Congratulations to Naomi Leonard
Congratulations to Naomi Leonard who was elected Fellow of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) (see http://www.ifac-control.org/ ). The citation reads as follows: “For fundamental contributions to nonlinear control and to the theory of multi-agent system dynamics and cooperative sampling by mobile sensor networks.” The INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF AUTOMATIC CONTROL, founded in September 1957, is a multinational federation of National Member Organizations (NMOs), each one representing the engineering and scientific societies concerned with automatic control in its own country. Prof. Leonard will receive her award next year in Cape Town, South Africa.
Professor 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 adjustments in actions taken by a system in response to measurements of the system’s own state; feedback is critical for performance and robustness in self-regulating engineered systems and, for the very same reasons, feedback is ubiquitous in biological systems at every scale.
In recent years, Leonard has been interested in coordinated control of mobile, multi-agent systems in engineering (robotic teams) and in nature (animal groups). A central goal is using formal analysis to understand and to derive the means for collective motion, collective sensing and collective decision-making from the responsive behavior of individual agents to their environment and to the behavior of other agents in the group. She applies this research to a new kind of automated and adaptive ocean observing system that consists of a coordinated network of underwater robotic vehicles that carry sensors to collect scientific data in the ocean; this work has exciting implications for contributing to a better understanding of our changing environment.
Leonard also co-leads a large, collaborative effort called Adaptive Sampling and Prediction that featured a major field experiment in Monterey Bay, California in August 2006 and built off an earlier major field experiment also in Monterey Bay in August 2003. Using similar mathematical concepts and tools from control theory, Leonard collaborates with biologists to study fish schooling, seeking to help understand the coupled roles of feedback, information flow and spatial dynamics in collective behavior and decision-making in the school. She is interested in the joint challenge to explain the enabling mechanisms in animal groups and to define provable mechanisms for robotic groups. Her approach with her collaborators is an integrated one: formal bio-inspired models and analysis tools derived to synthesize collective robotic behavior can be used to evaluate design hypotheses for animal groups; subsequent revelations from the biology will in turn inspire new strategies for robotic systems.
Leonard also works in collaboration with engineers, applied mathematicians, and cognitive and social psychologists to investigate decision dynamics in mixed teams of humans and robots, exploring how humans and robots can best jointly contribute to complex decision-making problems.