances and interpretability, compared to a generic deep learning approach. I end the talk by sharing my decades-long experience of interacting with applied physicists, engineers and mathematicians. The biologist’s and engineer’s approaches differ a lot; the successful production of bioinspired artefacts demands thus more than a passing interest for interdisciplinarity, and from both parties. Taping into the fast treasure trove of energy sparse, carbon-based sensors of the insect world is certainly worth the effort, given the most serious technological and environmental bottlenecks facing us.

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