PhD in Robotics Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy

WPI’s PhD in Robotics Engineering is one of the few worldwide where students can earn a doctorate in the field. We take robotics seriously, yet our approach is creative and innovative. Our world-class facilities and industry-leading faculty encourage originality and allow candidates to lead novel, cutting-edge research that crosses disciplines.

Value Proposition Description

The open atmosphere builds collaborative opportunities where students generate solutions that often lead to breakthroughs in robotics technology. And WPI’s location in the heart of the robotics industry opens doors to research, collaboration, internships, and networking with the world’s leading robotics companies.


The PhD in Robotics Engineering doctoral program is groundbreaking and internationally known for its outstanding faculty and advanced research projects. A small student-to-faculty ratio means students work side by side with world-class professors who are exploring everything from medical robotic devices and multi-robot systems to the ethical implications of human-robot interaction.

Course work across disciplines includes computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, and mechanical engineering and gives candidates depth and breadth in robotics expertise. Students may enter with a BS or an MS degree and will propose a plan of study and potential research leading up to dissertation studies.

Research for Robotics Engineering PhD

Faculty research is wide-ranging and involves students in every step of research and exploration, so robotics engineering PhD students have nearly endless choices. Working in this wide-ranging field means you’re always innovating on exciting new problems and challenges in real-time. The energy in our labs is contagious and breeds revolutionary approaches to robotics.

WPI’s robotics faculty research is supported through federal and industry funding. Some areas of faculty specialization:

  • Assistive and Augmentative Robotics
  • Human-Robot Interaction
  • Kinematics, Dynamics, and Control
  • Manipulation
  • Medical and Surgical Robotics
  • Perception
  • Motion Planning

As a robotics graduate student, you’ll work side-by-side with faculty on research that pushes the boundaries of what seems possible—whether it’s developing robotic medical instruments or fine-tuning the smallest, multi-robot swarm robotics.

WPI has a long history as a pioneer in robotics engineering education, giving it a depth and breadth of knowledge. IT was the first university to offer BS through PhD degrees in robotics, and its comprehensive curriculum reflects that deep experience.

As a multidisciplinary field, robotics researchers collaborate to extend their impact.

Robotics impacts humanity in levels as varied as manufacturing to the most delicate surgery. A degree in robotics gives you plentiful job opportunities.

You’ll develop varied skills working within the robotics field. Depending on goals and interests, students can write the software to operate robots, build robots, or explore the ethical implications of robots in a complex human world.

New England is considered the global epicenter for the robotics industry. Opportunities to contribute to important advances in the field exist in nearby academia, established organizations and industries, and start-ups.

The robotics curriculum is purposefully varied. The industry is multilayered, so students take classes that have a business, systems engineering, or entrepreneurial approach.

  • Multi-robot Systems
  • Navigation
  • Origami-inspired Foldable Robot Design and Fabrication
  • Real-time Motion Planning
  • Robot Learning
  • Soft/Flexible Robotic Systems
  • Tactile Sensing

The extensive robotics labs and facilities at WPI cater to the various interests and the collaborative and independent research projects of students. All around campus, students pursue advances using the latest technology in labs outfitted for robots for medical, social, military, communication, and even artistic uses. 

Faculty Profiles

Jing Xiao
Jing Xiao
Professor & Department Head, Robotics Engineering

My research spans robotics, haptics, multi-modal perception, and artificial intelligence, at the intersection of computer science and engineering. There are two highly related themes in my robotics research: one is the focus on “contact sport”, i.e., the contact and interaction between a robot or a part/tool it holds and the environment, and the other is real-time adaptiveness of robots to uncertainty and uncertain changes in an environment based on perception.

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Cagdas Onal
Cagdas Onal
Associate Professor, Robotics Engineering

An integral part of a rewarding academic career is being an educator. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with students and guide their development to fulfill their potential. I enjoy teaching the fundamentals of robotics engineering, science and technology as well as training students in advanced independent research. I aim to teach students about research-based thinking and problem solving, to give them a real career choice to determine their future in further research or the industry.

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Berk Calli
Berk Calli
Assistant Professor, Robotics Engineering

Berk's research primarily focuses on problems related to robotic manipulation, which is a key functionality largely missing from the current state of the art in robotics for unstructured environments, including homes, modern warehouses, and collaborative manufacturing stations. He develops multi-modal robotic manipulation strategies mainly focusing on the role of vision feedback for coping with uncertainties of unstructured environments.

