Faculty and Research

More than 50 UC San Diego professors and research scientists have elected to be a part of the Contextual Robotics Institute at its launch. These researchers lead teams working at the cutting edge of many interrelated research areas including computer vision, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, electronic actuators, dynamic controls, materials, nano- and micro-machines, sensors and sensing, controls systems, human-robot interactions, chips, wireless communications, new materials, biomimetics and power management. View a list of research sponsors.


Henrik Christensen

Computer Science and Engineering

Christensen is a national policy leader for the field of robotics and has testified before Congress on the subject. He is the head of a nationwide effort to draft a robotics roadmap and explore the field’s potential to transform U.S. society. Most recently, he served as Director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at Georgia Tech. Christensen's research covers computer vision, artificial intelligence and robotics, and his primary emphasis has been on a systems-oriented approach to machine perception, robotics and design of intelligent machines. He and his team seek solutions that are theoretically sound, with well-defined implementations that can be evaluated in realistic situations. He has worked with a number of industry partners, including Boeing, KUKA, iRobot, BMW and Apple.

Henrik Christensen joins UC San Diego
Henrik Christensen head shots

Executive Director

Todd Hylton

Professor of Practice, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Hylton most recently served as executive vice president of strategy and research at Brain Corporation, a San Diego-based robotics startup. Prior to Brain Corp., Hylton launched a series of successful projects as a program manager at DARPA, including a multi-million dollar effort to develop a chip inspired by the function of biological nervous systems. He launched DARPA’s SyNAPSE program in 2007, which developed a chip whose architecture is inspired by the brain. Hylton also managed the Nano Air Vehicle program at DARPA. Hylton has a track record as an inventor and entrepreneur and has been awarded 19 patents. In the early 2000s, he cofounded 4Wave, a startup specializing in semiconductor equipment.

Todd Hylton joins UC San Diego




Thomas Levy

Anthropology Professor

Use of robots and UAVs to generate 3D models of historical sites.

Center for Cyber-Archaeology & Sustainability at UC San Diego


Gert Cauwenberghs

Bioengineering Professor

Brain dynamics of human motor control, neuromorphic systems engineering, micropower VLSI integrated circuits and sensors, event-driven and adaptive intelligent systems.

Integrated Systems Neuroengineering

Gabriel Silva

Bioengineering Professor

Development of mathematical models, algorithms and software derived from the biological brain for advanced contextual robotics applications and processes.

Mathematical Neuroscience and Neural Engineering Lab

Cognitive Science

Andrea Chiba

Cognitive Science Professor

Chiba's interests reside in developing neurally feasible robotic tools for use as embodied models. Such models will be used as tools for studying cognitive phenomena such as social interaction, interoception, and attention and for discovering the neural and physiological systems that support these phenomena.

Chiba Laboratory Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center

Virginia de Sa

Cognitive Science Professor

Machine Learning especially multi-view/multi-modal learning, EEG-based brain computer interfaces, Computational Neuroscience and Models of Visual Processing.

de Sa Laboratory

David Kirsh

Cognitive Science Professor

Use of robots as cognitive partners in creative tasks such as architecture, physical design, and dance.

Interactive Cognition Lab

Ayse P. Saygin

Cognitive Science, Neurosciences Professor

Our interdisciplinary research on robotics draws upon our background in artificial intelligence, and our well-established work on human perception and cognitive neuroscience. We aim to improve our understanding of cognitive and neural bases of social cognition, as well as to help develop “neuroergonomic” social robots.

Saygin Lab (Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Lab)

Douglas Nitz

Cognitive Science Professor

Implementation of neural network simulations in robotic devices operating in the real world.

Systems Neuroscience

Zhuowen Tu

Cognitive Science Professor

Machine perception, machine learning, deep learning, and neural computation.

Machine Learning, Perception, and Cognition Lab

Angela Yu

Cognitive Science Professor

Elucidating the computational and neural basis of cognitive processing using a combination of theoretical and experimental methods. Studying the inter-related cognitive functions of decision-making, active perception, attentional selection, learning, working memory, cognitive control, social cognition, and cognitive dysfunctions in psychiatry.

Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab


Morana Alač

Communication Professor

Human-robot interaction in everyday settings.

Alač Lab

Computer Science and Engineering

Manmohan Chandraker

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Manmohan Chandraker is a computer vision expert. His work on 3D scene understanding for self-driving cars uses 2D images to detect and localize traffic participants in a 3D, along with a representation of the surroundings, for applications such as collision avoidance and path planning.

Visual Computing Center

Kamalika Chaudhuri

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Professor Chaudhuri is interested in interactive learning and its application to robotics.

