Alum Sees Oscillations Everywhere

2009-07-09 09:39

What Philip Bayly laughingly calls a “character flaw” in his own personality has inspired him to pursue challenges in many different areas, from high-speed machining to measuring abnormal heart beats to understanding the tiny hair-like structures lining human lungs.

What do these disparate pursuits have in common?

“Non-linear dynamics and chaotic vibrations,” said Bayly (Ph.D. ’93), Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Washington University for the past 16 years. “Each of these problems involves oscillations or disorganized behaviors. Even when I was a graduate student at Duke, my thesis went in several different directions. The great part of academic world is that you can explore wherever your interests take you.phil_bayly_small.jpg

“I have a hard time turning down interesting problems,” he continued. “Non-linear dynamics have many applications to various and sundry questions. The reason I got involved in the heart study, for example, was that the cardiologists in the basic arrhythmia lab were interested in the fundamental reasons behind the often chaotic heartbeats they were studying. That sounded fascinating to me as away of applying engineering principles to the life sciences.”

Bayly earned a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a master's degree from Brown University before coming to graduate school at Duke. Four years ago, he was named the inaugural Lilyan and E. Lisle Hughes Professor in Engineering at Washington University.

“I continually look to Duke as an example of what we should be doing here at Washington University – it is a prototype in many ways of what we want to do here,” he said. “In the type of environment I had at Duke, students are able and encouraged to explore different areas and the faculty members, such as Earl Dowell and Lawrie Virgin, are willing to nurture those efforts.

“Washington University is a lot like Duke, but without a Division One basketball team!”