50 notable women in robotics you should know [Updated]

women in robotics

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning remain male-dominated fields. But what would an artificially intelligent world designed and led by women look like? In this post, we’ll hear about 50 notable women moving the robotics field forward in many ways.

AJung Moon

An experimental roboticist based in Montreal, Canada, AJung Moon is a Korean-Canadian who studies human-robot interaction and robotic ethics. A Vanier scholar, she is investigating how robots and AI systems influence how people move, act, and make decisions and how they can design and deploy autonomous intelligent systems accordingly. She is an open roboethics initiative co-founder, and an international roboethics think tank.

Andie Zhang

Andie Zhang is a global collaborative robot product manager at ABB Robotics, where she is responsible for the strategy and product portfolio of Collaborative Robotics. She graduated from KTH, Stockholm, and in engineering, she developed a strategy for the company’s product portfolio and drove the brand of the product. It focuses on collaborative robot applications and the design of user-centered interfaces.

Angelika Peer

Angelika Peer is a professor at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy, specializing in human-robot interaction (HRI) research focusing on telepresence and teleaction systems, brain and body computer interfaces, physical/haptic HRI, and human motor control. She graduated from the Munich Technical University, Germany, with a degree in electrical engineering and information technology and a doctorate in engineering.

Ayorkor Korsah

Ayorkor Korsah, a Ghanaian graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, co-founded the African Robotics Network (AFRON). A leader in using robotics to inspire African high school students through the Ashesi Robotics Program (AR/X), she is the 2013 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award (TDIA) recipient. Ashesi University College teaches robotics and computer science and coordinates the Ashesi Innovation Experience, a program for summer enrichment.

Barbara Mazzolai

Barbara Mazzolai, a biologist with a Ph.D. in Microsystems Engineering and an International Master in Eco-Management, is the director of the Italian Technology Center’s Institute of Micro-Biorobotics in Pontedera. Barbara Mazzolai developed planetoid technology and the first soft robot to mimic tendril behavior.

Cecile Huet

Cécile Huet is the Deputy Head of the European Commission’s Robotics Unit. She is instrumental in the success of the new wave of robotics projects funded under the Horizon 2020 funding program for several billion dollars.

Cecilia Laschi

Cecilia Laschi is an author and co-author of over 300 scientific papers. She works as a professor at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna BioRobotics Institute in Pisa, Italy. Her research interests are in soft robotics, a growing research area in which she pioneered and helped develop various marine robotics and biomedical applications. She has been involved in humanoid robotics and neurorobotics, combining robotics and neuroscience.

Crystal Chao

Crystal Chao is Huawei’s Robotics Project Chief Scientist and Global Leader. In 2012, for her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, Chao won the Outstanding Doctoral Consortium Paper Award, ICMI, where she developed the Human-Robot Interaction Architecture (HRI) that allows robots to work fluently with people through dialog and manipulation.

Danica Kragic

Danica Kragic, a computer vision specialist and head of KTH’s Computer Vision and Active Perception Lab, is studying how robots interact, how they feel, and how they see and grasp objects to build future systems that interact naturally with people and their surroundings. Kragic is also the director of the Autonomous Systems Center.

Emily Cross

Cognitive neuroscientist Emily Cross is the co-director of the Social Brain in Action Lab and the PI of the ERC Starting Grant ‘Social Robots.’ She leads a team that explores experience-dependent human brain plasticity and behavior through neuroimaging, neurostimulation, and behavioral techniques. She is currently the European Research Council’s Principal Investigator Starting Grant, entitled ‘Social Robots,’ from 2016 to 2021.

Erin Kennedy

Erin Kennedy founded Robot Missions, which empowers communities to undertake missions using robots to help our planet. She developed a robot to collect debris from the shoreline that can be replicated with a 3D printer anywhere. A former fellow at the MaRS Discovery District Studio Y in Social Innovation and Systems Thinking, Kennedy studied Digital Manufacturing at the Fab Academy and was recognized as a finalist at the Visionaries Prize for Lieutenant Governor (Ontario).

