Jane Wang



Insect Flight: From Newton’s law to Neurons
Biophysics, Computational Modeling, table-top experiments

Research Focus

I am fascinated by the physics of living organisms, with a focus on understanding insect flight. How does an insect fly, why does it fly so well, and how can we infer its ‘thoughts’ from its flight dynamics? The movement of an insect is not only dictated by the laws of physics, but also by its response to the external world.

We have been seeking mechanistic explanations of the complex movement of insect flight. Starting from the Navier-Stokes equations governing the unsteady aerodynamics of flapping flight, we worked to build a theoretical framework for interpreting and predicting the functions of an insect’s internal machinery for flight. In this approach, the physics of flight informs us about the internal computing scheme for a specific behavior. 

Our most recent work makes new connections to neural science. We build physical models for quantitative analyses of flight reflexes, and relate our findings to the underlying neural feedback circuitries for flight. 

Ongoing Projects

Computing 3D free flight
Dragonfly flight: Righting reflexes
Flies:  Testing our conjecture on the role of fly’s b1 muscle on flight stability using genetically modified flies.


Z. J. Wang, J. Melfi Jr., A. Leonardo, Recovery mechanisms in the dragonfly righting reflex, Science (2022).

H. Li, T. Goodwill, Z. J. Wang, and L. Ristroph, Center of mass location, flight modes, stability and dynamic modeling of gliders, Journal of Fluid Mechanics (2022)

 Z. J. Wang, R. Chang, L. Ristroph, Dragonfly righting reflex, APS-DFD Gallery of Fluids (2021)

A. El-Yacoubi, S. Xu, Z. J. Wang, A New method for computing particle collisions in Navier-Stokes flows , Journal of Computational Physics (2019)

R.M. Noest, Z. J. Wang, Optimal wing hinge location for fast ascent in a model fly , Journal of Fluid Mechanics (2018)

Z. Jane Wang, Insect Flight: From Newton's Law to Neurons , Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics (2016)

S. Chang, Z. J. Wang, Predicting fruit fly's sensing rate with insect flight simulations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1314738111 (2014)

A. J. Bergou, L. Ristroph, J. Guckenheimer, I. Cohen, Z. J. Wang, Fruit Flies Modulate Passive Wing Pitching to Generate In-Flight Turns, Physical Review Letters 104,148101 (2010)

U. Pesavento, Z. Jane Wang, Flapping Wing Flight Can Save Aerodynamic Power Compared to Steady Flight, Physical Review Letters 103,118102 (2009)

G. Berman, and Z. J. Wang, Energy-minimizing kinematics in hovering insect flight, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 582, 153-168 (2007)

Sheng Xu and Z. Jane Wang, An Immersed Interface Method for Simulating the Interaction of a Fluid with Moving Boundaries, Journal of Computational Physics 201, 454-493 (2006)

A. Andersen, U. Pesavento, and Z. Jane Wang, Unsteady aerodynamics of fluttering and tumbling plates, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 541, 65-90 (2005)

Z. Jane Wang, Dissecting Insect Flight, Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech. 2005.37, 183-210 (2005)

Z. Jane Wang, Two Dimensional Mechanism for Insect Hovering, Physical Review Letters 85.10, 2216-2219 (2000)

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