The George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research

The George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research was established by Penn Engineering for the purpose of recognizing excellence in scholarly activities of the faculty. Named in honor of George H. Heilmeier, it recognizes his extraordinary research career, his leadership in technical innovation and public service, and his loyal and steadfast support of Penn Engineering.

George Pappas2017 Heilmeier Award and Lecture

Daniel E. Koditschek
Alfred Fitler Moore Professor
Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering

"Robotics: Seeking Fundamental Problems; Finding New Machines"

Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Wu and Chen Auditorium, Levine Hall

Robotics is often imagined as an application domain where computer science meets up with mechanical and electrical engineering to produce smart labor-saving gadgets that figure out on their own how to do what we want. In this talk, Koditschek will argue that robotics aspires to be a new discipline concerned with designing and implementing physical systems that exchange energy with their environment according to human specification. Such a synthetic science of programming work will emerge from the identification of its fundamental problems, which begin to reveal themselves as we try to build and reason mathematically about physical devices that embody the agency anticipated in our imagination. That effort, in turn, leads to new machines that work. Koditschek will use a number of specific examples from past and recent research in his lab to suggest how the search to identify fundamental problems not only yields designs for new machines but also invites a still broader array of established disciplines such as biology, materials science, and physics to join in building the foundations of robotics.


Daniel E. Koditschek  is the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he serves as Director of the Penn Engineering Research Collaboration Hub (PERCH). Koditschek received a bachelor's degree in Engineering and Applied Science in 1977 and master’s and doctoral degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1981 and 1983, all from Yale University. He served on the faculty of Yale in Electrical Engineering until he moved to the University of Michigan a decade later. In January 2005, he came to Penn as chair of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, a position which he held through 2012.

Koditschek's research interests include robotics and, more generally, the application of dynamical systems theory to intelligent mechanisms. He is a member of the ACM, AMS, ASME, MAA, SIAM, and Sigma Xi and is a Fellow of the IEEE and the AAAS. He is a recipient of the 2016 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Pioneer Award and a 2016 Vannevar Bush Fellowship by the U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Koditschek holds secondary appointments within the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the Departments of Computer and Information Science and in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

Past Awardees Include:

2015-16: Shu Yang- For "pioneering the synthesis and fabrication of responsive nano- and micro-structured soft materials." Learn more...

2014-15: George Pappas- For "fundamental contributions to embedded, hybrid and networked control systems." Learn more...

2013-14: John M. Vohs - "Nano-Structured Catalysts for Chemical Transformations" Learn more...

2012-13: Vijay Kumar - For "pioneering contributions to the science and technology of cooperative robotics." Learn more...

2011-12: Karen I. Winey - "For innovative methods in the fabrication and processing of polymer-based nanotube composites" Learn more...

2010-11: Christopher S. Chen - "For fundamental contributions in the study and design of cellular microenvironments" Learn more...

2009-10: Rajeev Alur – "For fundamental contributions in software verification for real-time systems" Learn more...

2008-09: Scott Diamond – "Discoveries and innovations in high throughput screening and micro-array technology"

2007-08: Nader Engheta – "Research contributions on nano-optics and related metamaterials"

2006-07: Pedro Ponte-Castañeda - "Homogenization theory for estimating effective mechanical behavior of nonlinear, heterogeneous materials"

2005-06: Dawn A. Bonnell - For significant contributions in "Nanolithography and nanostructure assembly"

2004-05: Michael Kearns - "New algorithmic ideas in game theory and machine learning"

2003-04:  Dennis E. Discher and Daniel A. Hammer - "Polymersomes, discovery and characterization"

2002-03:  David E. Luzzi - "Carbon nanotubes and 'peapods'"

2001-02:  Raymond J. Gorte - "Solid oxide fuel cells"

George H. Heilmeier, EE'58

Dr. George H. HeilmeierDr. George H. Heilmeier was Chairman Emeritus of Telcordia Technologies, formerly Bellcore, a leading provider of communications software and professional services. Prior to his retirement in November 1997, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Texas Instruments, Inc., Director of DARPA and Head of Solid State Device Research at RCA. Dr. Heilmeier received international recognition for his discovery of several new electro-optic effects in liquid crystals leading to the development of the first liquid crystal displays for watches, calculators, and instrumentation, and he held 15 patents.

Dr. Heilmeier received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958 and M.A., M.S.E., and Ph.D. degrees in solid-state electronics from Princeton University. He is known for his operational, technical and strategic leadership in transforming new technologies into market driven successes. Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Heilmeier received numerous awards, including the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Founders Medal, the National Academy of Engineering's highest honor the Founders Award, the Japan Prize in Computers and Communications, the Industrial Research Institute Medal, and the National Medal of Science, among others. In 2002, he received the Pioneer of Stealth Award for "Visionary Leadership and Trailblazing Contributions of Enduring National Significance in the Development of Low Observable Aircraft."

Dr. Heilmeier served as a White House Fellow, and was a Life Fellow of the IEEE and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a member of the Defense Science Board, and the National Security Agency Advisory Board. He served on the Boards of Directors of TRW, the MITRE Corporation, INET Technologies Inc., Teletech Holdings, and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Corporation. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the General Motors Technology Advisory Board. Dr. Heilmeier's leadership in telecommunications and technology management was also recognized through honorary doctorate degrees from Stevens Institute and the Israeli Institute of Technology (the Technion).

Dr. Heilmeier passed away on April 22, 2014.