Cowan, Noah J.

Professor
Mechanical Engineering
http://limbs.lcsr.jhu.edu

Hackerman Hall 121
(410) 516-5301
ncowan@jhu.edu

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News

Johns Hopkins scholars, leaders celebrate faculty research awards

September 4, 2015

Scholars from across Johns Hopkins University’s 10 divisions gathered last night at the George Peabody Library to celebrate 60 innovative research projects that are being supported by the inaugural Catalyst and Discovery awards. Thirty-seven early career scholars (five of them from WSE) received Catalyst Awards and 23 cross-divisional faculty teams, which included 14 WSE faculty […]

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No Clowning Around: Juggling Study Sheds Light on Locomotion

February 11, 2014

Juggling may sound like mere entertainment, but a study led by Johns Hopkins engineers has used this circus skill to gather critical clues about how vision and the sense of touch help control the way humans and animals move their limbs in a repetitive way, such as in running. The findings eventually may aid in […]

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About

Education
  • Ph.D. 2001, Univ of Michigan Ann Arbor*
  • Master of Science 1997, Univ of Michigan Ann Arbor*
  • Bachelor of Science 1995, Ohio State Univ Columbus
Experience
  • 2017 - 2099:  Professor, WSE Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 2014 - Present:  Joint, SOM Neuroscience
  • 2013 - Present:  Assistant Director, Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics
  • 2005 - 2020:  Professor - Secondary, WSE Computer Science
  • 2001 - 2003:  Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley
Research Areas
  • BIOMECHANICS
  • Control systems
  • Locomotion
  • NEUROSCIENCE
  • Robotics
Awards
  • 2014:  The Dunn Family Award
  • 2012:  James S. McDonnell Complex Systems Scholar Award
  • 2012:  Finalist - Best Paper in 2012 in Journal of Experimental Biology
  • 2011:  PECASE
  • 2009:  National Science Foundation CAREER Award
  • 2006:  Finalist - Best Paper - 2006 Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) Conference - awarded at the 2007 IROS Conference. Joint with Robert J. Webster - III - and Allison M. Okamura.
  • 2005:  William H. Huggins Excellence in Teaching Award:This award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching in the Whiting School of Engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and a demonstrated dedication to students.
  • 2000:  Finalist - Best Student Paper - Conference on Decisions and Controls - Sydney - Australia.
  • 2000:  Rackham Graduate Fellow - University of Michigan.
  • 1995:  I.E.C. Everitt Award
  • 1995:  Summa Cum Laude - Ohio State University
  • 1994:  Golden Key
  • 1994:  Undergraduate Research Scholar - Ohio State University.
  • 1993:  Eta Kappa Nu
  • 1993:  Tau Beta Pi
Presentations
  • "Closed-Loop Analysis of Sensorimotor Systems", Mathematical Biosciences Lecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology.  United States of America (the).  October 3, 2017
  • "Closing the Loop between Biology and Robotics", Imperial College Summer School on Bio-Inspired Robotics.  United States of America (the).  September 20, 2017
  • "Stabilizing the Unstable Brain", Robotics Institute Seminar, Carnegie Mellon University.  March 25, 2017
  • "Stabilizing the Unstable Brain", Janelia Research Campus Seminar.  March 13, 2017
  • "Stabilizing the Unstable Brain", Winter Workshop on Locomotion.  January 21, 2017
  • "Stabilizing the Unstable Brain", Applied Math Seminar, University of Waterloo.  January 1, 2016
  • "Active Sensing via Rhythmic Movement Shapes Sensory Feedback for Control", Dynamic Walking.  Ann Arbor, MI.  January 1, 2016
  • "Identifying Stability Properties of a Hybrid Spring-Mass-Damper via Piecewise LTI Approximation and Harmonic Transfer Functions", Dynamic Walking.  January 1, 2015
  • "Sensory Weighting in a Rhythmic Ball Bouncing Task", Dynamic Walking.  January 1, 2015
  • "Closing the Loop Around Free Behavior During Active Sensing", Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting.  West Palm Beach, FL.  January 1, 2015
  • Invited Speaker, Dynamic Walking Conference.  January 1, 2015
  • ""Time" as a sensorimotor control problem: performance limits of human auditory -- motor entrainment", Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.  Portland, OR.  January 1, 2015
  • Biophysics Colloquium, Georgia Institute of Technology.  January 1, 2015
  • Biotechnology Seminar Series, University of Nebraska.  January 1, 2015
  • GRASP Laboratory Seminar Series, University of Pennsylvania.  January 1, 2015
  • Biology Colloquium, Muhlenberg College.  January 1, 2015
  • Invited Speaker, Robotics-Inspired Biology Workshop, International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).  January 1, 2015
  • Applied Dynamics Seminar Series, University of Maryland.  January 1, 2014
  • Joint seminar for CiBER-IGERT and the Control Theory Seminar Series, University of California, Berkeley.  January 1, 2014
  • Neuroscience Retreat, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.  January 1, 2014
  • Rehabilitation Science Research Seminar, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.  January 1, 2014
  • "Fitting low-order transfer function models to messy biological data", AMS Spring Eastern Sectional Meeting.  January 1, 2014

