Biologically Meaningful Keywords for Functional Terms of the Functional Basis Academic Article uri icon


  • Biology is recognized as an excellent source of analogies and stimuli for engineering design. Previous work focused on the systematic identification of relevant biological analogies by searching for instances of functional keywords in biological information in natural-language format. This past work revealed that engineering keywords could not always be used to identify the most relevant biological analogies as the vocabularies between biology and engineering are sufficiently distinct. Therefore, a retrieval algorithm was developed to identify potential biologically meaningful keywords that are more effective in searching biological text than corresponding engineering keywords. In our current work, we applied and refined the retrieval algorithm to translate functional terms of the functional basis into biologically meaningful keywords. The functional basis is widely accepted as a standardized representation of engineering product functionality. Therefore, our keywords could serve as a thesaurus for engineers to find biological analogies relevant to their design problems. We also describe specific semantic relationships that can be used to identify biologically meaningful keywords in excerpts describing biological phenomena. These semantic relations were applied as criteria to identify the most useful biologically meaningful keywords. Through a preliminary validation experiment, we observed that different translators were able to apply the criteria to identify biologically meaningful keywords with a high degree of agreement to those identified by the authors. In addition, we describe how fourth-year undergraduate mechanical engineering students used the biologically meaningful keywords to develop concepts for their design projects. © 2011 American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

author list (cited authors)

  • Cheong, H., Chiu, I., Shu, L. H., Stone, R. B., & McAdams, D. A.

citation count

  • 56

publication date

  • February 2011