Fei-Fei Li

The power behind the new Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence is Stanford professor and a former Google employee, Fei-Fei Li. Her research focuses on machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, neuroscience of cognition, and computation. In top-tier journals, nearly 200 scientific articles have been published. She is the co-founder and chair of the national non-profit AI4ALL, a national leader in promoting diversity in STEM and AI.

Jade Le Maître

Jade Le Maitre is Hease Robotics’ technical director and co-founder, bringing the robotics experience to the consumer. She co-launched Lyon-Is-AI as well and co-founded the Social Robots Community. Le Maître has found her passion for working in science communication with a background in engineering and a research project on human-robot interaction.

Jessica Hodgins

Jessica Hodgins is a Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and Computer Science Department professor and the new head of Pittsburgh’s Facebook AI Research Lab. Her computer graphics, animation, and robotics research focuses on human movement generation and analysis. She got her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1989.

Jing Xiao

Jing Xiao is the site director of the US National Science Foundation Industry, University Cooperative Research Center for Robots and Sensors for Human Wellbeing. Her research focuses on robotics, haptics, and intelligent systems. She has published over 130 publications in major robotics conferences, journals, and books. A patent holder, she is an IEEE Fellow. She has been elected twice as an AdCom Member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

Hanna Kurniawati

Hanna Kurniawati is a senior lecturer at the ANU and CS Futures Fellowships at the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Computer Science. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Computer Science for Robot Motion Planning from Singapore National University. Recently, she helped create an Interactive Ball (I-Ball), a robotic soccer ball to enhance the participation of visually impaired people in social ball games using motion sensors, high-efficiency speakers, and a small UQ-developed controller.

Heather Justice

Heather Justice is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Exploration Rover Driver. NASA JPL Software Engineer at Harvey Mudd College graduated with a BS. In 2009, computing and the MS. The 2011 Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. She works in various research fields, including computer vision, mobile robot path planning, and spacecraft flight rules validation.

Katherine Kuchenbecker

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker is the director of the Haptic Intelligence Department at Stuttgart, Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Kuchenbecker received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2006. Her research expertise is in designing and controlling robotic systems that enable users to touch virtual objects and remote environments as if they were real and within reach, creating new opportunities for their use in human-computer and machine interactions.

Kanako Harada

Kanako Harada is the program manager of the Cabinet Office, Japan’s ImPACT program “Bionic Humanoids Propelling New Industrial Revolution.” She is an associate professor at the Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering Departments, the Engineering School and Tokyo University, Japan. She was awarded the M.Sc. Tokyo University Engineering in 2001 and Waseda University’s Ph.D. in Engineering in 2007. Her research interests include surgical robots and the evaluation of surgical abilities.

Kavita Krishnaswamy

Kavita Krishnaswamy is a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow born in Tamil Nadu, India, and raised in Columbia, MD. A professional researcher, Krishnaswamy is motivated by a powerful, innate force to achieve autonomy and independent daily life. It develops robotic systems to assist and enhance the independence of disabled people, support transfer, repositioning, and personal care, focusing on accessible user interfaces.

Katja Mombaur

Katja Mombaur is Head of the Computer Engineering Institute (ZITI) Robotics & Biomechanics Optimization Group (ORB) and Robotics Lab. She is the Heidelberg Motion Research Centre’s coordinator. She holds a degree from Stuttgart University in Aerospace Engineering and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Heidelberg University. Her research focuses on the interactions between humans and exoskeletons, prostheses, and external physical devices.

Kirsten H. Petersen

Kirstin H. Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her interests are designing and coordinating bio-inspired robot collectives and studying their natural counterparts, especially in construction. Her thesis on the termite-inspired robot construction team covered science and ranked among 2014’s top ten scientific breakthroughs. In 2016, as part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, Petersen started the Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab and had field membership in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering.

Kristen Y. Pettersen

Kristin Ytterstad Pettersen is a professor at the Cybernetics Engineering Department and holds an NTNU Ph.D. and MSc in Cybernetics Engineering. She is a scientist at the Center of Excellence: Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (NTNU AMOS) and a professor assistant at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI). Her research interests include nonlinear and movement control theory, especially for marine vessels, AUVs, robot manipulators, and snake robots. She co-founded Eelume AS, which develops subsea inspection, maintenance, and repair technology.

