December 18, 2020

photo of ufuk topcuUfuk Topcu, an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, is the winner of the 2020 Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize. The award, established in 2005, is given annually by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Control Systems Society (CSS) to “recognize outstanding achievement in research in systems and control by a young researcher and to honor the memory of Dr. Antonio Ruberti.”

Topcu, who joined the Cockrell School of Engineering in 2015, specializes in the theoretical and algorithmic aspects of design and verification of autonomous systems. His group's work is at the intersection of formal methods, controls and learning. Current projects address creating truly autonomous systems with decision-making capabilities in uncertain environments and improving technology that involves human and autonomous interaction.

Topcu recently led a yearlong effort involving more than 100 autonomy experts nationwide which led to the completion of a report titled “Assured Autonomy: Path Toward Living with Autonomous Systems We Can Trust” which recommends that future autonomous system designs should be guided by a broad range of societal stakeholders, not just engineers and scientists.

“I am excited about receiving this award and it is an honor to join the distinguished group of people who have received it in the past,” said Topcu. “I would also like to acknowledge Karen Willcox for help with the nomination process – receiving the award would not have been possible without her initiative.”

Topcu’s research is supported by the DOD (Department of Defense), DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), AFOSR (Air Force of Scientific Research), ONR (Office of Naval Research), NASA, Sandia National Laboratories and more. He is a winner of the National Foundation Science CAREER Award and the AFOSR Young Investigator Program award. He was selected by the DOD to lead a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) project aimed at developing artificial intelligence for UAVs. He is a core member of both the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences and Texas Robotics.

Topcu earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. Before joining The University of Texas, he was with the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a postdoctoral scholar at California Institute of Technology until 2012.

The award, which includes a $5,000 and a photo-engraved plaque, was presented to Topcu at the virtual CSS Awards Ceremony on Dec. 18 at the 2020 IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.