Professor Triantafyllou was born and grew up in Athens, Greece. He studied Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens. After graduating in 1974, he pursued graduate studies at MIT. He earned a dual SM in Ocean Engineering and Mechanical Engineering in 1977 and a ScD in Ocean Engineering in 1979.
In 1979, he began his teaching career at MIT as a faculty member in the Department of Ocean Engineering. Presently, he is a Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Director of the Center for Ocean Engineering, Head of the Area of Ocean Science & Engineering, and Director of the Testing Tank and Propeller Tunnel Facilities. He has been a visiting scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Chairman of the Joint MIT/WHOI Program Committee in Oceanographic Engineering, and visiting professor at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, Kyushu University in Japan, the National Technical University in Trondheim, Norway, and ETH in Zurich, Switzerland.
He has published over 85 articles in scientific journals and over 100 articles in conferences. In addition, his research has been featured on the cover of Science and Scientific American, and in articles in Discovery Magazine and the Smithsonian Magazine.
The main focus of his resent research has been on flow control, vortex-induced vibrations, and biomimetics, the discipline that explores what can be learned about the physics of underwater propulsion from live animals. His laboratory has focused on creating under-water robots that emulate the performance of fish, including the six-foot laboratory robot the RoboTuna. Since 1998, RoboTuna has been part of a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science in London. Recent robots include the free-swimming RoboPike (1998), and the RoboTurtle (2005).