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Naomi Leonard

Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Naomi Ehrich Leonard is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and an associated faculty member of the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University where she has been since 1994.

Leonard specializes in a branch of engineering and applied mathematics called control theory. The field involves designing and analyzing methods for influencing the behavior of complex, dynamical systems using feedback. Feedback refers to (automatic) adjustments in actions taken by a system in response to measurements of the system’s own state and environment; feedback is critical for performance and robustness in self-regulating engineered systems as well as in biological systems at every scale. In recent years, Leonard has been interested in the role of feedback and interconnection in collective motion and collective decision-making for multi-agent systems in engineering (design of robotic teams) and in nature (analysis of animal and human groups).   She led a large, collaborative, multidisciplinary project entitled “Adaptive Sampling and Prediction” that focused on the development and demonstration of an automated and adaptive ocean observing system consisting of a coordinated network of underwater robotic vehicles that move about on their own and carry sensors to collect scientific data about the ocean; the project culminated in a major field experiment in Monterey Bay, CA in 2006.   Leonard teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in dynamics and control theory and involves undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs in all aspects of research.

In 2004 Leonard was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. In 2007 she was named Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. She has also received the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Mohammed Dahleh Distinguished Lecture Award (2005), the Automatica Prize Paper award (1999), the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (1998) and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (1995). In 2001 she was the Lise Meitner Guest Professor at Lund University, Sweden and in 2007 a Visiting Professor at University of Pisa, Italy. She has delivered several plenary lectures at conferences including most recently the 2010 American Control Conference, the 2009 Canadian Mathematical Society Winter Meeting, the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, and the 2008 International Symposium on Mathematical Theory of Networks and Systems.

Leonard received the B.S.E. degree in mechanical engineering from Princeton University in 1985. From 1985 to 1989, she worked as an engineer in the electric power industry. She received the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1991 and 1994.   Leonard is passionate about dance and has spent many years studying ballet.

The Princeton Atelier was endowed in 2009 through the generosity of a donor who has chosen to remain anonymous. The Atelier is additionally supported through The Newhouse Foundation, The Erik C. Blachford '89 Fund, The Schare-Pfaffenroth Endowment Fund, The Jordan Roth '97 Performance Fund and The Peter T. Joseph Foundation.


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