ICRA is the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s flagship conference and is a premier international forum for robotics researchers to present their work. The 2018 conference will be held May 21-25, 2018 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Center in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  Following on the very successful PhD Forum held at ICRA 2015 in Seattle, we invite Ph.D. students at any level to apply for the ICRA Ph.D. Forum. The Ph.D. Forum will provide an opportunity for a group of Ph.D. students to discuss and explore their research interests and career objectives with a panel of established researchers in robotics. The consortium has the following objectives:

  • to provide a setting for mutual feedback on participants’ current research and guidance on future research directions;
  • to develop a supportive community of scholars and a spirit of collaborative research;
  • to support a new generation of researchers by offering advice about academic, research, industrial, and non-traditional career paths; and
  • to contribute to the overall conference goals through interaction with other researchers and participation in conference events.

The Ph.D. Forum will be held on the morning of May 23rd, 2018, as a full morning session during the main ICRA conference.  To be considered as a workshop participant, applicants should submit the application package as instructed in “Application Instructions”. Students who are selected to participate in the forum will receive generous travel support participation at ICRA 2018.  They will also have their 2-page abstracts published in a forum proceedings.

Important Dates
  • March 29th, 2018: Application Package Submission Deadline
  • April 9th, 2018: Acceptance Notification
  • April 22nd, 2018: Camera-Ready Copy of Abstract Deadline
  • May 23rd, 2018: Ph.D. Forum


We have an exciting panel of leading roboticists who will be working closely with forum participants in exploring trends in robotics and providing insights into their own career trajectories.

Prof. Paul Newman (Oxford University)

Paul Newman is the BP Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Oxford and an EPSRC Leadership Fellow. He heads up the Oxford Robotics Institute within the Department of Engineering Science which enjoys a world leading reputation in mobile autonomy, developing machines and robots which map, navigate through and understand their environments.  He obtained an M.Eng. in Engineering Science from Oxford University, Balliol College in 1995. He then undertook a Ph.D. in autonomous navigation at the Australian Center for Field Robotics, University of Sydney, Australia. In 1999 he returned to the United Kingdom to work in the commercial sub-sea navigation industry.  In late 2000 he joined the Dept of Ocean Engineering at M.I.T. where as a post-doc and later a research scientist, he worked on algorithms and software for robust autonomous navigation for both land and sub-sea agents. In early 2003 he returned to Oxford as a Departmental Lecturer in Engineering Science before being appointed to a University Lectureship in Information Engineering and becoming a Fellow of New College in 2005, Professor of Engineering Science in 2010 and BP Professor of Information Engineering  and Fellow of Keble College in 2012. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Fellow of the IEEE in 2014 both with citations for outstanding contributions to robot navigation.  has a track record of delivering ambitious and complex research programmes while working with funders, stake holders, policy makers and the public. An example is the Oxford RobotCar Project which resulted in the UK’s first and only self-driving car on public roads. This was a complex and multifaceted project requiring not just technical leadership, but careful and timed engagement with legislative, industrial and legal stakeholders.  It led to the founding of Oxbotica.

Prof. Ayanna Howard (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Prof. Ayanna Howard is an educator, researcher, and innovator.  Her academic career is highlighted by her focus on technology development for intelligent agents that must interact with and in a human-centered world, as well as on the education and mentoring of students in the engineering and computing fields. Prof. Howard has made significant contributions in the technology areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics. Her published research, currently numbering over 200 peer-reviewed publications, has been widely disseminated in international journals and conference proceedings. She has over 20 years of R&D experience covering a number of projects that have been supported by various agencies including: National Science Foundation, Procter and Gamble, NASA, ExxonMobil, Intel, and the Grammy Foundation. She continues to produce novel research and ideas focused on applications that span from assistive robots in the home to therapy gaming apps to remote robotic exploration of extreme environments. By working at NASA before entering the academic world, she brings a unique perspective to the academic environment.

Currently, Prof. Howard is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing. She also holds a faculty appointment in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering where she functions as the Director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAnS). In 2015, she founded and now directs the $3M traineeship initiative in healthcare robotics and functions as the lead investigator on the NSF undergraduate summer research program in robotics. She received her B.S. from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, and her M.B.A. from Claremont University, Drucker School of Management. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in TIME MagazineBlack Enterprise, and USA Today, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator and recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider. In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics as a university spin-off and holds a position in the company as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Zyrobotics, LLC is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of mobile therapy and educational products for children with differing needs. From 1993-2005, Prof. Howard was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, where she was a Senior Robotics Researcher and Deputy Manager in the Office of the Chief Scientist. She has also served as the Associate Director of Research for the Georgia Tech Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Chair of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech, and the Associate Chair for Faculty Development in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Prof. Allison Okamura (Stanford University)