Chaudhuri Lab

Garrison Cottrell

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Our lab investigates the mechanisms that underlie human perception using computational modeling. In particular, we investigate face and object perception, eye movements, and auditory and visual salience with models that learn from data, and are biologically plausible. Some of our models have achieved state-of-the-art performance.


Sicun Gao

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Gao works on automated reasoning, design automation, and the theory of physical computing. He leads the development of dReal, an automated reasoning tool capable of synthesizing and verifying complex cyber-physical systems. The tool has been used for improving the design in various practical domains such as autonomous driving, critical infrastructure, and personalized medicine. His current research projects focus on unifying reasoning-based and learning-based AI methods for control, planning, and perception.

Rajesh Gupta

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Among the relevant problems I work on: (a) embedded platforms -- specifically, timing, synchronization and programming issues; (b) localization and mobility; (c) sensor networks. Beyond these, I am interested in path planning and optimization problems induced by robotic applications.

Microelectronic Embedded Systems Laboratory

Ryan Kastner

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

We develop remote sensing platforms for multidisciplinary and collaborative research projects with the broad goals of protecting the environment, uncovering mysteries related to cultural heritage, and providing experiential learning experiences. Our technology is validated during field deployments in joint expeditions with the domain scientists.

Kastner Research Group

Ravi Ramamoorthi

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

As Director of Center for Visual Computing, I see many opportunities to engage with robotics, including vision sensors for autonomous vehicles, perception for robotic interaction, and realistic animation, control, decision-making and visualization for contextual robotics.

Center for Visual Computing

Laurel Riek

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Prof. Riek is an experimental roboticist who designs autonomous systems that work with people in dynamic, real-world environments. Riek’s research interests include computer vision, machine learning, human-robot interaction, and healthcare robotics. Current project topics include: robot context perception, adaptive human-robot teaming, and cognitive neurorehabilitation.

Robotics & Healthcare Engineering Lab

Tajana Rosing

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Prof. Rosing works on context-awareness as it relates to energy efficient embedded systems applications. Her most recent work has focused on SmartCity infrastructure, and has included robotics components.


Hao Su

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

Prof. Su is interested in fundamental problems in broad disciplines related to artificial intelligence, including machine learning, computer vision, computer graphics, and robotics. He is particularly interested in deep learning for understanding 3D environments and efficient planning leveraging the deep understanding of environments.

Hao Su website

Rose Yu

Computer Science and Engineering Professor

The goal of Yu's research is to advance machine learning and enable interpretable, efficient and robust large-scale spatiotemporal reasoning. Her work has been successfully applied to solve challenging problems in many areas, including COVID 19 forecasting.

Lab website

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nikolay A. Atanasov

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Nikolay Atanasov's research focuses on robotics, control theory, and machine learning and in particular on autonomous information collection using ground and aerial robots in localization and mapping, environmental monitoring, and security and surveillance applications. He works on probabilistic environment models that unify geometry and semantics and on optimal control and reinforcement learning approaches for minimizing uncertainty in these models.

Existential Robotics Lab

Shaya Fainman

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Sensors and sensor fusion; wireless optical communications and networking.

Ultrafast and Nanoscale Optics

Joseph Ford

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Mobile optical sensing and communications, including free space data transmission and compact high-performance imaging systems.

Photonics Systems Integration Lab

Tara Javidi

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Many robotics systems are frequently tasked with information acquisition, sensing, and decision making in face of uncertainty. Using tools from stochastic control theory, statistics , and information theory, our work deals with the optimal methods for information acquisition and inference in a networked system.

Advanced Networking Science Lab

Ken Kreutz-Delgado

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Learning dynamically evolving patterns from complex time-series data. Compressive sensing and sparse signal processing for multivariate EEG and fMRI data analysis and brain-computer interfacing. Stochastic methods for data analytics and decision making. Development and implementation of data analytics, decision making, and machine learning algorithms.

QI/Calit2 Pattern Recognition Laboratory

Patrick Mercier

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Development of low-power contextual sensors and communication systems.

Energy-Efficient Microsystems Lab

Gabriel Rebeiz

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Wireless sensors. Low power radars for autonomous vehicles or aircraft. Communication systems.

Rebeiz Lab (also known as TICS)

Mohan Trivedi

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Trivedi leads the Laboratory for Intelligent and Safe Automobiles (LISA), a multidisciplinary effort to explore innovative approaches to making future automobiles safer and "intelligent". His research considers issues in sensing, analysis, modeling, and prediction of parameters associated with drivers, occupants, vehicle dynamics and vehicle surroundings as well as transportation infrastructures. This is accomplished by research in computer vision and intelligent systems with synergistic contributions from cognitive sciences, psychology and decision theory.

