Mahadevan studies the spatio-temporal organization of matter — i.e., how it is shaped and how it flows. His group uses a combination of techniques to explore this issue, ranging from simple observations of phenomena to quantitative experiments and theory, on scales that range from the micrometric to the megametric. Working in several enabling technology platforms at the Wyss Institute, he has also been pursuing the inverse problem of how the shape and flow of matter may be controlled in space and time. His expertise in applied mathematics, physics, biology and engineering contributes to several projects involving bio-inspired collective robotics, forward and inverse problems involving origami, self-assembly, blood flow dynamics, morphogenesis, smart materials, etc. For example, in the area of Adaptive Material Technologies, his group created theoretical and computational tools to understand the geometry of pleated and creased structures found in nature, such as insect wings and plant leaves, and helped to solve inverse problems for creating complex shapes using bioinspired precipitation strategies at the microscale, 4d biomimetic printing at the mesoscale, and origami-based folding at the macroscale.
At Harvard, Maha is the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor of Physics. Before arriving at Harvard in 2003, Maha was the first Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, and a Fellow of Trinity College. Among his many awards are a 2009 MacArthur “genius” grant, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, MIT’s Edgerton award, and Harvard’s George Ledlie Prize. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.