Naomi Ehrich Leonard
Naomi Ehrich Leonard is Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and an affiliated faculty member in Princeton’s Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics. A 1985 graduate of Princeton University, she worked for four years as an engineer in the electric power industry before getting her PhD in electrical engineering in 1994 at the University of Maryland. Her formal training is in control theory, a field in which mathematical foundations and tools are developed and applied to modeling, analyzing and synthesizing systems with behavior that can be governed, typically by feedback. In 2004 she was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship as a marine roboticist.
Feedback is ubiquitous in nature as well as in the engineered world. It refers to responsive behavior; the system repeatedly 1) measures how it is behaving and compares this to some reference or desired behavior, 2) computes a corrective action and 3) effects the desired change. Most recently Leonard’s work focuses on the feedback and dynamics of collective motion. Working with ecologists and evolutionary biologists, she studies feedback mechanisms and dynamics in animal groups. In parallel she designs the means to enable groups of autonomous mobile robots to move in organized, coordinated patterns.
Leonard co-leads an ambitious, collaborative project called Adaptive (Ocean) Sensing and Prediction (ASAP) which features a fleet of underwater robotic gliders equipped with sensors to measure the temperature and currents in the ocean and controlled to move as a group into patterns that yield the richest data set. More on the major ASAP field experiment held during the month of August 2006 in Monterey Bay, California can be found at http://engineering.princeton.edu/gallery/asap/index.htm and http://www.princeton.edu/~dcsl/asap.