Dr Ivan Maksymov's worm research may benefit neuroscience and robotics.
Original Published Date: 
Monday, September 21, 2020

Full article issued by Swinburne University.

Vibrating a slightly intoxicated earthworm on a sub-woofer speaker in a rural Victorian backyard shed – where experiments were conducted because of the COVID situation – has earned ARC Future Fellow, Dr Ivan Maksymov, and Dr Andrey Pototsky, both from Swinburne University, the Ig Nobel award in Physics.

Dr Maksymov is a physicist and an associate investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), while Dr Pototsky is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics. Their unconventional approach has seen them awarded one of the world’s ten ‘Ig Nobel’ awards presented this year to research that showcases creative and different approaches to solving serious and complicated problems.

Their work was inspired by a hypothesis from a Danish scientist that the brain not only functions using nerve-based electric pulses, but also acousto-mechanical (or sound wave) signals. 

“We used a laser to illuminate the worm and a photodetector to collect the reflected light," says Dr Maksymov. "The intensity of the reflected light was periodically changed due to the ripples on the surface of the worm, which allowed us to investigate their frequency, amplitude and other parameters that physicists usually want to know.”

As a result of the vibrating worm experiment in the backyard shed, the researchers say that new developments in robotics and mechatronics could be explored.

Photo credit: 

Dr Ivan Maksymov's worm research may benefit neuroscience and robotics. Credit: Swinburne University of Technology.