Faculty Directory
Malcolm A. MacIver

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director of PhD Admissions in Biomedical Engineering


2145 Sheridan Road
Tech B292
Evanston, IL 60208-3107

847-491-3540Email Malcolm MacIver


Neuroscience and Robotics Lab (NxR)


Biomedical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering


Master of Science in Robotics Program

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Ph.D. Neuroscience, University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, IL

M.A. Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

B.S. Computer Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

Research Interests

Professor MacIver believes that the body’s mechanical intelligence can be just as important, if not more important, than what’s going on in your head. His primary scientific efforts are in understanding how animal mechanics and sensory abilities fit together, and he pursues that problem using approaches from neuroscience, animal behavior studies, robotics, mathematical modeling, and computer simulations. In engineering, he has pioneered the development of a new sensor inspired by the ability of certain fish to sense using a self-generated electric field, and highly maneuverable propulsion systems based on fish locomotion. In 2009 he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering from President Obama at the White House, the highest award given to emerging scientists by the government. He develops science-inspired interactive art installations that have exhibited internationally, has served as science advisor for several sci-fi TV series and movies (Battlestar Galactica prequel CapricaTron LegacySuperman, Man of Steel), and has been a blogger for Discover Magazine.

Significant Recognition

  • Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering, 2009
  • NSF Career Award, 2009

Significant Professional Service

  • Organizer, First International Symposium on Robotic Electrosense, Aug 2012 College Park MD
  • Science Consultant for movie and television industry, National Academy of Science's Science Entertainment Exchange
  • Northwestern Faculty Senate Representative

Selected Publications

    1. Bale, R. A., Shirgaonkar, A. A., Neveln, I. D., Bhalla, A. P. S., MacIver, M. A., Patankar, N.A. Separability of drag and thrust in undulatory animals and machines. In Press, Scientific Reports (2014).
    2. Neveln, I. D., Bale, R., Bhalla, A. P. S., Curet, O. M., Patankar, N. A., MacIver, M. A. (2014) Undulating fins produce off-axis thrust and flow structures. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217, 201-213.
    3. Sefati, S., I. Neveln, E. Roth, T. Mitchell, J. B. Snyder, M. A. MacIver, E. S. Fortune, and Cowan, N. J. (2013). Mutually opposing forces during locomotion can eliminate the tradeoff between maneuverability and stability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110 (47) 18798-18803.
    4. Neveln, I. D., Bai, Y., Snyder, J. B., Solberg, James R., Curet, O. M., Lynch, Kevin M., & MacIver, M. A. (2013). Biomimetic and bio-inspired robotics in electric fish research. Journal of Experimental Biology, 216, 2501-2514.
    1. Patterson, B.W., Abraham, A.O., MacIver, M.A., & McLean, D. L. (2013). Visually guided gradation of prey capture movements in larval zebrafish. Journal of Experimental Biology, 216, 3071-3083.
    2. Ruiz-Torres, R., Curet, O. M., Lauder, G. V., & MacIver, M.A. (2012). Kinematics of the ribbon fin in hovering and swimming of the electric ghost knifefish. Journal of Experimental Biology, 216, 823-834.
    3. Curet, O.M., Patankar, N. A., Lauder, G.V., MacIver, M. A. (2011) Mechanical properties of a bio-inspired robotic knifefish with an undulatory propulsor. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, Jun;6(2):026004. Epub April 7, 2011, doi:10.1088/1748-3182/6/2/026004.
    4. Curet, O.M., Patankar, N. A., Lauder, G.V., MacIver, M. A. (2011) Aquatic maneuvering with counter-propagating waves: a novel locomotive strategy. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, July 6; 8(60):1041-50 Epub Dec 22, 2010, doi: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0493. Cover.

In the Classroom

Prof. MacIver teaches graduate level courses in neural engineering (BME 464 Neuromechatronics, and BME 461 Computational Neuromechanics and Neuroethology), as well as undergraduate classes in biomechanics and data acquisition and analysis for mechanical engineers.