Allison M. Okamura received the BS degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994, and the MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University in 1996 and 2000, respectively, all in mechanical engineering. She is currently Professor in the mechanical engineering department at Stanford University, with a courtesy appointment in computer science. She was previously Professor and Vice Chair of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She has been an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, editor-in-chief of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation Conference Editorial Board, an editor of the International Journal of Robotics Research, and co-chair of the IEEE Haptics Symposium. Her awards include the 2016 Duca Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, 2009 IEEE Technical Committee on Haptics Early Career Award, 2005 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award, and 2004 NSF CAREER Award. She is an IEEE Fellow. Her academic interests include haptics, teleoperation, virtual environments and simulators, medical robotics, neuromechanics and rehabilitation, prosthetics, and engineering education.

Her research focuses on developing the principles and tools needed to realize advanced robotic and human-machine systems capable of haptic (touch) interaction, particularly for biomedical applications. Haptic systems are designed and studied using both analytical and experimental approaches. Topics of particular interest are: (1) Teleoperation: Devices, models, and control systems that allow human operators to manipulate environments that are remote in scale and/or distance. (2) Virtual Environments: Models, control systems, and devices that enable compelling touch-based interaction with computers. (3) Robotic manipulation: Robots that physically manipulate their environment or their own shape, incorporating novel designs, sensors, and control systems. Application areas include surgery, simulation and training, rehabilitation, prosthetics, neuromechanics, exploration of hazardous and remote environments, design, and education.

Prof. Lydia Kavraki (Rice University)

Lydia E. Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering at Rice University. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Crete in Greece and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She directs the Rice Computational Robotics Laboratory and leads the NIH/NLM Training Program in Biomedical Informatics under the auspices of the Gulf Coast Consortia in Houston. Her research interests include motion planning, formal methods in robotics, manipulation and automation. Kavraki also develops robotics-inspired methods for computational structural biology and for computer-assisted drug design. She is one of the authors of the widely-used robotics textbook titled “Principles of Robot Motion” published by MIT Press. Her group has developed and currently maintains the Open Motion Planning Library (OMPL) (ompl.kavrakilab.org), an open-source library of motion planning algorithms. The library is heavily used in industry and in academia both for robotics and bioinformatics applications. Kavraki currently serves as an associate editor for the International Journal of Robotics Research. She has served as an associate chair and chair of “Robotics: Science and Systems.” Kavraki is the recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award and the ACM Athena Lecturer Award. She is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, AAAS, AAAI, AIMBE, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Prof. Peter Corke (Queensland University of Technology)

Prof. Peter Corke is the distinguished professor of robotic vision at QUT and director of the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.  He wrote the textbook Robotics, Vision & Control, authored the MATLAB toolboxes for Robotics and Machine Vision, and created the online educational resource: QUT Robot Academy. He is interested in how robots can use the sense of vision to accomplish a broad range of tasks.   These might range from recognizing places or text in the world to dynamic tasks.  An example of a visual dynamic task is something like hand-eye coordination, and for a robot it might be visual control of flying or driving or manipulation of objects. Why vision? Nature has invented the eye ten different times so it must be an effective sensor for doing a diverse range of tasks.  Vision sensors and computing power are getting cheaper and cheaper.  Now is the time to be doing vision for robotics!

He received his Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Engineering Science degrees, both in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, all from the University of Melbourne. Prior to QUT he was a senior principal research scientist at CSIRO where he founded the Autonomous Systems laboratory, a 50-person team undertaking research in mining, ground, aerial and underwater robotics, as well as sensor networks. Subsequently he led a major cross-organizational “capability platform” in wireless sensor networks.

Prof. Dieter Fox (University of Washington / NVIDIA)

Prof. Dieter Fox is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. He grew up in Bonn, Germany, and received his Ph.D. in 1998 from the Computer Science Department at the University of Bonn. He joined the UW faculty in the fall of 2000.  His research interests are in robotics, artificial intelligence, and state estimation. He is the head of the UW Robotics and State Estimation Lab RSE-Lab and currently serves as the academic PI of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing ISTC-PC.  He is a Fellow of the AAAI and IEEE, and recently served as an editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  He is currently on partial leave from UW and joined Nvidia to start a Robotics Research Lab in Seattle.