Publications

Journal Articles
  • Madhav MS, Jayakumar RP, Demir A, Stamper SA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2018).  High-resolution behavioral mapping of electric fishes in Amazonian habitats.  Scientific Reports.  8(1).
  • Uyanik I, Saranli U, Ankarali MM, Cowan NJ, Morgul O (2018).  Frequency-Domain Subspace Identification of Linear Time Periodic (LTP) Systems.  IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control.
  • Kunapareddy A, Cowan NJ (2018).  Recovering Observability via Active Sensing.  Proceedings of the American Control Conference.  2018-June.
  • Zimmet AM, Cowan NJ, Bastian AJ (2018).  Patients with Cerebellar Ataxia Do Not Benefit from Limb Weights.  Cerebellum.
  • Sutton EE, Demir A, Stamper SA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2016).  Dynamic modulation of visual and electrosensory gains for locomotor control.  Journal of the Royal Society Interface.  13(118).
  • Lamperski A, Cowan NJ (2016).  Optimal Control with Noisy Time.  IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control.  61(2).
  • Fuerst B, Sutton EE, Ghotbi R, Cowan NJ, Navab N (2016).  Bioelectric navigation: A new paradigm for intravascular device guidance.  Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics).  9900 LNCS.
  • Uyanik I, Ankarali MM, Cowan NJ, Morgül Ö, Saranli U (2015).  Toward data-driven models of legged locomotion using harmonic transfer functions.  Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Advanced Robotics, ICAR 2015.
  • Sefati S, Cowan NJ, Vidal R (2015).  Linear systems with sparse inputs: Observability and input recovery.  Proceedings of the American Control Conference.  2015-July.
  • Ankarali MM, Sefati S, Madhav MS, Long A, Bastian AJ, Cowan NJ (2015).  Walking dynamics are symmetric (enough).  Journal of the Royal Society Interface.  12(108).
  • Uyamk I, Ankarali MM, Cowan NJ, Saranli U, Morgül Ö, Özbay H (2015).  Independent estimation of input and measurement delays for a hybrid vertical spring-mass-damper via harmonic transfer functions.  IFAC-PapersOnLine.  28(12).
  • Uyanik I, Ankarali MM, Cowan NJ, Saranli U, Morgül O, Ozbay H (2015).  Independent Estimation of Input and Measurement Delays for a Hybrid Vertical Spring-Mass-Damper via Harmonic Transfer Functions.  IFAC-PapersOnLine.  48(12).
  • Uyanlk I, Ankarall MM, Cowan NJ, Saranll U, Morgül Ö (2015).  Identification of a vertical hopping robot model via harmonic transfer functions.  Transactions of the Institute of Measurement and Control.  38(5).
  • Swensen JP, Lin M, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2014).  Torsional dynamics of steerable needles: Modeling and fluoroscopic guidance.  IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.  61(11).
  • Roth E, Sponberg S, Cowan NJ (2014).  A comparative approach to closed-loop computation.  Current Opinion in Neurobiology.  25.
  • Mert Ankarali M, Tutkun Scedil;en H, De A, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2014).  Haptic feedback enhances rhythmic motor control by reducing variability, not improving convergence rate.  Journal of Neurophysiology.  111(6).
  • Cowan NJ, Ankarali MM, Dyhr JP, Madhav MS, Roth E, Sefati S, Sponberg S, Stamper SA, Fortune ES, Daniel TL (2014).  Feedback control as a framework for understanding tradeoffs in biology.  Integrative and Comparative Biology.  54(2).
  • Ankarali MM, Cowan NJ (2014).  System identification of rhythmic hybrid dynamical systems via discrete time harmonic transfer functions.  Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.  2015-February(February).
  • Mongeau JM, Demir A, Dallmann CJ, Jayaram K, Cowan NJ, Full RJ (2014).  Mechanical processing via passive dynamic properties of the cockroach antenna can facilitate control during rapid running.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  217(18).
  • Rosenberg A, Cowan NJ, Angelaki DE (2013).  The visual representation of 3D object orientation in parietal cortex.  Journal of Neuroscience.  33(49).
  • Mongeau JM, Demir A, Lee J, Cowan NJ, Full RJ (2013).  Locomotion-and mechanics-mediated tactile sensing: Antenna reconfiguration simplifies control during high-speed navigation in cockroaches.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  216(24).
  • Lamperski A, Cowan NJ (2013).  Time-changed linear quadratic regulators.  2013 European Control Conference, ECC 2013.
