Kirsten Petersen, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, awarded prestigious Packard Fellowship

ITHACA, N.Y. – Today, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced the 2019 class of Packard Fellows for Science and Engineering. Among this exceptional group of 22 early-career scientists and engineers is Cornell University Assistant Professor Kirstin Petersen of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

As a Packard fellow, Petersen will receive $875,000 over five years to pursue her research involving the design and coordination of large robot collectives able to achieve complex behaviors beyond the reach of single robot systems, and corresponding studies on how social insects do so in nature. The goal is to achieve robust autonomous systems for applications in construction, agriculture, exploration and more.

“I’m incredibly excited about joining the distinguished ranks of Packard fellows,” Petersen said. “The foundation’s generous support will enable us to fundamentally reassess where intelligence belongs in embodied multi-agent systems, from the brain and body of individuals to the swarm mind and surrounding environment.”

She plans to use the Packard funds to work toward designing a completely autonomous collective of at least 10 robots capable of constructing and maintaining a structure over many weeks.

“I’m honored to be among the first roboticists researchers to receive the Packard Fellowship,” said Petersen. “With their help, we will pursue intelligent and durable robot swarms with real world applications ranging from automated construction to precision agriculture.”

The Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering are among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. Since 1988, this program has supported the blue-sky thinking of scientists and engineers with the belief that their research over time will lead to new discoveries that improve people’s lives and enhance our understanding of the universe.

Read coverage of the award by the Cornell Chronicle here.

About the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering Selection Process

Each year, the Foundation invites 50 universities to nominate two faculty members for consideration. The Packard Fellowships Advisory Panel, a group of 12 internationally-recognized scientists and engineers, evaluates the nominations and recommends Fellows for approval by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees. Packard Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators on research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering and must be within the first three years of their faculty careers. Disciplines that are considered include physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science and all branches of engineering. The Packard Fellowship is among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed with minimal constraints on how the funding is used to give the Fellows freedom to think big and look at complex issues with a fresh perspective. Visit the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering webpage to learn more about the program.

About Cornell Engineering

Founded in 1870, Cornell Engineering is the preeminent engineering school in the Ivy League. The college has a long history of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education within the context of a uniquely broad and renowned research-intensive university. Its strengths have developed from a fearlessness to question established thinking, a genuine commitment to students, and a sincere desire to make the world a better place for all. Cornell Engineering faculty members dismantle conventional wisdom to discover new knowledge and invent transformative technology, develop innovative interdisciplinary research and programs, and teach students who will brighten our future.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews supporting full HD, ISDN and web-based platforms.


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