FORW-RD: Human-Robot Interfacing

WPI’s NRT program in the area of Human-Robot Interfacing is known as the Future of Robots in the Workplace—Research & Development (FORW-RD) NRT Program.

Most up-to-date information is on our FORW-RD website; please refer to it for more details.

  • FORW-RD is an NSF-funded interdisciplinary research training program, led by a team of principal investigators (PI) and affiliated faculty from Robotics, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Material Science, Business School, Social Sciences and Humanities, and Biomedical Engineering. 
  • The FORW-RD program focuses on the adoption of robotic interfaces and assistants in the workplace. We are interested in a broad portfolio of research, education, and professional development activities, that can contribute to that long-term vision. 
  • We plan to train a total of 120 graduate students over 5 years, including awards of 30 one-year NRT training stipends to PhD–level trainees. 
  • We aim to recruit and retain a diverse group of trainees.
  • The program started to enroll students in early 2020; currently in its second year, it is and aiming to grow in trainee population and research portfolio.


MS and PhD students in robotics, mechanical engineering, computer science, materials science, biomedical engineering, business school (user experience program), electrical and computer engineering, data sciences, with interests in contributing to our general vision in the future of robots in the workplace and the associated science and technologies are encouraged to participate in the FORW-RD NRT program as FORW-RD trainees.

Funding Details:

We offer 30 FORW-RD Fellowships to PhD-level students who are US citizens or permanent residents. Funded students will be FORW-RD Fellows for a full 12-month period within their graduate studies, covering a highly competitive 12-month stipend, full tuition, and health insurance. 

Traineeship Details:

Each MS/PhD student (trainee) in the FORW-RD program will complete their thesis/dissertation in an area related broadly to our general themes of human-robot interfacing and robots in the workplace. Trainees will perform interdisciplinary research under the guidance of the program, considering both technical and non-technical aspects of their work, especially paying attention to Broader Impacts, to study how their research will impact science, society, and various aspects of work and life in the future.  

Trainees will attend the “FORW-RD Thinking Seminar Series“ in their first year of enrollment in the program and the “Flash FORW-RD Workshops” in their second year. Seminars and workshops feature prominent leaders in a wide variety of fields to provide our trainees with the opportunity and experience of different perspectives and potential career paths. 

Internships with our industry contacts are recommended in the summer of the first or second year. 

Experienced trainees will help with recruiting and mentor 1st-year trainees. Based on their level of experience they may also co-advise undergraduate projects such as IQPs and MQPs.

Trainees are encouraged to be active participants, collaborating with other labs and trainees within the FORW-RD program, which is expected to increase synergies and amplify our research impact. Synergistic research with the first FORW-RD cohort already led to at least one additional external research grant from the NSF. Other synergistic grant applications are under review and more synergies are being established among the groups to repeat this virtuous cycle. 

How to Apply:

To participate in the FORW-RD program or for more information, please use the Contact tab on our webpage, or contact directly FORW-RD NRT coordinator Nancy Gaudette ( or principal investigator Cagdas Onal ( Upon contact, you will be requested to answer a brief questionnaire about your background, eligibility, and research focus in consultation with your research advisor (if any).