Dean's Column

Albert Pisano

Robotics Institute Launched

In October 2015, we launched the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego. Many people have asked about the term “contextual robotics.” The answer is both straightforward and forward-looking: context is necessary for autonomy. Robots that rely on context in real time will pave the way for many safe and useful robotics systems that work up-close and personal with people, and with other robots. Elder care robots and assisted living robots are just two examples. This next generation of context-sensitive robots will transform medicine, transportation, environmental sensing, advanced manufacturing and many other areas, thanks to their ability to perceive, process and act upon context in real time.

We founded the Contextual Robotics Institute as a collaboration between the Jacobs School of Engineering and the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences. More than 42 professors and research scientists from engineering and the social sciences joined the Institute at its launch. Their teams of professors, researchers and students will perform approximately $50 million in robotics-related research over the next 4 to 5 years. The students on these teams are cutting their teeth on tough problems at the intersection of sensing and perception; cognition and coordination; and mobility and manipulation. The image on the cover of this issue of Pulse illustrates a related controls project, which you can read about on pg. 10.

As part of our investment in the future of robotics, we are growing our robotics faculty. The Jacobs School recently hired four new robotics professors and we are in the middle of three more robotics faculty searches. This is in addition to our recruitment for a faculty director for the Institute, which is also in progress.

Our robotics institute builds on key strengths in San Diego and the greater CaliBaja region including wireless, defense, software engineering and analytics, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing industry sectors. We are leveraging these strengths on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to build a world-class center for the design, development and production of useful robotics systems that act based on a real-time understanding of the world. In October 2015, we held our second Contextual Robotics Forum at UC San Diego. This annual event is one of the ways we strengthen our regional robotics ecosystem. Please join us in our work to propel CaliBaja forward as a world leader in robotics. Feel free to reach out to faculty directly via our website: ContextualRobotics. or contact me at:

Albert Pisano Signature

Albert P. Pisano, Dean

Jacobs School of Engineering


  • Dean
    Albert P. Pisano
  • Associate Dean
    George Tynan
  • Associate Dean for Students
    Pamela Cosman
  • Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Welfare
    Ahmed Elgamal
  • Assistant Dean for Administration and Finance
    Tana Troke Campana
  • Assistant Dean for Programs and Initiatives
    Denine Hagen


  • Bioengineering
    Geert W. Schmid-Schönbein,
  • Computer Science and Engineering
    Rajesh Gupta, Chair
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Truong Nguyen, Chair
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    Vitali Nesterenko, Chair
  • NanoEngineering
    Joseph Wang, Chair
  • Structural Engineering
    P. Benson Shing, Chair


  • Chair: David Schwab, (B.A. ’79), Vertical Ventures
  • Vice Chair: John J. Fratamico, Jr., Leidos

  • Amir Abolfathi (B.S. ‘86) Sonitus Medical, Inc.
  • Joseph “Joe” Beery, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.
  • Claude Benchimol, Damol Technology Consulting
  • Linden S. Blue, General Atomics
  • Edward J. Brown, Jr.
  • Malin Burnham
  • Eugenio Clariond, Grupo Cuprum
  • Martha G. Dennis, Gordian Knot
  • Peter C. Farrell, ResMed
  • Kaigham (Ken) Gabriel, Charles Stark Draper Lab., Inc.
  • Steve Hart (M.A. ‘80), ViaSat, Inc.
  • Waguih Ishak, Corning, Inc.
  • Irwin M. Jacobs
  • Sanjay K. Jha, Global Foundries
  • Carmela A. Keeney, SSC Pacific
  • Richard Kornfeld, (B.S. ’82), Grid2Home
  • Patrick T. Lee, Sempra Energy
  • Thomas M. Loarie, Mercator MedSystems, Inc.
  • Scott McClendon, Overland Storage, Inc.
  • Gioia Messinger (B.S. ’84), LinkedObjects, Inc.
  • Steve Mollenkopf, Qualcomm Inc.
  • Henry “Hank” L. Nordhoff, Banyan Biomarkers Inc.
  • Bahram Nour-Omid, Shelter Capital Partners
  • Gregory M. Papadopoulos, (B.A. ’79), New Enterprise Associates
  • Ronald Reedy, (Ph.D. ’83), Peregrine Semiconductor
  • Andrew E. Senyei, M.D., Enterprise Partners Venture Capital
  • James H. Thompson, Qualcomm Technologies Inc.
  • Julie Meier Wright
  • Mark Zdeblick, Proteus Digital Health

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