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Loris Fichera
Loris Fichera
Assistant Professor, Robotics Engineering

My research interests are in the application of robotics and computer science to enhance medicine, and particularly surgery. What gets me out of bed in the morning is the prospect of helping doctors save lives and improve the quality of life of their patients. My students and I work side-by-side with clinical collaborators to create technology that presents a tangible clinical value – for instance, making an existing surgical procedure more accurate or enabling new procedures that are not feasible with current instrumentation.

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Gregory Fischer
Gregory Fischer

Professor Fischer is the William Smith Dean's Professor and a faculty member in Robotics Engineering with a appointments in Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at WPI. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2008 from Johns Hopkins University, where he was part of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Computer Integrated Surgery. At WPI he has been an integral part of developing the Robotics Engineering program and teaches primarily junior-level and graduate courses in Robotics.

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Jie Fu
Jie Fu
Affiliate Assistant Professor, Robotics Engineering

My research leverages control theory, formal methods, and machine learning to construct adaptive, provably correct cyber-physical systems with respect to complex specifications. The challenges I am currently interested in include: reactive robotic systems under partial information and modeling uncertainty, multi-robot coordination, optimal control of hybrid systems, and design of adaptive semi-autonomous systems.

Carlo Pinciroli
Carlo Pinciroli
Associate Professor/Graduate Coordinator, Robotics Engineering

The focus of my research is designing innovative tools for swarm robotics. I am developing Buzz, a programming language specifically designed for real-world robot swarms. During my Ph.D., I have designed ARGoS, which is currently the fastest general-purpose robot simulator in the literature. Recent work focuses on human-swarm interaction and multi-robot learning. I am also working on swarm robotics solutions for disaster response scenarios, such as search-and-rescue and firefighting.

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Ready to Work on Innovative Robots, But Need Your Masters? Explore Our Online & On Campus Options.

If you’re interested in working on breakthrough robotics discoveries through serious research and an innovative imagination, our master’s in robotics engineering may be a good fit for you. A first-of-its-kind degree in the nation, our MS in robotics is offered online and on-campus in which you will advance knowledge in fundamental areas of computer science, ECE, mathematics, and mechanical engineering to tackle real-world problems.

Gain a Foundation in Robotics With a Graduate Certificate

Whether you’re hoping to gain a solid base in the robotics field or want to stay ahead of the curve, our robotics engineering graduate certificates are a great starting point. WPI’s on campus robotics engineering graduate certificate covers the fundamentals of robotics to provide students a strong understanding of how robots are engineered. This 15-credit certificate dives into robot dynamics, systems engineering, and more. Prefer to study online at your own convenience? We also offer our robotics engineering graduate certificates 100% online so you can advance your skills in robotics while continuing your career. Maybe you’re interested in complementing your technical skills with a leadership edge? Our robotics engineering management certificate covers how robotics systems are engineered through management contexts.

Are you interested in majoring in robotics? Do you want to learn more?

If you’re interested in robotics and want to dive right into a top-rated program, a bachelor’s in robotics engineering at WPI lets you do everything from researching how the field of robotics works to actually building robotic devices, interacting with them, and exploring the uses and ethics of robotics. Our first-in-the-nation bachelor’s degree in robotics engineering delivers the kind of expertise and comprehensive approach you need to understand the use and implications of robotics. If robotics interests you but your major is in a different discipline, try our minor in robotics engineering. Our minor in robotics engineering includes course work in disciplines such as ECE, mechanical engineering, computer science, and others, so you’ll be able to apply what you learn in the minor program to your major discipline.

WPI is proud to be the recipient of not one, but two National Science Foundation Research Traineeship programs. The programs provide exceptionally talented graduate students with specialized training and funding assistance to join careers at the forefront of technology and innovation. The programs are for graduate students in research-based master's and doctoral degree programs in STEM. Learn more.

The BioPoint Program for Graduate Students has been designed to complement traditional training in bioscience, digital and engineering fields. Students accepted into one of the home BioPoint programs will have the flexibility to select research advisors and take electives in other departments to broaden their skills. BioPoint curriculum is designed to be individual, interactive, project-focused and diverse, and includes innovative courses, seminars, journal clubs and industrial-based projects. Learn more.