By Ali Sundermier
Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge,” the society is the oldest learned society in the United States, continuing its founder’s spirit of inquiry by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas.
Kumar joined the Penn Engineering faculty in 1987 and has appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Computer and Information Science, and Electrical and Systems Engineering.
He previously served as Penn Engineering’s deputy dean for education, deputy dean for research, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception, or GRASP, Laboratory. During a scholarly leave in 2012–14, Kumar served in the White House as assistant director for robotics and cyber physical systems in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The author of more than 400 refereed articles and papers and more than 20 books and book chapters, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
Kumar is recognized around the world for his groundbreaking work on the development of autonomous robots and on biologically inspired algorithms for collective behavior. He has mentored doctoral students who are themselves leaders in research and education. His group works on creating autonomous ground and aerial robots and designing bio-inspired algorithms for collective behaviors and on robot swarms.
He is also an exemplar of Penn’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. He and his students have founded several companies using technologies and tools developed in his research programs. More information about Kumar’s research can be found in his TED talks.
Kumar will join a long line of Penn faculty elected to the society, including President Amy Gutmann, communication professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson from the Annenberg School for Communication, and biology professor Dan Janzen and sociology professor Samuel Preston, both from the School of Arts and Sciences.