  • Kutzer MDM, Tunstel EW, Brown CY, Vahdat D, Clark JE, Cowan NJ, Armand M (2013).  Morphable limbs for multi-legged climbing on convex structures.  Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest (Applied Physics Laboratory).  32(3).
  • Sefati S, Neveln ID, Roth E, Mitchell TRT, Snyder JB, MacIver MA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2013).  Mutually opposing forces during locomotion can eliminate the tradeoff between maneuverability and stability.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.  110(47).
  • Madhav MS, Stamper SA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2013).  Closed-loop stabilization of the Jamming Avoidance Response reveals its locally unstable and globally nonlinear dynamics.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  216(22).
  • Carver SG, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2013).  State-estimation and cooperative control with uncertain time.  Proceedings of the American Control Conference.
  • Dyhr JP, Morgansen KA, Daniel TL, Cowan NJ (2013).  Flexible strategies for flight control: An active role for the abdomen.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  216(9).
  • Dyhr JP, Cowan NJ, Colmenares DJ, Morgansen KA, Daniel TL (2012).  Autostabilizing airframe articulation: Animal inspired air vehicle control.  Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.
  • Stamper SA, Madhav MS, Cowan NJ, Fortune ES (2012).  Research article beyond the Jamming Avoidance Response: Weakly electric fish respond to the envelope of social electrosensory signals.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  215(23).
  • Roth E, Reiser MB, Dickinson MH, Cowan NJ (2012).  A task-level model for optomotor yaw regulation in drosophila melanogaster: A frequency-domain system identification approach.  Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.
  • Swensen JP, Cowan NJ (2012).  An almost global estimator on SO(3) with measurement on S2.  Proceedings of the American Control Conference.
  • Sefati S, Neveln I, MacIver MA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2012).  Counter-propagating waves enhance maneuverability and stability: A bio-inspired strategy for robotic ribbon-fin propulsion.  Proceedings of the IEEE RAS and EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics.
  • Cowan NJ, Chastain EJ, Vilhena DA, Freudenberg JS, Bergstrom CT (2012).  Nodal dynamics, not degree distributions, determine the structural controllability of complex networks.  PLoS ONE.  7(6).
  • Stamper SA, Roth E, Cowan NJ, Fortune ES (2012).  Active sensing via movement shapes spatiotemporal patterns of sensory feedback.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  215(9).
  • Demir A, Ankarali MM, Dyhr JP, Morgansen KA, Daniel TL, Cowan NJ (2012).  Inertial redirection of thrust forces for flight stabilization.  Adaptive Mobile Robotics - Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots and the Support Technologies for Mobile Machines, CLAWAR 2012.
  • Swensen JP, Cowan NJ (2012).  Torsional dynamics compensation enhances robotic control of tip-steerable needles.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
  • Kallem V, Chang DE, Cowan NJ (2011).  Observer design for needle steering using task-induced symmetry and reduction.  IFAC Proceedings Volumes (IFAC-PapersOnline).  18(PART 1).
  • Reed KB, Majewicz A, Kallem V, Alterovitz R, Goldberg K, Cowan NJ, Okamura AM (2011).  Robot-assisted needle steering.  IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine.  18(4).
  • Roth E, Zhuang K, Stamper SA, Fortune ES, Cowan NJ (2011).  Stimulus predictability mediates a switch in locomotor smooth pursuit performance for Eigenmannia virescens.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  214(7).
  • Rucker DC, Webster RJ, Chirikjian GS, Cowan NJ (2010).  Equilibrium conformations of concentric-tube continuum robots.  International Journal of Robotics Research.  29(10).
  • Demir A, Samson EW, Cowan NJ (2010).  A tunable physical model of arthropod antennae.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
  • Swensen JP, Kallem V, Cowan NJ (2010).  Empirical characterization of convergence properties for kernel-based visual servoing.  Lecture Notes in Control and Information Sciences.  401.
