David Hu Takes Home Ig Nobel Prize for 'Improbable Research'

The award celebrates research that "makes people laugh and then think."
David Hu accepts the Ig Nobel Prize.

David Hu accepts the Ig Nobel Prize.

Studying the urination duration of various animals has landed David Hu an Ig Nobel Prize.

Hu, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for his research on the hydrodynamics of mammal urination. The award was given by Improbable Research, which celebrates research that "makes people laugh and then think." The idea is to challenge what is considered important scientific research and illustrate that valuable information can come from more trivial subject matters. Every year there are 9,000 nominations, and only 10 teams are selected as winners. 

Hu was assisted by Patricia Yang, a mechanical engineering graduate student, and biomedical engineering undergraduates Jerome Choo and Jonathan Pham.

Hu's research was directed by his interest in the link between the gravitational pull during urination and the advancement of efficient water systems. With camera in hand, Hu and his students ventured out to Zoo Atlanta to record and study 32 different mammals including elephants, cows and rats. By examining the video of the urine streams in slow motion, they were able to determine a relation between the length of the urethra and the flow rate of the urine. Their conclusion was that all mammals empty their bladders in about 20 seconds. The research could ultimately lead to better engineered systems for water tanks, backpacks, and fire hoses that can be built for more efficiency.

Hu and his students were awarded the prize at the 25th annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony on Sept. 17. He will give a public lecture on his research and his "journey with wacky science" on Monday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in Room 144, Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons. 

Read more about Hu's animal urination study from June 2014.