Manfred Morari, Pioneer in Control Systems, Joins ESE Faculty

In an era when driverless cars are no longer confined to closed courses at research facilities but are instead making headlines as they travel among us, it is important that aspiring engineers hoping to be a part of this next wave of automotive technology are graduates of leading programs in control systems and related fields.

Manfred Morari, after a distinguished career at ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology, will join the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (ESE) as a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in January 2017.

"Manfred is one of the world’s pioneers in the area of control systems," says George Pappas, Joseph Moore Professor and chair of ESE. "He has made seminal contributions in the areas of robust process control, model predictive control, and hybrid control systems."

"There is outstanding work being done at Penn in my field and closely related areas," says Morari. "It’s an excellent match which will allow me not only to contribute effectively, but also to grow."

Model predictive control is an approach that has been traditionally used for real-time planning and control of chemical processes like refineries and flight control of aircrafts. With the advent of computation and data, this approach has been adapted to systems controlled by software such as self-driving cars and small, autonomous drones, and to networked systems like green buildings.

"We could not be happier that Manfred has chosen to join us here at Penn," says Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering. "He is the preeminent authority on model predictive control and optimal control, areas that are increasingly relevant in a world powered by software with the exponential growth in the Internet of Things industry. Our students will have the unique and exclusive opportunity to be taught and mentored by one of the world’s preeminent scholars in this field. He is an important strategic addition to our faculty as we grow Penn Engineering in the next five years."

At Penn Engineering, Morari will teach a course on Model Predictive Control, collaborate with faculty and graduate students across departments and centers, and bring new opportunities for collaboration with industry.

"Manfred's arrival is exciting news for our School," says Kate Stebe, Deputy Dean for Research and Innovation at Penn Engineering. "He is a world leader in control theory with broad impact across engineering and scientific disciplines. His leadership in diverse fields, ranging from control of chemical processes to robotics, will strengthen our research portfolio, enhance existing industry collaborations, and open doors for new partnerships."

Many of the significant advances and the academic leaders from the world’s best universities in this field can be credited to Morari or one of the 60-plus doctoral students and 25 postdoctoral associates that he has mentored throughout his career. Alumni of his lab are also now in finance, management consulting and legal, holding positions of major responsibility. He regards this group of former coworkers as his most important legacy.

"We all hope to have an impact on our fields and want our work to live on," says Morari. "There is no better way to achieve this goal than through the training of young people. I have been fortunate that throughout my career I have worked with an outstanding group."

Morari has held faculty positions in Chemical Engineering at Caltech and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and in Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at ETH Zurich. In industry, Morari worked with Exxon in the U.S and Imperial Chemical Industries PLC in the U.K. and served on the technical advisory boards of several major corporations. Currently he is a Visiting Senior Fellow in Systems and Control at the United Technologies Research Center.

"Manfred is world-renowned in hybrid systems analysis and control, and its applications to automotive systems, medical, and power systems," says Insup Lee, Cecilia Fitler Moore Professor in Computer and Information Science and director of the Penn Research in Embedded Computing and Integrated Systems Engineering (PRECISE) center. "He is a welcome addition to our research portfolio."

Morari’s extensive list of awards includes the Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Bellman Control Heritage Award of the American Automatic Control Council, and the IEEE Control Systems Field Award. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, AIChE and the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC). In 1993, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and in 2015 to the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering. His publications include over 600 books, journal articles and conference papers.

To read more about Morari and his research, please visit his faculty profile.