EECS Department Head Anantha Chandrakasan announced today the appointment of Professor Daniela Rus as the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The Chair was established in 1999 by Andrew and Erna to recognize significant contributions in the field of communications and signal processing. Prof. Ronald Rivest was the first chair holder of the Viterbi Professorship.
Professor Rus, the Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has made seminal contributions to motion planning, controlling, and fielding autonomous robots. Her research covers a broad spectrum of technical problems related to self-organizing networks of robots, including robot design, control, locomotion, manipulation, and high-level planning and control for groups of robots. Her work on shape shifting robots is foundational for the field of modular self-reconfiguring robot systems, where the objective is to design robot modules and planning and control algorithms that enable the resulting robot systems to self-organize as the shape best suited for the sensing, navigation, or manipulation needs of a task. Her work has contributed several new robot platforms with novel capabilities and algorithms for controlling networks of robots. (See the links to the media coverage of the numerous robotic systems developed by Prof. Rus.)
In his announcement, Prof. Chandrakasan noted Prof. Rus’ dedication as an educator, saying, “She is also an outstanding educator and a wonderful mentor to her students.” Prof. Rus developed, in collaboration with Professor Seth Teller, two very popular courses for the Robotics Science and Systems sequence (6.141 and 6.142). Two offerings of the advanced course (6.142) resulted in refereed conference publications authored with the class that were nominated as best papers at the premier conferences in robotics, ICRA and IROS. The first paper described a class project on an autonomous greenhouse and the second paper described a class project of assembling Ikea furniture with robots. More recently, Professor Rus has worked with Professor Erik Demaine and Chuck Hoberman to create an innovative course that explores the role of computation in mechanical innovation.
Professor Rus has also devoted significant time to robotics education outside of MIT. As education co-chair of the Robotics and Automation Society, she spearheaded an effort to create an electronic repository of robotics teaching materials with the goal of enabling non-experts in the field to offer undergraduate robotics courses. She has also played a leadership role in the field, serving on the Long Range Planning Committee of IEEE’s Robotics and Automation Society, as general chair for several robotics conferences including the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics and Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, and in the roles of a program committee member, associate editor, and technical contributor for all the premier robotics journals and conferences. Her contributions have been recognized with a MacArthur fellowship in 2002 while she was an associate professor at Dartmouth College, where she directed the Dartmouth Robotics Laboratory, which she founded in 1994.