Kavitha Velusamy

Kavita Velusamy is BossaNova Robotics’ Senior Director of Computer Vision, where she develops applications for robot vision. She previously served as Senior Manager at NVIDIA, managing a global team responsible for providing self-driving vehicles with computer vision and deep learning software. Previously, she was Amazon’s senior manager and wrote a “far-field” white paper defining Amazon Echo’s device side, vision, architecture, and price points. She holds a Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Science in Signal Processing / Electrical Communications Engineering.

Kate Darling

Kate Darling is a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center. An affiliate of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, she writes for Robohub and IEEE. She is passionate about the near-term societal impact of robotics, copyright, and patent law.

Laura Margheri

Laura Margheri develops a scientific program and manages research projects at Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Laboratory, managing multidisciplinary and international partnerships. Before joining Imperial College, She was a project manager and Postdoc Fellow at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna BioRobotics Institute. Margheri has an M.S. Biomedical Engineering (honored) and BioRobotics Ph.D. (honored). She has been Chair of the Robotics & Automation Society’s Women In Engineering (WIE) Committee since early 2014.

Louise Poubel

Louise Poubel, who grew up in Brazil, graduated from Japan with an engineering degree and from Poland and France with a master’s degree. She is now working on the Open Source Robotics Foundation’s Gazebo robotics simulator, a graphical user interface (GUI), to reduce complexity and price.

Martha Wells

Martha Wells is the best-selling New York Times author of science fiction and speculative fiction— The Murderbot Diaries, the story of a self-aware security robot that hacks its “Governor Module.” She holds a BA. In Anthropology at Texas A&M University, he has won over a dozen fiction awards and nominations, including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Award.

Nancy Amato

Nancy Amato is acclaimed for her research on the algorithmic foundations of movement planning, computational geometry, computational biology, and parallel computing and for her leadership in expanding industry involvement. Her 1998 paper on probabilistic methods of road mapping is one of the essential papers in this area. She was named an IEEE Fellow in 2010, among other awards. She has been a member of the Status of Women in Computing Research Committee since 2000.

Pree Walia

A winner of the 2015 Robot Launch International Startup Competition, Pree Walia is an entrepreneur and graduate of business school who has combined a political career with leading teams in early-stage hardware startups, most recently starting her venture at the crossroads of beauty and technology. Walia is the Nailbot’s co-inventor— a nail decoration robot that allows you to paint your fingernails with custom designs.

Propa Ghosh

Propa Ghosh is America’s first female robotic surgery medical director. She is an ambitious, forward-thinking doctor who can combine surgical expertise and organizational skills to help develop and promote ground-breaking initiatives.

Rita Cucchiara

Rita Cucchiara is a full professor of computer vision at the Enzo Ferrari Department of Engineering at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where since 1998, she has led the AImageLab, a computer vision and pattern recognition laboratory dedicated to AI and multimedia. She coordinates the human-vehicle interaction UNIMORE-Ferrari RedVision Lab. She is the director of the Italian CINI Lab for Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems. She was the 2018 IAPR Maria Petrou Prize recipient.

Samantha Payne

Samantha Payne co-founded Open Bionics, an award-winning startup that develops low-cost bionic hands for amputees or those born without a hand. Payne was shortlisted at the Women and Business Awards for the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year.’ She focuses on building the public profile, business model, and network and elevating rounds of Open Bionics. Open Bionics has won several innovation awards, most recently the James Dyson and RBA50 awards.

Sanja Fidler

Sanja Fidler is A.I. Director at the Toronto Lab of NVIDIA, leading research projects in machine learning, computer vision, graphics, language, and vision intersection. She is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science. She is the Amazon Academic Research Award recipient (2017) and NVIDIA AI Pioneer Award recipient (2016). She completed her Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Ljubljana in 2010 and served as 3DV Conference Program Chair and CVPR, EMNLP, ICCV, ICLR, and NIPS Area Chair.

