Fathi Ghorbel

WEBSITE(S)| Robotics & Intelligent Systems Lab

Fathi H. Ghorbel is a Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering with a joint appointment at the Department of Bioengineering. He is the Director of the Robotics and Intelligent Systems (RiSYS) Lab. 

Dr. Ghorbel received a B.S. degree with honors from the Pennsylvania State University in 1985, an M.S. degree from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1987, and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1991 all in Mechanical Engineering. In 1988, he spent one year at the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, as a Research Assistant. During his doctoral studies, he was a Research Assistant at the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois where he was also a visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate in 1991. From 1992 to 1994, Dr. Ghorbel was a Research Associate at the Institut d'Automatique, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. He joined Rice University in 1994. 

Dr. Ghorbel is a Fellow of the ASME, a Senior Member of the IEEE,  and past President of the Tunisian Scientific Society (TSS). He is a Founding Member, Member of the Board of Directors, and Vice-President of the Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF). He was the recipient of the medal of "Order of National Merit in the field of education and sciences" by order of the president of Tunisia. He is  the past Vice-Chair then Chair of the ASME Biomechanical Systems Panel, and the past Chair of the IEEE Control Systems Society's Technical Committee on Manufacturing Automation and Robotic Control. He is a member of the Editorial Board of  Underwater Technology Journal, a past Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology, a past Associate Editor for the ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control, a past Associate Editor for the IEEE Control Systems Society Conference Editorial Board, and a past Associate Editor for the International Journal of Robotics and Automation. Dr. Ghorbel served in conference organization and program committees at different organizational levels including Conference Chair, Conference Co-General Chair, Publication Chair, Publicity Chair, Finance Chair, and Member of several national and international conference Program Committees. 

Dr. Ghorbel is the founder, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Technology Advisor of itRobotics Inc., a startup pioneering technology company operating to provide state of the art non-destructive inspection solutions for small diameter energy pipes using the latest robotics technology. It aims to increase the safety and security of the energy industry around the world. itRobotics' technology was initiated at Dr. Ghorbel's RiSYS Lab. Dr. Ghorbel is also the co-founder and the Chief Technology Advisor of inRobotics Inc., a Houston-based technology company that provides explosion-proof robotic inspection solutions of atmospheric storage tanks and marine vessels. 

Research Areas

Dr. Ghorbel's scholarly interests are in the field of dynamic systems and control. He devises analytical tools from systems and control theory, and dynamical systems and differential equation theory to analyze, model, and control a variety of complex dynamic systems. His main research activities are in the areas of robotics, mechanical systems, and biomedical systems. His research is characterized by an emphasis on developing analytical methods while giving equal importance to simulation and experimental verification in the laboratory. Dr. Ghorbel's research program covers projects in robotics, nanomanipulation, robotic rehabilitation, in-pipe robotics, swimming robots, and modeling and control of complex mechanical systems. RiSYS lab is currently focusing on robotic applications in the energy sector. The in-pipe robotic program focuses on the fundamentals of robotic locomotion, sensing and inspection inside pipes. The lab designed the first robot to inspect coiled tubing and boiler tubing from the inside. In contrast to Hall Effect (point) sensing, the lab is developing a novel general (area) MFL magneto-optical sensing technique that promises to make pipe robotic defect identification (inverse problem) mathematically tractable and industrially practical. The swimming robotic program focuses on developing AUVs for subsea inspection, intervention, and oil & gas exploration. This entails fundamental research in thrusting, sensing, communication, localization and mapping for the objective of developing AUVs suitable for subsea tight space maneuvering and forceful interaction applications. Mantaray is RiSYS’ first AUV prototype that is initially being tailored to oil tank inspection while in-service.


B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University (1985)

M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, (1987)

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1991)

Teaching Areas

Control Theory

Dynamical Systems


Biomedical Systems