ITHACA, N.Y. - What do dinosaurs, cockroaches and automobile timing chains have in common?
Not much, except that computer modeling research by Mariano Garcia links all three.
The senior engineering specialist at automotive supplier BorgWarner Morse TEC Inc. (bwauto.com) here creates and tests computer simulations of automotive engine timing systems. But his skills extend into other areas.
Garcia, 30, gained international attention from research published in the Feb. 28 edition of the scientific journal Nature. The subject: Prehistoric predator Tyrannosaurus rex. Specifically, whether the creature was as swift as some scientists - and Hollywood films - have established it to be.
The research was not job-related. Garcia worked on the project in his spare time at the request of fellow researcher John Hutchinson of Stanford University. The pair had worked together when Hutchinson was a graduate student and Garcia was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California-Berkeley (berkeley.edu) in the 1990s.
Garcia seems surprised at the attention. He says his research illustrates how the general principles of the project are directly transferable to automotive engineering.
"Modeling anything is kind of a black art," he says. "You've got to take some complicated real-world thing and translate it into something simpler and abstract."