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Thomas M. Howard

Thomas M. Howard

  • Wilmot Assistant Professor
  • Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

PhD, Carnegie Mellon University, 2009

732 Computer Studies Building
(585) 275-3755
Fax: (585) 273-4919


Short Biography

Thomas Howard joined the University of Rochester as an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2015. Dr. Howard directs the University of Rochester's Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, holds secondary appointments in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and is a member of the Goergen Institute for Data Science. Previously he held appointments as a research scientist and a postdoctoral associate at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the Robust Robotics Group, a research technologist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Mobility and Robotic Systems section, and a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Caltech. Dr. Howard earned a PhD in robotics from The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in 2009 in addition to BS degrees in electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering from the University of Rochester in 2004. Dr. Howard currently teaches courses on Microprocessors and Data Conversion (ECE 216), Robot Control (ECE 231), and Autonomous Mobile Robots (ECE 232).

Research Overview

Dr. Howard's research interests span artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-robot interaction with particular research focus on improving the optimality, efficiency, and fidelity of models for decision making in complex and unstructured environments with applications to robot motion planning, grounded language communication, and assistive and medical robotics. He has applied his research on numerous robots including planetary rovers, autonomous automobiles, mobile manipulators, robotic torsos, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Dr. Howard was a member of the flight software team for the Mars Science Laboratory, the motion planning lead for the JPL/CaltechDARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation team, and a member of the motion planning team for Tartan Racing, winner of the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. Dr. Howard has earned Best Paper Awards at Robotics: Science and Systems (2016) and the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (2017), two NASA Group Achievement Awards (2012, 2014), was a finalist for the ICRA Best Manipulation Paper Award (2012), and was selected as a Goergen Institute for Data Science Center of Excellence Distinguished Researcher (2015-2017) and Wilmot Assistant Professor (2019-2021).

Representative Publications

Visit the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory website for a full list of publications.

Paul, J. Arkin, D. Aksaray, N. Roy, and T.M. Howard, "Efficient Grounding of Abstract Spatial Concepts for Natural Language Interaction with Robot Platforms," International Journal of Robotics Research. vol. 37, pp. 1269–1299, Sep. 2018

Broad, J. Arkin, N. Ratliff, T.M. Howard, and B. Argall, "Real-Time Natural Language Corrections for Assistive Robotic Manipulators," International Journal of Robotics Research. vol. 36, pp. 684-698, May 2017

T.M. Howard, M. Pivtoraiko, R. Knepper, and A. Kelly, "Model-Predictive Motion Planning: Several Key Developments for Autonomous Mobile Robots," IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine. vol. 21, pp. 64-73, Mar. 2014

Hudson, J. Ma, P. Hebert, A. Jain, M. Bajracharya, T. Allen, R. Sharan, M. Horowitz, C. Kuo, T.M. Howard, L. Matthies, P. Backes, and J. Burdick, "Model-based autonomous system for performing dexterous, human-level manipulation tasks," Autonomous Robots. vol. 36, pp. 31-49, Jan. 2014

Ferguson, T.M. Howard, and M. Likhachev, "Motion Planning in Urban Environments," Journal of Field Robotics. vol. 25, pp. 939-960, Nov. 2008

Urmson, J. Anhalt, D. Bagnell, C. Baker, R. Bittner, M.N. Clark, J. Dolan, D. Duggins, T. Galatali, C. Geyer, M. Gittleman, S. Harbaugh, M. Hebert, T.M. Howard, S. Kolski, A. Kelly, M. Likhachev, M. McNaughton, N. Miller, K. Peterson, B. Pilnick, R. Rajkumar, P. Rybski, B. Salesky, Y. Seo, S. Singh, J. Snider, A. Stentz, W. Whittaker, Z. Wolkowicki, J. Ziglar, H. Bae, T. Brown, D. Demitrish, B. Litkouhi, J. Nickolaou, V. Sadekar, W. Zhang, J. Struble, M. Taylor, M. Darms, and D. Ferguson, "Autonomous Driving in Urban Environments: Boss and the Urban Challenge," Journal of Field Robotics. vol. 25, pp. 425-466, Jul. 2008

T.M. Howard, C. Green, D. Ferguson, and A. Kelly, "State Space Sampling of Feasible Motions for High Performance Mobile Robot Navigation in Complex Environments," Journal of Field Robotics. vol. 25, pp. 325-345, Jun. 2008

T.M. Howard and A. Kelly, "Optimal Rough Terrain Trajectory Generation for Wheeled Mobile Robots," International Journal of Robotics Research. vol. 26, pp. 141-166, Feb. 2007