  • De A, Lee J, Keller N, Cowan NJ (2010).  Toward SLAM on graphs.  Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics.  57.
  • Kalumuck KM, Brandt A, Armand M, Kutzer MD, Brown CY, Cowan NJ, Prosperetti A, Blizzard C, Burns R, Takagi M, Fortune ES (2010).  Biomimetic undulating fin propulsion for maneuvering underwater vehicles.  Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest (Applied Physics Laboratory).  28(3).
  • Kallem V, Chang DE, Cowan NJ (2010).  Task-induced symmetry and reduction with application to needle steering.  IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control.  55(3).
  • Reed KB, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2009).  Modeling and control of needles with torsional friction.  IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.  56(12).
  • Webster RJ, Swensen JP, Romano JM, Cowan NJ (2009).  Closed-Form Differential Kinematics for Concentric-Tube Continuum Robots with Application to Visual Servoing.  Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics.  54.
  • Reed KB, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2009).  Controlling a robotically steered needle in the presence of torsional friction.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
  • Carver SG, Kiemel T, Cowan NJ, Jeka JJ (2009).  Optimal motor control may mask sensory dynamics.  Biological Cybernetics.  101(1).
  • Kallem V, Cowan NJ (2009).  Image guidance of flexible tip-steerable needles.  IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  25(1).
  • Webster RJ, Romano JM, Cowan NJ (2009).  Mechanics of precurved-tube continuum robots.  IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  25(1).
  • Carver SG, Cowan NJ, Guckenheimer JM (2009).  Lateral stability of the spring-mass hopper suggests a two-step control strategy for running.  Chaos.  19(2).
  • Reed KB, Kallem V, Alterovitzt R, Goldberg K, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2008).  Integrated planning and image-guided control for planar needle steering.  Proceedings of the 2nd Biennial IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, BioRob 2008.
  • Webster RJ, Romano JM, Cowan NJ (2008).  Kinematics and calibration of active cannulas.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
  • Carver S, Roth E, Cowan NJ, Fortune ES (2008).  Synaptic plasticity can produce and enhance direction selectivity.  PLoS Computational Biology.  4(2).
  • Lee J, Sponberg SN, Loh OY, Lamperski AG, Full RJ, Cowan NJ (2008).  Templates and anchors for antenna-based wall following in cockroaches and robots.  IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  24(1).
  • Kallem V, Dewan M, Swensen JP, Hager GD, Cowan NJ (2007).  Kernel-based visual servoing.  IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
  • Kallem V, Chang DE, Cowan NJ (2007).  Task-induced symmetry and reduction in kinematic systems with application to needle steering.  IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
  • Lee J, Loh OY, Cowan NJ (2007).  A hierarchy of neuromechanical and robotic models of antenna-based wall following in cockroaches.  IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
  • Kallem V, Cowan NJ (2007).  Image-guided control of flexible bevel-tip needles.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
  • Cowan NJ (2007).  Navigation functions on cross product spaces.  IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control.  52(7).
  • Cowan NJ, Fortune ES (2007).  The critical role of locomotion mechanics in decoding sensory systems.  Journal of Neuroscience.  27(5).
  • Webster RJ, Cowan NJ, Chirikjian G, Okamura AM (2006).  Nonholonomic modeling of needle steering.  Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics.  21.
  • Lee J, Lamperski A, Schmitt J, Cowan N (2006).  Task-level control of the lateral leg spring model of cockroach locomotion.  Lecture Notes in Control and Information Sciences.  340.
  • Webster RJ, Okamura AM, Cowan NJ (2006).  Toward active cannulas: Miniature snake-like surgical robots.  IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
  • Cowan NJ, Lee J, Full RJ (2006).  Task-level control of rapid wall following in the American cockroach.  Journal of Experimental Biology.  209(9).
  • Webster RJ, Kim JS, Cowan NJ, Chirikjian GS, Okamura AM (2006).  Nonholonomic modeling of needle steering.  International Journal of Robotics Research.  25(5-6).
  • Cowan NJ (2005).  Composing navigation functions on Cartesian products of manifolds with boundary.  Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics.  17.
  • Cowan NJ, Ma EJ, Cutkosky M, Full RJ (2005).  A biologically inspired passive Antenna for steering control of a running robot.  Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics.  15.
  • Park W, Kim JS, Zhou Y, Cowan NJ, Okamura AM, Chirikjian GS (2005).  Diffusion-based motion planning for a nonholonomic flexible needle model.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.  2005.
  • Cowan NJ, Chang DE (2005).  Geometric visual servoing.  IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  21(6).
  • Lamperski AG, Loh OY, Kutscher BL, Cowan NJ (2005).  Dynamical wall following for a wheeled robot using a passive tactile sensor.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.  2005.
  • Piazzi J, Prattichizzo D, Cowan NJ (2004).  Auto-epipolar visual servoing.  2004 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS).  1.
  • Piazzi J, Cowan NJ (2004).  Multi-view visual servoing using epipoles.  2004 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS).  1.
  • Cowan N, Shakernia O, Vidail R, Sastry S (2003).  Vision-based Follow-the-Leader.  IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.  2.
  • Cowan NJ, Weingarten JD, Koditschek DE (2002).  Visual servoing via navigation functions.  IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation.  18(4).
  • Cowan NJ, Weingarten JD, Koditschek DE (2001).  Empirical validation of a new visual servoing strategy.  IEEE Conference on Control Applications - Proceedings.
  • Cowan NJ, Lopes GAD, Koditschek DE (2000).  Rigid body visual servoing using navigation functions.  Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.  4.
  • Cowan NJ, Koditschek DE (1999).  Planar image based visual servoing as a navigation problem.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.  1.
  • Cowan NJ, Koditschek DE (1998).  Toward global visual servos and estimators for rigid bodies.  Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.  3.
Book Chapters
  • Cowan NJ, Goldberg K, Chirikjian GS, Fichtinger G, Alterovitz R, Reed KB, Kallem V, Park W, Misra S, Okamura AM (2011).  Robotic needle steering: Design, modeling, planning, and image guidance.  Surgical Robotics: Systems Applications and Visions.
  • Cowan N, Goldberg K, Chirikjian G, Fichtinger G, Alterovitz R, Reed KB, Kallem V, Park W, Misra S, Okamura AM (2011).  Robotic Needle Steering: Design, Modeling, Planning, and Image Guidance..  Surgical Robotics - Systems, Applications, and Visions.  Springer.  557-582.
  • Fortune ES, Cowan N (2010).  Robot Behavior.  Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior.  Academic Press, Oxford.  3.  87-90.
  • Swensen JP, Kallem V, Cowan N (2010).  Empirical Characterization of Convergence Properties for Kernel-Based Visual Servoing.  Visual Servoing via Advanced Numerical Methods.  Springer.  401.  23-38.
  • De A, Lee J, Keller N, Cowan N (2010).  Toward SLAM on Graphs.  Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics VIII.  Springer-Verlag.  631-646.
  • Lee J, Lamperski A, Schmitt J, Cowan N (2006).  Task-Level Control of the Lateral Leg Spring Model of Cockroach Locomotion.  Fast Motions in Biomechanics and Robotics: Optimization and Feedback Control.  Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.  340.  167-188.
  • Cowan N (2004).  Composing Navigation Functions on Cartesian Products of Manifolds with Boundary.  Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics VI.  Springer.  91-106.
  • Cowan N, Ma EJ, Cutkosky M, Full RJ (2003).  A Biologically Inspired Passive Antenna for Steering Control of a Running Robot.  Robotics Research.  Springer.  540-550.
  • Cowan N, Chang DE (2002).  Toward Geometric Visual Servoing.  Control Problems in Robotics.  Springer-Verlag.  4.  233-248.
Patents
  • Cowan N, Fortune E, Fuerst B, Navab N  "System and Method for Bioelectric Localization and Navigation of Interventional Medical Devices", 2013.
  • Chirikjian G, Cowan N, Goldberg KY, Okamura AM, Webster RJ  "Distal Bevel-Tip Needle Control Device and Algorithm", 2010.
  • Cowan N, Okamura AM, Taylor RH, Webster RJ  "Active cannula for bio-sensing and surgical intervention", 2005.
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