Gregory S. Chirikjian, internationally recognized scholar of robotics and fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), has been named as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware in the College of Engineering as of January 1, 2024.

“I am delighted that Greg has joined our department as the next chair. Greg is a global leader in the field of robotics, in particular the mathematical foundations of robotics. His eminence as a scholar will enhance our department’s reputation as a premier destination for research and education in autonomous and robotics systems,” said Ajay Prasad, Engineering Alumni Distinguished Professor and former department chair. “Beyond scholarship, Greg has gained extensive experience as an administrative leader at Johns Hopkins and the National University of Singapore, as well as NSF. I am convinced that he will take our department to new heights in all our endeavors. I am very excited to welcome him into the UD ME family!”

Chirikjian joins UD from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he was head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 2019 to 2023. At NUS, he was a professor of applied mechanics and control and the lab director for a robotics and protein kinematics laboratory.

Chirikjian is a roboticist and applied mathematician whose research interests include applications of group representation theory within engineering disciplines, kinematics, motion planning, medical image registration and the mechanics of macromolecules. His current research focuses on affordance-based reasoning in the context of robotics.

In psychology, the affordance of an object is defined by how a person uses it. When this concept is applied to robotics, it focuses on how robots can learn the affordance of objects in order to improve their understanding of their environments. Chirikjian is putting this concept into practice by having robots simulate the function of everyday objects to assess the objects’ affordances and functionality.

“I have worked in many research areas over the past three decades,” said Gregory Chirikjian. “Research is like fashion. Trends ebb and flow, with some things being easier or more difficult to fund at different times. In addition to continuing my recent research areas, with my return to the U.S. I hope to revive one of my long-standing interests in space robotics that has been put on the back burner for a while.”

Some of his notable academic contributions include authoring over 250 publications, being the 2014-2015 National Science Foundation’s U.S. National Robotics Initiative Program Director and establishing the theory on the kinematics of hyper-redundant robots.

Chirikjian is looking forward to getting to know all of the faculty, staff and students within the Department of Mechanical Engineering; he’s curious to see how the department operates and to learn Blue Hen traditions. One of his goals as chair is to build the manufacturing area.

“At its core, Mechanical Engineering (ME) is about machines that interconvert stored energy and motion,” Chirikjian said. “Designing, analyzing, and building machines is what ME is all about. The efficiency of machines and how they are powered are central themes in tackling climate change. Modern manufacturing systems such as 3D metal printing are in themselves machines that are revolutionizing the production of components in other machines, including everything from efficient heat exchangers to rocket engines.”

After receiving his undergraduate degree in 1988 from Johns Hopkins University, Chirikjian went on to get his doctoral degree from the California Institute of Technology. He then returned to Johns Hopkins as an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1992. He was promoted to an associate professor in 1997 and then full professor 2001, where he maintained his appointment until 2021.