Biological systems have the ability to sense, react, regulate, grow, regenerate, and heal. Recent advances in materials chemistry and micro- and nanoscale fabrication techniques have enabled biologically inspired materials systems that mimic many of these remarkable functions. This issue of MRS Bulletin highlights two promising classes of bioinspired materials systems: surfaces that can self-clean and polymers that can self-heal. Self-cleaning surfaces are based on the superhydrophobic effect, which causes water droplets to roll off with ease, carrying away dirt and debris. Design of these surfaces is inspired by the hydrophobic micro- and nanostructures of a lotus leaf. Self-healing materials are motivated by biological systems in which damage triggers a site-specific, autonomic healing response. Self-healing has been achieved using several different approaches for storing and triggering healing functionality in the polymer. In this issue, we examine the most successful strategies for self-cleaning and self-healing materials and discuss future research directions and opportunities for commercial applications.