Laboratory for Intelligent & Safe Automobiles

Nuno Vasconcelos

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

My research is on computer vision, addressing problems such as object and action recognition and scene understanding, and machine learning, e.g loss function design or deep learning. An important area of focus is vision under real-time processing constraints, which is of prime interest for robotics.

Statistical Visual Computing Lab

Michael Yip

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Medical Robotics, Soft Flexible Robotics, Biomimetics, Surgical Robotics, Prosthetics and Exoskeletons, Haptics, Convex Optimization, Optimal Control, Teleoperation, Medical Image Processing, Computer Vision

Advanced Robotics and Controls Lab

Xiaolong Wang

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Computer vision, machine learning and robotics, specifically, self-supervised learning, video understanding, common sense reasoning, RL and robotics.

Lab website

Yang Zheng

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

Prof. Zheng's research focuses on learning, optimization, and control of network systems, and their applications to cyber-physical systems, especially autonomous vehicles, and traffic systems. The goal is to develop computationally efficient and distributed solutions for large-scale network systems by exploring and exploiting real-world system structures.

Scalable Optimization and Control Lab

Global Policy & Strategy

Ruixue Jia

Institute of Global Policy and Strategy Professor

Ruixue Jia is an assistant professor of economics at the School of Policy and Strategy and an associate fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Her research interest is the interplay of economics, history and politics. She has published research on how open access to elite status matters for political stability. She has also studied how competence and loyalty jointly determines who becomes a top politician in China. Her recent interest expands to understanding the transformation process of the Chinese manufacturing sector. She is working on a project investigating the causes and consequences of robot adoption in Chinese firms

Ruixue Jia


Yian Ma


Institute for Neural Computation

Scott Makeig

Institute for Neural Computation Professor

High-resolution non-invasive EEG imaging of cortical dynamics during natural motivated actions and interactions in a range of human contexts. Deeper understanding here can be used to design human-centered automation.

Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience


Melvin Leok

Mathematics Professor

Prof. Leok is an applied mathematician who works on computational aspects of geometric mechanics and geometric control theory. His research explores the role of geometric structure-preservation in the construction of numerical algorithms for simulation, control, trajectory generation, and optimization of complex interconnected and hierarchical cyberphysical systems evolving on nonlinear information and configuration manifolds in the presence of uncertainties.

Computational geometric mechanics group

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Thomas Bewley

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Our lab couples clever mechanical design and feedback control with robust low-cost manufacturing and modern cellphone technology to develop novel mobile robotic systems and to deliver them to market. Applications of interest include education, consumer, security, first responder, and environmental sensing (contaminant plumes, hurricanes, etc).

UCSD Flow Control & Coordinated Robotics Labs

Bob Bitmead

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Control systems underpinning robotics: certification of safe operation using metrics and margins ideas from Robust Control, communications and state estimation in constrained control problems and their role in coordination of multiple platforms, feedforward control with forecasts

Bitmead Lab

Jorge Cortes

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Robot coordination in cooperative and adversarial environments, swarm robotics, human-swarm interaction, autonomy, motion planning strategies and distributed coordination algorithms for autonomous robotic networks. Application areas include mobile robotics, environmental adaptive sampling, and autonomous deployment of unmanned multi-vehicle networks.

Multi-Agent Robotics Laboratory

John Hwang

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Hwang develops optimization algorithms for improving the efficiency and performance of engineering vehicles and systems. He specializes in methods that efficiently optimize up to tens of thousands of parameters representing the design or control of the system. He has applied these optimization methods to the design of commercial airliners, satellites, small electric aircraft and material systems.


James Friend

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Has two decades of experience in generating silent, complex and powerful motion at the micro to submicro scales, employing ultrasonic piezoelectrics and soft micro/nanohydraulics. Skilled in actuator design, from arbitrary axis rotary microactuators for microflyers to microcatheter navigation, suturing, and grasping for neurovascular/eye surgery.

Miroslav Krstic

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Krstic is the world leader in the fields of adaptive control of nonlinear systems and extremum seeking for model-free optimization. High impact in individual and swarms of robots in GPS-denied environments; Nash equilibrium seeking for noncooperating robots; neuromuscular rehabilitation after injuries and muscle atrophy.

Nonlinear and Adaptive Control Laboratory

Nick Gravish

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

We aim to further the scientific understanding of movement and manipulation in living systems and to apply this knowledge towards new bio-inspired robot design, fabrication, and control.  Our current focus is on movement and manipulation in insect-scale robot and biological systems. We use laser machining and smart composite fabrication to develop new forms of insect-scale robots for applications requiring small-scale mobility and dexterity.

Gravish Lab Personal Website

Sonia Martinez

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Analysis, design and implementation of motion planning strategies and distributed coordination algorithms for autonomous multi-agent robotic networks performing spatially-distributed tasks. Applications include disaster response scenarios, search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, adaptive sampling, service robotics, and smart buildings and infrastructure.

