Date Posted: 4/28/2020

Cornell CS Ph.D., Daniela L. Rus '93, who was supervised by IBM Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics, John Hopcroft, has been named to Donald J. Trump's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). When reached for comment on her appointment, Hopcroft said:

Daniela was one of the outstanding Ph.D. students in computer science at Cornell. In her Ph.D. thesis she developed an algorithm for a robotic hand to rotate a convex object of unknown shape. This was long before robotics was an academic community and most likely played a significant role in developing the robotics research community.

Reflecting on Rus' professional development, Hopcroft added:

She accepted a faculty position at Dartmouth College. Shortly afterwards she was selected as a MacArthur Fellow. MIT attracted her to head their AI laboratory (CSAIL). She has played a significant role and has interacted with many countries.  I often run into her in Asia and am impressed with the research she is doing there.  She will play an important role in the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In MIT News, Adam Conner-Simons provides some context for PCAST:

The council provides advice to the White House on topics critical to U.S. security and the economy, including policy recommendations on the future of work, American leadership in science and technology, and the support of U.S. research and development. 

PCAST operates under the aegis of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which was established in law in 1976. However, the council has existed more informally going back to Franklin Roosevelt’s Science Advisory Board in 1933.

“I’m grateful to be able to add my perspective as a computer scientist to this group at a time when so many issues involving AI and other aspects of computing raise important scientific and policy questions for the nation and the world,” says Rus.
Rus is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the deputy dean of research for the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing. Her research in robotics, artificial intelligence, and data science focuses primarily on developing the science and engineering of autonomy, with the long-term objective of enabling a future where machines are integrated into daily life to support both cognitive and physical tasks. The applications of her work are broad and include transportation, manufacturing, medicine, and urban planning.

Rus is a well-known roboticist who has remarked: "I imagine a future where robots are so integrated in the fabric of human life that they become as common as smart phones are today. The field of robotics has the potential to greatly improve the quality of our lives at work, at home and at play." Recent research includes projects dedicated to "soft robots," "mobility on demand with self-driving cars," and a "robot compiler."