Alyssa Y. Stark

Alyssa Y. Stark

Title: Graduated 8-2014
Dept/Program: Biology
Office: ASEC E511

Research Accomplishments

PhD conferred 8-2014. Now a Postdoc at University of Louisville. See canopyants

I am interested in the functional morphology of organisms, specifically how particular morphological features relate to an organism’s overall performance, behavior and ecology. My primary focus is investigating the material properties and behavior of biological structures as well as the biomechanics and overall performance of the natural system where these features are found. I am also interested in applying the design principles of these complex biological systems to biomimietic and bio-inspired design.

Currently I work on the gecko adhesive system. As a graduate student in the IB program I work both in the Department of Biology (advised by Peter Niewiarowski) and in the Department of Polymer Science (advised by Ali Dhinojwala). Recently the adhesive system of the gecko has gained popularity in both the fields of biology and material science. I work to bridge these fields by testing the performance of the adhesive system at various levels of organization using techniques rooted in both disciplines. For example, I test adhesion and sprint performance at the whole-animal scale using a custom-designed force apparatus and racetrack. Scaling down, I also measure the material properties and behavior of individual adhesive elements - small hair-like structures found on the toes of geckos. I am interested in the similarities and differences found at each level of organization and how they may relate to the natural ecology of the gecko.


  1. Stark, A.Y., Wucinich, N.A., Paoloni, E.L., Niewiarowski, P.H. & Dhinojwala, A. In press. Self-drying: A gecko's innate ability to remove water from wet toe pads. PLoS ONE. Link
  2. Stark, A.Y., McClung, B., Niewiarowski, P.H. & Dhinojwala, A. 2014. Reduction of Water Surface Tension Significantly Impacts Gecko Adhesion Underwater. Integrative and Comparative Biology. Published early online (doi:10.1093/icb/icu066). Link
  3. Stark, A.Y., Badge, I., Wucinich, N.A., Sullivan, T.W., Niewiarowski, P.H. & Dhinojwala, A. 2013. Surface Wettability Plays a Significant Role in Gecko Adhesion Underwater. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 110(16):6340-6345. Link
  4. Stark, A.Y., Sullivan, T. & Niewiarowski, P.H. 2012. The effect of surface water and wetting on gecko adhesion. Journal of Experimental Biology. 215(17):3080-3086. Link
  5. Niewiarowski, P.H., Stark, A., McClung, B., Chambers, B. & Sullivan, T. 2012. Faster but not stickier: invasive house geckos can out-sprint resident mournful geckos in Moorea, French Polynesia. Journal of Herpetology. 46(2):194-197. Link
  6. Hsu, P.Y., Ge, L., Li, X., Stark, A.Y., Wesdemiotis, C., Niewiarowski, P.H. & Dhinojwala, A. 2011. Direct evidence of phospholipids in gecko footprints and spatula-substrate contact interface detected using surface-sensitive spectroscopy. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 9(69):657-664. Link


2006: B.S. Animal Biology. University of California, Davis