All participants selected to participate at the Ph.D. Forum are expected to be present throughout the forum. Our experience has been that participants gain almost as much by interacting with their peers as by having their presentations critiqued by their faculty mentor. As such, we expect a commitment from participating students to attend the entire Ph.D. Forum. The highlights of the forum include:

  • Two panels of faculty/industry robotics researchers discussing their career trajectories and the future of robotics
  • Student participants are provided access to robotics mentors for research advice
  • Poster presentations by participants during breaks with key leaders
  • A round table discussion with mentors examining the future of robotics
  • Generous travel support for participants


10:30 – 11:00 Panel session discussing career pathways
11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break and poster session
11:30 – 12:00 Panel session discussion of future directions in robotics
12:00 – 12:45 Round table discussion between participants and mentors
12:45 – 1:30 Reporting and networking lunch

Student Poster Abstracts

Author Institution Title
Colette Abah Vanderbilt University Design Considerations and Redundancy Resolution for Variable Geometry Continuum Robots
Hyemin Ahn Seoul National University Text2Action: Generative Adversarial Synthesis from Language to Action
Ariel Anders Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reliably arranging objects
Gabriel D Bousquet Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dynamic soaring beyond biomimetics: design and control of an albatross-inspired wind-powered system
Silvia Cascianelli University of Perugia Vision and Language for Service Robotics
Arturo Cruz-Maya Université Paris-Saclay Influence of Regulatory Focus Behavior on Robot Persuasiveness and User Stress
Preston Culbertson Stanford University Decentralized Adaptive Control for Collaborative Manipulation
Robert DeBortoli Oregon State University Underwater 3D Reconstruction from 2D Sonar Images Using Deep Learning
Marwa ElDiwiny Inria How To Design Your Polymer Artificial Muscle Actuator/ Sensor
Martin Fevre University of Notre Dame Velocity Decomposition-Enhanced Control of Underactuated Bipeds
Genevieve Flaspohler Massachusetts Institute of Technology Irrevocable Sample Selection for Spatiotemporal Data Streams
Sourav Garg Queensland University of Technology Semantically Recognizing Places from Opposite Viewpoints across Day and Night
Laura Hallock University of California Beyond Surface Electromyography: Novel Measures of Muscle Activation for High-Degree-of-Freedom Assistive Device Control
Krishna Murthy Jatavallabhula Universite de Montreal Leveraging Geometry for Self-Supervision in Robotic Perception Tasks
Nare Karapetyan University of South Carolina Multi-robot Coverage
Peter Karkus National University of Singapore Integrating Algorithmic Planning and Deep Learning for Decision Making under Uncertainty
Liang Li Shanghai Jiao Tong University Pole-like Feature-based Real-time Localization for Autonomous Vehicles
Tingguang Li The Chinese University of Hong Kong Deep Reinforcement Learning Supervised Autonomous Exploration in Indoor Environments
Xiao Ma National University of Singapore Stochastic Neural Planners with Implicit Models
Xiaochun Mai The Chinese University of Hong Kong Yield Estimation and Crop Disease Detection
Parikshit Maini IIIT-Delhi Joint Route Planning for Cooperative Aerial and Ground Robot Systems for Coverage Applications
Seth McCammon Oregon State University Topological Planning for Marine Robots
Maria Pozzi University of Siena and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia New Approaches to Model and Simulate Compliant and Underactuated Robotic Hands
Sharmin Rahman University of South Carolina Underwater Cave Mapping
Giuseppe Riggio University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Multi-robot systems for precision agriculture
Timothy Sandy Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems High-Accuracy Mobile Manipulation for On-Site Building Construction
Gijo Sebastian The University of Melbourne Design and analysis of feedback-based iterative learning control with input and output constraints
Jingwei Song University of Technology, Sydney MIS-SLAM: Real-time Large Scale Dense Deformable SLAM System in Minimal Invasive Surgery Based on Heterogeneous Computing
Benjamin Stephens-Fripp University of Wollongong Non-Invasive Sensory Feedback for Transradial Prosthetic Hands
Markku Suomalainen Aalto University Learning compliant assembly skills from human demonstration
Marco Tognon Laboratory for Analysis and Architecture of Systems UAV Environment Interaction
Tarik Tosun University of Pennsylvania Robots Changing Their World: Environment Augmentation in Robotics
Nikolaos Tsiogkas Heriot Watt University Optimising robotic mission execution
Nathan Scott Usevitch Stanford University Networks of High Extension Pneumatic Actuators for Locomotion and Shape Change
Zijiang Wang Stanford University Multi-Robot Cooperative Object Transport Without Communication
Minghan Wei University of Minnesota Coverage Path Planning under the Energy Constraint
Esen Yel University of Virginia Self-triggered Planning and Scheduling of UAV Operations
Mohammad Ali Zamani University of Hamburg Language-modulated Actions for Safer Human-Robot Interaction using Deep Reinforcement Learning



The ICRA 2018 PhD forum is proudly sponsored by the following organisations.


Additional information may be obtained by contacting icra2018.phdforum@gmail.com.

Doctoral Consortium Chairs
  • Professor Stefan B. Williams, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Robert Fitch, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Assistant Professor Matthew Walter, Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago