Lydia Kavraki

WEBSITE(S)| Kavraki Lab | Ken Kennedy Institute | NLM Program

Lydia E. Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science, professor of Bioengineering, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University. She is the director of the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University.

Kavraki received her B.A. in Computer Science from the University of Crete in Greece and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University working with Professor Jean-Claude Latombe. Her research interests span robotics, AI, and biomedicine. In robotics and AI, she is interested in enabling robots to work with people and in support of people. Her research develops the underlying methodologies for achieving this goal: algorithms for motion planning for high-dimensional systems with kinematic and dynamic constraints, integrated frameworks for reasoning under sensing and control uncertainty, novel methods for learning and for using experiences, and ways to instruct robots at a high level and collaborate with them. Kavraki’s lab is inspired by a variety of applications: from robots that will assist people in their homes, to robots that would build space habitats. In biomedicine she develops computational methods and tools to model protein structure and function, understand biomolecular interactions, aid the process of medicinal drug discovery, analyze the molecular machinery of the cell, and help integrate biological and biomedical data for improving human health. Her work has applications, among others, in personalized immunotherapy and in the design of novel therapeutics for asthma. Through the confluence of algorithms, statistical reasoning, formal methods, machine learning, data science and, importantly, physics modeling, Kavraki and her associates seek to understand how computers can reason effectively and robustly about problems in the real world.

Kavraki has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications and is one of the authors of the widely-used robotics textbook titled “Principles of Robot Motion” published by MIT Press. Work in her group has produced the Open Motion Planning Library (OMPL), an open-source library of motion planning algorithms. The library links directly with the Robot Operating System (ROS) and MoveIt, and it is heavily used in industry and in academia. Other widely used prototypes of the research conducted in her laboratory include DINC for molecular docking and LabelHash for matching 3D structural motifs in proteins. Her research has been funded by NSF, NIH, ARO, NASA, and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Kavraki's more than 30 postdocs and PhD alums have gone on to faculty positions at prestigious universities, industrial research labs, startups as well as large software companies.

She currently serves on the Board of Reviewing Editors for PNAS-Nexus of The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. She is Senior Associate Editor for Annual Reviews for Robotics, Control, and Autonomous Systems from Annual Reviews; Associate Editor for Science Robotics from Science Journals; and on the Editorial Board for Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (STAR), from Springer – Verlag. Kavraki was the program chair and the general chair of “Robotics: Science and Systems,” the premier robotics conference. and leads the NIH/NLM T 15 Training Program in Biomedical Informatics and Data Science under the auspices of the Keck Center of the Gulf Coast Consortia in Houston.

Kavraki is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST), International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE), Academia Europaea, and the Academy of Athens. She has served the Academies in multiple roles including serving as a vice-Chair and Chair of Section1 of NAM, founding member of the Health and Technology Interest Group of NAM, and member of the Board of Mathematical Sciences and Analytics.

She has received the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award, ACM Athena Lecturer Award and the ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award. Kavraki has also received the Robotics Pioneer Award from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. Earlier awards include an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Fellowship, a Whitaker Investigator Award, the Early Academic Career Award from the IEEE Society on Robotics and Automation, a recognition as a top TR100 investigator from the MIT Technology Review Magazine, a recognition as a Brilliant 10 Scientist from the Popular Science Magazine, and the Anita Borg ABIE Technical Leadership Award. At Rice University, she is the recipient of the Charles Duncan Award for Excellence in Research and Teaching, the Presidential Mentorship Award and the Outstanding Faculty Research Award from the Engineering School. In Houston, she has been recognized with BioHouston’s Women in Science Award. Kavraki is a Fellow of ACM, a Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

More information about Kavraki's research can be found at the Kavraki Lab website.

Research Areas

Robotics, Computational Biomedicine, AI, Algorithms

Honors & Awards

Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2023

IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal, 2023

World's Top 35 Women Scientists in Robotics, Engineering and Science, IROS, 2022

Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service, Rice University, 2022

ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award, 2020

Pioneer Award, IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, 2020

Outstanding Faculty Research Award, Engineering School, Rice University, 2020

Member, Academia Europaea, 2020

Member, International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, 2020

Corresponding Member, Academy of Athens, Greece, 2018

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Athena Lecturer Award, 2017

Presidential Mentoring Award, Rice University, 2016

ABIE Technical Leadership Award, Anita Borg Institute, 2015

Honorary Member, Artificial Intelligence Society of Greece, 2014

Member, National Academy of Medicine, USA, 2012

Member, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST), 2012

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2012

Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 2012

BioHouston's Women in Science Award, 2012

Fellow, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2010

Fellow, The World Technology Network (WTN), 2004

Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2004

Fellow, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), 2008

World Open Source Software Challenge Grand Prize, OMPL (Open Motion Planning Library), 2012

Charles Duncan Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, Rice University, 2004

100 World's Top Young Innovators by MIT's Technology Review Magazine, 2002

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award, 2002

Brilliant 10 Scientists, Popular Science Magazine, 2002

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award

Whitaker Investigator, 2001

Fellow, Sloan Foundation, 2000

NSF CAREER Award (Early Development Career Award), 1997-2002

Rockwell Foundation Fellowship, 1994

GTE Fellowship, 1993

Stanford University Fellowship, 1989, 1990

Four Annual Scholarships (1985-1989) from the Greek Scholarship Fund

Award for 1st place among graduates of the Computer Science Department, University of Crete, Greece, 1989


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