Alexandra (Alli) Nilles

Me in Yosemite!

I am a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. My advisor is Steve LaValle, and I also collaborate with Prof. Amy LaViers and the RAD Lab and Prof. Yuliy Baryshnikov at UIUC. I have a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines.

Research Interests: I focus on how mobile robots in planar environments move through space and interact with their environment and each other. Instead of assuming that we have perfect control and observation of a robot, can we use the patterns that emerge from a robot’s intrinsic motion to engineer high-level behaviors such as navigating or patrolling a space? Can we get mathematical guarantees on how robust these behaviors are to changes in the robot or the environment?

Long term, I’m interested in fundamentals: what is a robot? What are useful formalisms for specifying tasks? Can we decide and synthesize robot designs (hardware, controllers, and/or filters) capable of completing those tasks with minimal resources (sensing, computation)? I am especially interested in finding “natural” discretizations of robotic systems (as Plato supposedly said, we’d like to “carve nature at the joints”). Such discretizations may lend themselves well to designing information spaces and robust planning and filtering algorithms.

I often use dynamical systems and geometric techniques in my research, as well as information spaces and a little bit of machine learning. I like using visual, experimental and embodied methods to do research as much as possible.

My other interests include free and open source software development, cooperatives, wilderness backpacking and conservation, dance, climbing, and aerial arts.

My CV is here. You can see some of my current projects at my github and here.