Rolf Mueller

Associate Professor

(540) 231-6005
312 ICTAS II- 0710
1075 Life Sciences Circle
Blacksburg, VA 24061


  • Ph.D., Animal Physiology, University of Tuebingen, 1998
  • M.S., Biology, University of Tuebingen, 1995
  • B.S., Biology, University of Tuebingen, 1992

312 ICTAS II – 0710 Marker-48


  • Research

      • Bioinspired Technology
      • Analysis of Biodiversity in Biological Form and Function
      • Biosonar Sensing

    Design Rules Derived from the Biodiversity in the Biosonar System of Bats

    In research projects funded by ARO and NSF, Dr. Mueller’s group investigates how the functional diversity in the biosonar systems of bats can be described in a quantitative fashion. The goal of this research is to find ways in which parsimonious wave-based sensors can be adapted to excel in a wide range of demanding sensory tasks. As a basis for this research, Dr. Mueller’s group has assembled a data set with high-resolution digital models of beamforming baffle shapes representing more than 100 different bat species. For each sample, a functional characterization has been obtained using numerical methods. Current research efforts focus on methods for the characterization of the natural variability in form and function and establishing a link between the two.

    Time-Variant Sensing Paradigms Inspired by Bat Biosonar

    In research sponsored by NASA, Dr. Mueller’s group is developing research prototypes of bioinspired time-variant sensing devices. These devices are inspired by findings from Dr. Mueller’s group at the Shandong University – Virginia Tech International Laboratory on the biosonar sensing of bats. This research has demonstrated that non-rigid deformations are commonplace in some of the most sophisticated biosonar systems found in bats. The goal of the current research project is to develop prototypes for the investigation of the hypothesis that such time-variant device properties can be utilized to enhance the encoding of sensory information.

    Engineering Analysis of Biodiversity from Museum Specimens

    The National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution is home to one of the world’s best archives of biodiversity. If the specimens from its research collection could be used for an engineering analysis of biological function, it would be a unique resource for the introduction of biodiversity to bioinspired engineering science. In research sponsored by ICTAS and in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Dr. Mueller’s group is conducting research aimed at the development of methods to remove conservation artifacts from fluid-preserved museum specimens. In order to achieve this goal, work is underway to characterize the conservation artifacts so that they can be detected and removed reliably.

  • Professional Affiliations

  • Publications

  • Professional History

    • 2008–Present, Virginia Tech, Mechanical Engineering, Associate Professor
    • 2009-Present, Shandong University – Virginia Tech International Laboratory, Taishan Professor
    • 2005-2008, Shandong University, School of Physics, Professor
    • 2003-2005, University of Southern Denmark, Maersk Institute, Assistant Professor

  • Awards and Honors

    • Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2011
    • Award for Excellence in Academic Activities, Northeast Normal University, 2011
    • College Award for Excellence in Outreach, Virginia Tech College of Engineering, 2011
    • Top Ten Scholars Award, Shandong University, 2011
    • Dean’s Award, School of Physics, Shandong University, 2010
    • National Friendship Award, State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs /State Council, China, 2010
    • Senior Member, Chinese Physical Society (CPS), 2009
    • Taishan Named Professor, Shandong Province, 2009
    • Top Ten Scholars Award, Shandong University, 2006

  • Professional Leadership