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NMSU engineering professor to present research lecture at Science Café

  • By COE Media
  • Jan 18, 2023

The Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science (MONAS) and Sigma Xi will present “Science Café – Bio-Inspiration and Extraterrestrial Subsurface Exploration” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, via Zoom, MONAS said in a news release.

The guest speaker will be Douglas Cortes, Ph.D., the Harold Foreman endowed associate professor for excellence in civil engineering at New Mexico State University. He joined NMSU in August 2011.

“On Earth, heavy equipment provides the reaction forces needed to overcome the resistance for drilling and mining below the surface,” the news release said. “However, these same machines will not work on the surface of the Moon, which has a low gravity and low-power environment.

“Cortes and his team at NMSU have turned to earthworms for inspiration to overcome the limitations of exploring terrestrial and extraterrestrial subsurface environments. Earthworms have had over three hundred million years to develop and fine tune sophisticated light-weight subsurface penetration strategies that work more with the ground than against it. These organisms not only use granular media for support but are also capable of adjusting their deformable bodies to gain mechanical advantages and maneuver around obstacles, reducing the energy needed for excavation.

“Learn about the results of bio-inspired tests performed by Cortes and his team using a simple earthworm-inspired soil penetration device that combines a miniature steel cone penetrometer with a soft membrane deployed into a bed of mock lunar rocks.

Cortes received B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is secretary of the American Society of Civil Engineers Sustainability in Geotechnical Engineering Committee, a senior investigator at the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics at Arizona State University in Tempe and NMSU’s contact for Johns Hopkins University’s Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium.

Cortes’ research interests include bio-inspired geotechnics, ground improvement, wireless underground sensor networks, asset management and planetary landed exploration, construction and mining.

For the Zoom link to this presentation, email or call 575-522-3120, or go to with webinar ID 82547784267.

MONAS, 411 N. Main St. downtown, is accessible from RoadRUNNER Transit Route 1 Stop 1.

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