Nadia Figueroa, Ph.D.

• Safety, Adaptation and Efficient Learning in Physical Human-Robot Interaction •

I am the Shalini and Rajeev Misra Presidential Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) Department at the University of Pennsylvania. I hold a secondary appointment in the Computer and Information Science (CIS) department and am a faculty advisor at the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception (GRASP) laboratory. Before joining Penn, I was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Interactive Robotics Group of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), advised by Prof. Julie A. Shah. I obtained a Ph.D. in Robotics, Control and Intelligent Systems from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), advised by Prof. Aude Billard. Prior to this, I spent time as a Research Assistant in the Robotics and Mechatronics Institute at the German Aerospace Center and at NYU Abu Dhabi. I hold a B.Sc. in Mechatronics from Monterrey Tech and M.Sc. in Automation and Robotics from TU Dortmund.

Email LinkedIn CV (updated June 2024) Short BioGoogle Scholar

Figueroa Robotics Lab @ Penn

The research conducted in my lab (established in August 2022) focuses on developing safety, control, estimation and learning algorithms for collaborative human-aware robotic systems: robots that can safely and efficiently interact and physically collaborate with humans and other robots in the human-centric dynamic spaces we inhabit. This involves research at the intersection of machine learning, control theory, artificial intelligence, perception, and psychology - with a physical human-robot interaction perspective.

Figueroa Lab Github Figueroa Lab Youtube Channel Prof. Figueroa's PhD Thesis Textbook on "Learning for Adaptive and Reactive Robot Control: A DS Approach"

Ph.D. Students
  • Tianyu Li (MEAM '27; learning, perception and control for pHRI)
  • Yifan Xue (MEAM '27; safety and robust control for interactive agents)
  • Shafagh Keyvanian (MEAM '27; learning-based robot-assisted rehabilitation, co-advised with Michelle Johnson)
  • Farhad Nawaz (ESE '26; learning and control for dynamical systems, co-advised with Nik Matni)
  • Yifei Shao (CIS '27; estimation and control for pHRI, co-advised by Vijay Kumar and Pratik Chaudhari)
  • Enrico Martini (Visiting CIS PhD student from University of Verona, Italy; real-time constraint-aware 3D human pose tracking, advised by Nicola Bombieri)
Master Student Researchers
  • Ho Jin Choi (MEAM ‘24; MS Thesis on "Visuo-tactile Active Exploration", additional work on dynamic grasping, active mapping and eeg-based control co-advised by Ruzena Bajcsy)
  • Haihui Gao (MEAM/ESE ‘24; MS Thesis on "Learning Second Order Dynamical System Motion Policies")
  • George Gao (ROBO ‘25; Independent Study on "Learning Safe Dynamical Systems with Diffusion")
  • Paul (Sanhyub) Lee (ROBO ‘25; Independent Study on "Real-time Force Prediction with Wearable Ultrasonic Sensors")
Research Engineers
  • Harshil Parekh (ROBO ‘23; integration of perception with reactive control)
  • Sunan Sun (ROBO ‘23; statistics, learning, non-Euclidean geometry)
External PhD/PostDoc Collaborators Alumni
  • Dr. Laura Hallock (Penn MEAM, co-advised by Vijay Kumar and Michelle Johnson -- now Assistant Professor at Univerity of Utah)
  • Shaoting Peng (ROBO ‘24; Perception, robust tracking and EEG-base intent estimation for interactive robots Paper 1, Paper 2, Paper 3 -- next PhD at UIUC)
  • Satyajeet Das (ESE ‘24; MS Thesis "Towards Vision-based Safety: A Real-time Approach for Generating CBFs using Depth Sensors", Paper on EEG-based intention estimation -- next PhD at USC)
  • Zhiquan Zhang (ESE ‘24; MS Thesis "Real-Time Safety-Critical Passive Torque Control with Analytic and Learning-based Constraints" [Awarded Best MS Thesis in ESE department], Paper on same line of work -- next PhD at UIUC)
  • Haoming Li (ESE ‘24; MS Thesis on "Lipschitz Continuity of Neural Network based Signed Distance Functions")
  • Parth Sanghavi (MEAM ‘24; Independent Study on "Accelerated 6D Object Pose Estimation")
  • Lance Tan (DATS ‘24; Independent Study on "Optimizing Robotic Manipulator Performance through Machine Learning")
  • Qi Xue (CIS ‘24; Independent Study on "Energy Analysis of Safe Drone Control Strategies")
  • Vaibhav Wanere (MEAM ‘24; Independent Study on "Learning Complex Motion Skills")
  • Atharva Makarand Pradhan (MEAM ‘24; Independent Study on "Glove-based Teleoperation of Hand-Arm System")

Recent Talk

Keynote talk at L4DC 2023 on "Safety, Adaptation and Efficient Learning in Physical Human-Robot Interaction: A Dynamical Systems Approach."


University of Pennsylania (Penn)
MEAM-520 Introduction to Robotics (Spring 2022/Spring 2023/Fall 2023/Spring 2024)
Final project demos:


Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL)
MICRO-401 Machine Learning Programming (Fall 2016/Fall 2017)
Head Teaching Assistant and Main Syllabus Architect and Developer.
MICRO-570 Advanced Machine Learning (Spring 2016/2017)
Head Teaching Assistant and Tutorial Developer.
MICRO-455 Applied Machine Learning (Fall 2015)
Teaching Assistant.
Co-developer of ML_toolbox .

If you like this template, check out this guy's website.