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Jane Wang


Clark Hall, Room 517

Educational Background

BS physics, Fudan University 1989. PhD physics, University of Chicago, 1996. NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Theoretical Physics, University of Oxford, 1997. Visiting Member, Courant Institute of the Mathematical Sciences, New York University, 1997-1999. Assistant Professor, TAM, Cornell 1999-2004. Associate Professor, TAM, Cornell, 2004-2009. Professor, MAE, Cornell, 2009-Present. Professor, Physics, Cornell, 2011-Present. NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow (1997). NSF Early Career Award (2001-2006). ONR Young Investigator Award (2001-2004). David and Lucille Packard Fellow (2002-2007). Cornell Provost’s Award for Excellence (2005). Radcliffe Fellow (2007). Fellow of American Physical Society (2014).



Broad Themes:
Physics of Living Organisms, Nonlinear Dynamics, Computational Modeling and Methods

Specific Topics:
Insect Flight: From Newton’s law to Neurons


  • Physics

Graduate Fields

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Applied Physics
  • Computational Biology
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Theoretical and Applied Mechanics


  • Center for Applied Mathematics (CAM)
  • Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR)
  • Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics (LASSP)


We are interested in understanding life in fluids. A current question we ask is ‘why does a living organism move the way it does?’ The organism’s movement is in part dictated by physics, and in another part by the organism’s response to its own movement.

We have been seeking mechanistic explanations for the complex movement of insect flight. To understand insect flight, we started from the outer scale, solving the Navier-Stokes equations coupled to the wing motions, analyzing the unsteady aerodynamics of flapping flight, and are gradually working toward the inner scale, deducing the actuations and control algorithms. In this approach, the physics of flight informs us about the internal control or 'computing' scheme for a specific behavior.

To analyze the dynamics of insect flight, we have been developing efficient computational algorithms for the Navier-Stokes equations, deducing reduced order models from table-top experiments, and carrying out analyses of dynamical systems. We have also been collaborating with experimentalists to infer control laws from flight data.  These efforts have led to new insights into the essential mechanisms underlying flapping flight and will continue to give us intuitions about the interactions among different building blocks inside an organism.

Ongoing projects

Insect flight:  Aerodynamics, Flight Efficiency and Stability, Neural Feedback Control.

Fruit fly flight: quantifying flight behavior of genetically modified flies to test our conjecture on the role of fly’s b1 muscle in flight stability

Dragonfly flight: self-righting maneuver

Graduate Students
James Melfi Jr. and Robert Noest


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)