MURO lab

Tania Morimoto

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Morimoto’s research interests include robotics, haptics, and human-in-the-loop interfaces. Her main work involves the design and control of fl exible or soft robots for increased dexterity and accessibility in unstructured environments, including minimally invasive surgical interventions

Morimoto Lab

Sutanu Sarkar

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

I develop and use computational models for predicting flows in nature and flows over bodies moving in water or flying through air. I am interested in the collaborative development of models that predict the interaction between mobile robots and the natural environment.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Laboratory

Frank Talke

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Interest related to the use of robotics in manufacturing of hard disk drives and medical devices.

Talke website

Michael Tolley

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

The Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab focuses on borrowing ideas from nature to inspire automated systems with unprecedented capabilities. These goals are enabled by digital manufacturing, computational analysis, and computational design tools. Current projects address soft robotics, fabrication by folding, and self-assembly.

Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab

Sylvia Herbert

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor

Herbert focuses on developing new techniques for safety and efficiency in autonomous systems. She has developed methods for scalable safety and real-time decision making that draw from control theory, cognitive science, and reinforcement learning, and which are backed by both rigorous theory and physical testing on robotic platforms. 

The Safe and Autonomous Systems Lab

Shengqiang Cai


Boris Kramer



Shlomo Dubnov

Music Professor

Leveraging robot technology to build new music experiences.

Center for Research in Entertainment in Learning


Shaochen Chen

NanoEngineering Professor

3D printing, bioprinting, biomaterials, nanomaterials, medical devices, stem cell engineering, regenerative medicine, lasers, nanomanufacturing, nanophotonics

Nanobiomaterials, bioprinting, & tissue engineering

Joseph Wang

NanoEngineering Professor

Design and fabrication of advanced microrobots and powerful multi-functional nanomachines for diverse biomedical, security and environmental applications. The team pioneered novel designs of nanomotors and variety of applications of nanomachines, including directed drug delivery, detoxification processes and nanomotor lithography.


Sheng Xu

NanoEngineering Professor

The research interest of my group is in developing functional materials and advanced microfabrication techniques for flexible/stretchable electronics, with mechanical properties similar to the soft tissue of biological objects, for applications in soft robotics, energy harvesting and storage, wearable health monitoring, and consumer electronics.

Xu Research Group


Adena Schachner

Mad Lab Website

Qualcomm Institute

Curt Schurgers

Qualcomm Institute Professor

Interests include remote sensing, imaging and system prototyping. Specific goals are the engineering of robotics to drive the future of exploration, archaeology, oceanography and conservation biology.

Engineers for Exploration

Structural Engineering

Falko Kuester

Structural Engineering Professor

The DroneLab explores UAVs, terrestrial and underwater drones for imaging on land, under water and in the air, for environmental and habitat monitoring, disaster and post-disaster reconnaissance, search and rescue, precision farming, general photography, cinematography, archaeology and the reconstruction of cultural heritage sites, among others.

Drone Lab

Research Specialists

Deborah Forster

Research Specialist

Trained in behavioral ecology and cognitive science, Forster is currently a research specialist in the Contextual Robotics Institute and affiliated faculty in the Design Lab at UC San Diego.  Having studied social complexity and distributed cognition in wild baboons, Forster then extended her professional engagements in the contexts of automotive design, architecture education, and art-science collaborations. Returning to UCSD and completing her PhD in cognitive science in 2012,  Forster is typically embedded within engineering / computation / design-centered research efforts that also tracks behavior in complex socio-technical systems. From kid-friendly robots (RUBI) to automated pain detection in humans and other mammals (horses, dogs, monkeys and rats), Forster supports the development of interdisciplinary research networks (today’s ‘convergence science’) and continues to forge creative connections with art and design in both academia and industry.  

Timothy McConnell

Robotics and UAV Specialist

Tim McConnell holds the position of Robotics and UAV specialist at the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego. He has been responsible for overseeing the design, construction, instrumentation and usage of the on-campus Aerodrome - an outdoor, netted testing facility for UAV research. Tim also currently serves as President of Lattice Innovation. Previously, Tim served as Director of Systems and Software Engineering at Kontron America in San Diego and Vice President of Engineering for 3D Robotics overseeing design, development and manufacturing of consumer and commercial UAV systems in San Diego and Tijuana. Tim has a long history in the San Diego high-tech community having run an 80-person engineering department at Solekai Systems as well as holding leadership positions at several other San Diego based companies. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT. Tim currently mentors companies locally in various robotic fields through EvoNexus and the Zahn Innovation Center at SDSU. He also serves as a judge at the San Diego FIRST Robotics regional competition.