Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer
Where did you grow up: Sterling Heights, Michigan
What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT? I did my undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at MIT. I focused on design, controls, and robotics. After graduating in 2009, I worked for a year before returning to MIT for graduate school on an NDSEG fellowship.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours? I really enjoyed building things as a kid. I was always really into the Science Olympiad, especially the Rube Goldberg machine contest. I guess the joy of designing clever mechanisms carried over into my academic studies and inspired me to become a mechanical engineer.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you? I moonlight designing wheelchairs for developing countries (see http://mlab.mit.edu/lfc).
What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there? I'm currently a Mechanical Engineering graduate student in the Distributed Robotics Lab in CSAIL. I started there in the fall of 2010.
What are you working on and why are you passionate about it? I'm working on autonomous kitchen tasks. In this case, creating a robotic system that bakes cookies autonomously, from mise-en-place presentation through baking. This is really exciting for me because the control techniques developed through this research will be an important step in getting robotics out of the lab and into the world.
What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL? I love the creative, academic, and physical environment. The Stata Center does a great job of reflecting the academic excitement, you never really know exactly where you are or what/who you will run into next.
What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade? The control techniques I'm developing will help to make it easier to get robots to perform complex difficult to specify tasks in semi-structured environments. It will allow for more versatile manufacturing systems and for simple home assistant robots.
What are your future plans? I plan to continue to work on exciting robotic systems with the goal of bringing them out of the lab and into the world. I'd like to focus on balancing mechanical, software, and control design to create robust and versatile robot systems.
What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student? Spend some time getting to know your environment and your project before diving into the nitty-gritty of the research. Understanding the big picture will keep you excited and open to new ideas and directions.