Sougwen Chung

Sougwen Chung, a Chinese-born, Canadian-educated artist based in New York, is a former fellow researcher at the Media Lab at MIT and an inaugural member of NEW INC, the first museum-led art and technology collaboration with The New Museum. Her work explores mark-by-hand and mark-by-machine as an approach to understanding the interaction between humans and computers. Her speculative critical practice encompasses installation, sculpture, still images, drawing, and performance. She received a BFA from Indiana University and a master’s in interactive art from Hyper Island, Sweden.

Spring Berman

Spring M. Berman is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Systems Design at Arizona State University (ASU) in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. A recipient of the 2014 DARPA Young Faculty Award and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, Spring Berman is developing a system that would allow robotic machines to perform reliably in situations where the environment in which they operate is limited and unreliable and where GPS and radio communication are limited.

Stéphanie Lacour

A 2006 winner of the MIT TR35, Stéphanie Lacour is the recipient of the Royal Society’s University Research Fellowship, the ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council, the 2011 Zonta Award, and the 2014 Young Scientist Award from the World Economic Forum. She pioneered the development of semiconductor devices capable of stretching and retaining their electronic properties. Her research interests lie at the intersection of engineering, the science of materials, and biotechnology. Lacour is chairman of the Bertarelli Foundation at the EPFL School of Engineering in Neuroprosthetic Technology.

Sarah Osentoski

Sarah Osentoski is the former COO of Mayfield Robotics, who produced Kuri. She is currently VP of Engineering at Iron-Ox. Before Mayfield Robotics, she was the manager of the Personal Robotics Group at the Bosch Research and Technology Center in Palo Alto, CA. One of the authors of Robot Web Tools, Osentoski, published the 2017 Silicon Valley Biz Journal “Women of Influence.” She received her Ph.D. from the Amherst University of Massachusetts under Sridhar Mahadevan. Her research interests include robotics, shared autonomy, robotic web interfaces, enhanced learning, and machine learning.

Sue Keay

Recognized as one of the most influential people in Queensland (The Courier Mail’s Power100), Sue Keay is Cyber-Physical Systems Research Director at CSIRO’s Data61. Sue champions our fledgling robotics industry, one of Australia’s few female robotics voices, pioneering the development of Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap. A university medalist and Jaeger scholar, Sue has over 20 years of research sector experience managing and ensuring the impact of multidisciplinary research and development programs and teams. She holds an Australian National University Ph.D. in Earth Sciences and was a Queensland University post-doctoral fellow of the ARC.

Veronica Santos

Veronica J. Santos is an associate professor and director of the UCLA Biomechatronics Laboratory at UCLA Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. She is one of 16 selected individuals for the Defense Science Study Group (DSSG), a two-year opportunity for emerging science leaders to engage in US security challenges dialogues. At USC’s Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, she developed a novel biomimetic tactile sensor for prosthetic hands. She later headed the Engineering Program of ASU Mechanical and Aerospace and the Biomechatronics Lab of ASU. Santos has received numerous research and teaching awards and honors.

Wendy Roberts

Wendy Roberts is the CEO and founder of Five Elements Robotics, which was established in 2012 to revolutionize the human-robot relationship. Two robots, the Friendly Robot Carrying Your Things and DASH, the Retail Robotic Shopping Cart, have been developed by Roberts. Wendy Roberts is also Future Skies’ founder and the owner (established in 2001) in the United States. High-tech defense firm, US software development. Defense Department. In Mashable’s article, “Five Individuals Pioneering the Robotics Industry,” Wendy Roberts was named one of the Top Five People Path to Robotics.

Yao Zhang

Yao Zhang is Roboterra’s founder and CEO, making tool kits that enable students to tap their imagination and creativity to design and construct their robots. Zhang received her Ph.D. in Education Economics from Columbia University before working for McKinsey and Co. and the Soros Foundation. For over a decade, she has worked in education and technology and won the “Best 10 Global Citizen Service Award” from the US State Department for her excellent work in education innovation.

Yuki Nakagawa

RT Corp’s founder and CEO, Yuki Nakagawa, has developed an entertainment robot called RIC90, which can wear an “animal suit” to physically contact people and change shapes. She was part of projects like ASIMO, Micromouse, ROBO-ONE, and RoboCup from Honda.