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MacArthur Fellow roboticist to join MIT

Daniela Rus
Daniela Rus

Daniela Rus, winner of a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship last September for her robotics research, will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an associate professor in 2003-04.

Rus is "an incredibly creative and energetic researcher and dedicated educator," said John Guttag, head of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS). "She brings a sense of excitement and fun to everything she does. Her impact on MIT will be enormous and immediate."

"I'm really excited about coming to MIT, which I have always regarded as a Mt. Olympus of Science and Technology," said Rus, who received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1992. "I've enjoyed my past visits there tremendously and I look forward to working with such great colleagues and students."

An associate professor of computer science and cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth College, Rus directs the Dartmouth Robotics Laboratory, which she founded in 1994. She also co-founded and co-directs the Dartmouth Transportable Agents Laboratory, created in 1995.

Rus will rejoin four of her former undergraduate research assistants at EECS, including graduate students Christine Alvarado, Michael Ross and Michael Taylor. Marty Vona, who received the S.M. in EECS in 2001 and has been working on the Mars mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will return to MIT in the fall to his graduate studies.

"I'm really excited to be interacting with them again," said Rus, who has already shared the news with her former students. "By now most of them are grown-ups in research. They have their own visions and dreams and ideas, and I expect to talk to them like I do with any colleague. It's very rewarding to me to see that the students I once taught are now successful and happy scientists."

In announcing her "genius grant," the MacArthur Foundation said, "Although her work on self-reconfiguring robots readily captures the popular imagination, Rus' research extends deeply into other aspects of robotics ... She has demonstrated a capacity to move effortlessly among the most challenging issues in the theory and application of computer science and robots."

Rus, who joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1994, has been an active advocate for undergraduate research there. She has worked on research projects with more than 50 students.

"My teaching philosophy has been driven by my desire to see our students reach their full potential," she said. "I've worked toward challenging our students to think for themselves and getting them excited about new ideas to deepen their knowledge of computer science and stimulate their curiosity. My overall goal has been to offer students experiences that are relevant to current technological needs and prepare them well for career paths in both academia and industry. I'd like to see all my students happy and focused on having an impact."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 14, 2003.

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