Chen Li is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He is also a core faculty member of the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics.
Li’s research aims to create terradynamics, a new field at the interface of biology, robotics, and physics, which models the locomotor-terrain interaction during terrestrial locomotion in complex terrain, analogous to fluid-structure interaction during aerial and aquatic locomotion. He also uses the principles of terradynamics to understand animal movement and to advance robot mobility. As a PhD student, Li created the first terradynamics of legged animal and robot locomotion on the flowable ground such as sand. Since his postdoctoral work and at Johns Hopkins, he has been creating terradynamics of locomotion in complex 3-D terrains such as forest floor, mountain boulders, earthquake rubble, and Martian rocks.
His recent research has uncovered how snakes climb over large steps and how cockroaches move across cluttered obstacles; his team has created bio-inspired robots capable of doing so robustly.
Li’s research has been recognized by publication in journals including Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and has been selected as Best Paper (Advanced Robotics 2017), Highlight Papers (IROS 2016, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 2015), and Best Student Papers (Robotics: Science & Systems 2012, Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology 2009). Li is a recipient of a Miller Research Fellowship from the University of California, Berkeley; a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface; an Army Research Office Young Investigator Award; and a Beckman Young Investigator Award. He also has been selected as an alumnus of the National Academy of Sciences’ Kavli Frontiers of Science.
A member of the American Physical Society, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Society of Biomechanics, Li has served as a reviewer for journals such as Nature Communications, Science Robotics, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, and The Journal of Experimental Biology.
Li received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Peking University in Beijing, China, in 2005, and a PhD in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. He then spent three and a half years at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow studying integrative biology and robotics. He joined the Whiting School of Engineering faculty in 2016.