Research + Your ROBO Degree


Robotics MSE students are encouraged (though not required) to participate in research during their time in the Program. If students would like to earn credit towards their degree while pursuing research at Penn, options include Master's Thesis (ROBO 597) and/or Independent Study (ROBO 599).

Master’s Thesis (ROBO 597)

ROBO 597 is the Master’s Thesis course option. The course consists of 2 CU’s of research credit taken over consecutive semesters, ultimately culminating in a thesis, or research paper based on joint work with other researchers. Both CU’s of ROBO 597 are approved technical electives. Students are permitted to conduct Master’s Thesis research with any faculty member at Penn, as long as the research project is pre-approved by their GRASP Faculty Advisor and the ROBO Program Chair.

All thesis projects must be approved before enrollment. Students may begin this process by filling out the “ROBO Thesis Approval Form” (found here) and submitting the completed form to the ROBO Graduate Coordinator (robo-coord@seas.upenn.edu), who will then obtain final approval by the ROBO Program Chair. Once a thesis project is approved, the student will be enrolled in the first section of the course.

At the end of the second semester of ROBO 597 (and before the time designated on the approval form), the student should submit a thesis proposal to their advisor for evaluation and recommendations. Thesis guidelines may be found here. Once the thesis has been approved by the student’s thesis advisor, the advisor approved paper must be submitted to the ROBO Program Chair at least 1 full week before the last day of classes. A required public presentation (15 minutes) of the work will be made on a specified date during finals week of that same semester.

View ROBO Master’s Thesis Projects from December 2020 here and May 2021 here.


Independent Study (ROBO 599)

ROBO 599 is the Independent Study course option, which consists of 1 CU of research credit and is an approved technical elective toward the ROBO degree. During Independent Study, students will work on a research project under the limited supervision of a faculty member. Students are permitted to conduct Independent Study research with any faculty member at Penn, as long as the research project is pre-approved by their GRASP Faculty Advisor and the ROBO Program Chair.

All Independent Study research projects/topics must be approved before enrollment. Students may begin this process by filling out the “ROBO 599 – Independent Study Approval Form” (found here) and submitting the completed form, along with a 1-2 page research proposal document, to the ROBO Graduate Coordinator (robo-coord@seas.upenn.edu), who will then obtain final approval of these materials by the ROBO Program Chair. Once the project is approved, the student will be enrolled in ROBO 599.

ROBO 599 Project Examples from Previous Semesters:Supervised By:
“Interactive Robot Task Verification”Dinesh Jayaraman
“Fundamental Challenges in Deep Learning for Stiff Contact Dynamics”Michael Posa
“Design of Self-righting System for an Origami Jumping Robot”Cynthia Sung

Note: Students are permitted to enroll in both ROBO 597 and ROBO 599 over the course of their studies; however, the research project may not be the same for both courses.


Contacts for Research Inquiries:

In addition to ROBO 597 and ROBO 599, ROBO MSE students are welcome to participate in research independently outside of their coursework. We encourage ROBO students to connect with GRASP Faculty members to inquire about current projects and potential collaborations. See list below for links to Research Group websites as well as the best point of contact for inquiries.

Research Group:Best Contact:
Chaudhari Research GroupPratik Chaudhari
Lifelong Machine LearningEric Eaton
Perception, Action, & Learning GroupDinesh Jayaraman
Kod*labDan Koditschek (cc: Diedra Krieger)
Matni Research GroupNikolai Matni
Nanorobotics LabMarc Miskin
DAIR LabMichael Posa
Sung Robotics LabCynthia Sung
ModLabMark Yim
Daniilidis Research GroupKostas Daniilidis
ScalAR LabAni Hsieh
Rehabilitation Robotics LabMichelle Johnson
Kumar LabVijay Kumar (cc: Ryan Hampton)
Pappas Research GroupGeorge Pappas
Shi Research GroupJianbo Shi
Taylor Research GroupCJ Taylor
Emails can be found via the research websites provided, or by using the Penn Directory.