CAREER awards for three researchers at UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute

Three researchers at the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego have received CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation in 2021. Their work ranges from robot mapping, to invertebrate locomotion, to autonomous robotic surgery. 

The projects’ descriptions are below.

Nikolai Atanasov

Atanasov’s project, “Active Bayesian Inference for Collaborative Robot Mapping" is an integrated research and education career development effort. It aims to design motion planning algorithms that enable robots to actively reduce uncertainty about their environment. Theoretically, this is an active Bayesian inference problem, aiming to achieve optimal control of a sensing and probabilistic estimation process. Practically, this is the goal of reproducing the curiosity that humans and animals exhibit when exploring an unknown environment on a robot system. The project considers collaboration among multiple robots to collaboratively explore and build a map of their environment. Applications include environmental monitoring, disaster response, and security and surveillance.

Nicholas Gravish

Gravish's NSF CAREER award is entitled "The exceptional biomechanics of legged locomotion in the microcosmos". When viewed in relative terms, the fastest legged animals on the planet are the smallest of invertebrates.  These remarkable feats of movement are enabled by strong limbs, robust foot attachment mechanics, and resilient exoskeleton structures and these feats are unmatched in current insect-scale robotics. In this proposal we will study the legged movement performance in small invertebrates to reveal a set of radically different locomotor constraints and opportunities, enabled by favorable geometric and dynamic scaling laws. By elucidating principles of legged movement in small animals we seek to extrapolate these concepts to the insect-scale robots built in the Gravish lab. Overall the goal of this proposal is to better understand the rules of mobility and locomotion for scientific and engineering gain.

 Michael Yip

Yip's NSF CAREER award, entitled "Contextually Informed Autonomous Robotic Surgery", will investigate how doctors use an understanding of the geometry and mechanics of human anatomy to guide their actions in surgery, and imbue surgical robots with this knowledge. By defining anatomical context for surgical robots, robots will be able to evaluate and optimize safe plans and trajectories in autonomous procedures, particularly those that involve stabilizing patients during first response. Yip's NIH Trailblazer award, entitled "Robotically controlled intraluminal instruments for flexible endoscopic intervention", investigates the design of handheld robotic catheters that may be used with flexible bronchoscopes for biopsying lung cancer. The work hypothesizes that handheld robotics may potentially offer a low-cost and more accessible solution today's expensive robot-assisted surgical diagnoses and interventional procedures and a potentially more complete diagnosis than with passive, manually controlled instruments.


Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering

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