Marcia O'Malley

WEBSITE(S)| Faculty Bio | Research Lab

Marcia O’Malley is the Thomas Michael Panos Family Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. Her research is in the areas of haptics and robotic rehabilitation, with a focus on the design and control of wearable robotic devices for training and rehabilitation. She has twice received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. O’Malley was a recipient of both the ONR Young Investigator award and the NSF CAREER Award. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Research Areas

Marcia O’Malley’s research addresses issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems. Her expertise includes the design and control of exoskeletons and haptic interfaces, and quantifying the effect of device design on human haptic perception, with a focus on training and rehabilitation in virtual environments.

Industry Impact & Relevance

The MAHI (Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces) Lab studies physical human-robot interaction. Physical interactions between humans and robots are information rich exchanges that can be leveraged to enhance both human and robot performance. Dr. O’Malley’s research focuses on the design of robotic hardware and control systems for applications that involve collaboration between humans and robots. Examples include skill training in virtual reality; control of remote robots; human-human, human-robot, and human-agent communication; and movement assistance for workforce safety, dexterity enhancement, strength enhancement, and rehabilitation following injury. Robots are increasingly being used in applications that involve close coordination and even physical contact with humans. No longer are robots relegated to roped off spaces on factory floors. Instead, they are in our homes, healthcare facilities, and workplaces. Robots can be used to train workers in virtual reality, using force feedback and haptics to guide the trainee like a virtual coach and objectively assess performance. Wearable robotic systems can augment human dexterity and strength. Pre-programmed robots can be tuned by allowing a human expert to adjust movements during execution. Together, these capabilities can improve workforce efficiency, safety, and productivity.


2001 Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

1999 M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

1996 B.S.M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

Teaching Areas

Introduction to Robotics

Design of Mechatronic Systems

Translational Neuroengineering

Modeling of Dynamic Systems

Recent Patent Applications

US9910411B2 “Method and device for real-time differentiation of analog and digital signals”

Societies & Organizations

Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Member, Scientia

Honors & Awards

2022: Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association (AAIA) Fellow

2022: Recognized as one of 35 Women in Robotics Engineering and Science (WiRES), International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS)

2021: IEEE Transactions on Haptics Best Application Paper Award

2021: Rice University Presidential Mentoring Award

2020: ASME Dynamic Systems and Controls Division Nyquist Lecturer

2019: Purdue University Outstanding Mechanical Engineer, Alumni Award

2019: Women in Science with Excellence (WISE) Award, BioHouston

2019: Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service, Rice University

2019: Graduate Student Association Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award, Rice University

2017: George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, Rice University

2008: George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, Rice University


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