Nadia Figueroa, PhD

Robots • Humans • Machine Learning

I am a Postdoctoral Associate in the Interactive Robotics Group at MIT CSAIL advised by Prof. Julie A. Shah. Starting Jan. 1, 2022 I will join the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) and will be a Faculty Advisor in the GRASP lab. My group will focus on developing learning and control schemes, with rigorous guarantees, for robots to safely and efficiently interact with humans and the human-centric dynamic spaces we inhabit.

Prospective students and post-docs: If you are a BSc/MSc/PhD student already enrolled/accepted at Penn MEAM/ESE/CIS or searching for a post-doc opportunity to start Spring 2022, feel free to reach out to me. For students not enrolled at Penn click here. Before contacting me, I recommend reading my research statement and commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion.

I obtained a PhD in Robotics, Control and Intelligent Systems from EPFL, under the supervision of Prof. Aude Billard at the LASA lab. Prior to PhD studies, I spent time as a research assistant at the Robotics and Mechatronics Institute of the German Aerospace Center and at the Engineering Department of NYU Abu Dhabi. I hold a BSc in Mechatronics from Monterrey Tech and MSc in Automation and Robotics from TU Dortmund.

Google Scholar LinkedIn Github CVShort Bio PhD Thesis Textbook

Contact: 32 Vassar St. Cambridge, MA 02139 -- Office 32-271 (Stata)
Email: nadiafig [at] mit [dot] edu

Robots + I
  • [July 2021] Our work on provably safe and efficient motion planning with uncertain human dynamics [assisted dressing] (led by Shen Li) will be presented at RSS 2021!
  • [Mar. 2021] Our work on understanding robot controllers via sampling (led by Yilun Zhou and Serena Booth) got a shoutout in the MIT News!
  • [Jan. 2021] I've co-organized a virtual screening (Jan. 15-22) and co-moderated a panel discussion (Jan. 22) of the film Picture a Scientist with an incredible group of female scientists from MIT, see event description , for more details you can find the a full post-event debrief report here .
  • [Jan. 2021] I was invited to give a talk at the Humans interacting with Autonomy virtual workshop organized by the MIT AeroAstro department.
  • [Feb. 2020] I was a finalist for the prestigious Georges Giralt PhD award for the best doctoral thesis in robotics in Europe in 2020. The award ceremony (see pic) was held Malaga (Spain) during the ERF 2020 Forum
  • [Jan. 2020] I joined the Interactive Robotics Group at MIT CSAIL as a Postdoctoral Associate.
  • [June 2019] I successfully defended by PhD thesis entitled: "From High-Level to Low-Level Robot Learning of Complex Tasks: Leveraging Priors, Metrics and Dynamical Systems" under the supervision of Prof. Aude Billard.
  • -> The president of the jury was Prof. Jamie Paik (EPFL), the internal examinar was Prof. Melanie Zeilinger (ETH) and external examiners were Prof. Katherine J. Kuchenbecker (MPI) and Prof. Julie A. Shah (MIT).
  • [May 2019] At ICRA 2019 I gave a tutorial on "Dynamical System-based Learning from Demonstration". Together with my PhD advisor and colleagues we will present the DS-learning methods developed in the lab and how to use them for different applications.

Honors and Awards

Throughout my PhD I was a teaching assistant for the following graduate courses:
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 .

Invited Talks and Lectures
Community Service and Outreach
  • Treasurer of the Researchers and Postdocs Association of Aeronautics and Astronautics (RPA3) within the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at MIT for the 2020-2021 Academic Year.
  • Community Development and Diversity Co-Chair of the RPA3 within the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at MIT for the 2020-2021 Academic Year.
  • Member of the MIT Postdoc Association - Advocacy and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (PDA-DE&I). Within this committee I was part of the team of postdocs that conducted and analyzed results on the "Postdoc Hiring and Recruitment at MIT Survey" with the initial goal of examining the impact hiring and recruiting has on the diversity of the postdoc population at MIT. The full report of our survey analysis can be found here .
  • Member of the CSAIL Postdoc and Graduate Student Council (CPGSC) at MIT CSAIL. This council was formed this year by Prof. Daniela Rus in an effort to tackle issues important to the CSAIL community of graduate students and postdocs such as DE&I, harrasment, mental health and faculty relations.
  • Member of the CSAIL Ahead Committee led by Prof. Daniel Jackson focused on improving community and culture at CSAIL.
  • Mentor within the Minds Matter Boston (MMB) program for the Junior Class of 2020-2021.
Research Projects

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