Elena Glassman

Elena Glassman
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer

Where did you grow up:

In Princeton, NJ & Plumsteadville, PA.

What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT?

I was an undergraduate at MIT; I decided to stay here for my M.Eng. degree in EECS.

What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours?

While some artifacts from kindergarten and first grade indicate that I wanted to be a professional horseback rider, my dad's enthusiasm for his own profession (electrical engineering) soon won me over.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to be a serious trumpet player. At home, I improvised along to records from the big bands of the '40s, and at school I was a hard-core marching band geek. Or "bandy"/"bando"/insert-local-term-here.

What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there?

I've been in the EECS department since I could formally declare a major at the end of freshman year.

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?

I'm currently working on kinodynamic planning for dynamical systems (e.g., algorithms which might eventually figure out how to make a biped robot run across rough terrain like Indiana Jones in an action scene). And that's just plain cool. It involves some fascinating mathematical challenges, too.

What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL?

The camaraderie I share with my groupmates, especially when we're all staying up late to finish papers for a big conference deadline. That and the sheer excitement of new discoveries, pictures, results, experiments, etc. on a daily or weekly basis.

What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade?

Advances in robotics will be applicable to everything from telesurgery to home-cleaning to rehabilitation and prosthetics, but I particularly hope that in ten years we will see more robots doing the dangerous work that humans currently must risk their lives to do (e.g., removal of landmines).

What are your future plans?

I plan to obtain a PhD in controls & dynamical systems and then become a professor.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I would advise that potential graduate students actively develop a passion or two outside of their research. It keeps you sane and refreshed. I also highly recommend reserving one 24-hour period each week for continuously doing absolutely nothing work-related.