30 women in robotics you need to know about – 2019

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08 October 2019

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From Mexican immigrant to MIT, from Girl Power in Latin America to robotics entrepreneurs in Africa and India, the 2019 annual “women in robotics you need to know about” list is here! We’ve featured 150 women so far, from 2013 to 2018, and this time we’re not stopping at 25. We’re featuring 30 inspiring #womeninrobotics because robotics is growing and there are many new stories to be told.

So, without further ado, here are the 30 Women In Robotics you need to know about – 2019 edition!

Alice Agogino

CEO & CTO – Squishy Robotics

Squishy robots are rapidly deployable mobile sensing robots for disaster rescue, remote monitoring and space exploration, developed from the research at the BEST Lab or Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities Lab. Prof. Alice Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Product Design Concentration Founder and Head Advisor, MEng Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and has a long history of combining research, entrepreneurship and inclusion in engineering. Agogino won the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award in 2012 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2018.

Danielle Applestone

CEO & CoFounder – Daughters of Rosies

While working at Otherlab, Danielle Applestone developed the Other Machine, a desktop CNC machine and machine control software suitable for students, and funded by DARPA. The company is now known as Bantam Tools, and was acquired by Bre Pettis. Currently, Applestone is CEO and CoFounder of Daughters of Rosie, on a mission to solve the labor shortage in the U.S. manufacturing industry by getting more women into stable manufacturing jobs with purpose, growth potential, and benefits.

Cindy Bethel

Professor and Billie J. Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering – Mississippi State University

Prof. Cindy Bethel’s research at MSU ranges from designing social robots for trauma victims to mobile robots for law enforcement and first responders. She focuses on human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction and interface design, robotics, affective computing, and cognitive science. Bethel was a NSF Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Research Fellow (CIFellow) at Yale University, is the Billie J. Ball Endowed Professorship of Engineering, the Director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab, and is the 2019 U.S. – Australian Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Sonja Betschart

Co-Founder & Chief Entrepreneurship Officer – WeRobotics

Sonja Betschart is the Co-Founder and Chief Entrepreneurship Officer of WeRobotics, a US/Swiss based non-profit organization that addresses the Digital Divide through local capacity and inclusive participation in the application of emerging technologies in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Oceania. Betschart is a passionate “”Tech for Good”” entrepreneur with a longstanding career in SME’s, multinationals and start-ups, including in the drone industry and for digital transformation initiatives. She holds Master degrees both in Marketing and SME Management and has been voted as one of Switzerlands’ Digital Shapers in 2018.

Susanne Bieller

General Secretary – International Federation of Robotics (IFR)

Dr. Susanne Bieller is General Secretary, of The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), a non-profit organization representing more than 50 manufacturers of industrial robots and national robot associations from over twenty countries. Before then, Dr Bieller was project manager of the European Robotics Association EUnited Robotics. After completing her PhD in Chemistry, she began her professional career at the European Commission in Brussels, then managed the flat-panel display group at the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) in Frankfurt.

Noramay Cadena

Managing Partner – MiLA Capital

Noramay Cadena is an engineer, entrepreneur, investor, and former nonprofit leader. She’s the Cofounder and Managing Director of Make in LA, an early stage hardware accelerator and venture fund in Los Angeles. Since launching in 2015, Make in LA’s venture fund has invested over a million dollars in seed stage companies who have have collectively raised over 25 million dollars and created jobs across the United States and in several other countries. Previously Cadena worked in aerospace with The Boeing Company, and cofounded the Latinas in STEM Foundation in 2013 to inspire and empower Latinas to pursue and thrive in STEM fields.

Madeline Gannon

Principal Researcher – ATONATON

Madeline Gannon is a multidisciplinary designer inventing better ways to communicate with machines. Her recent works taming giant industrial robots focus on developing new frontiers in human-robot relations. Her interactive installation, Mimus, was awarded a 2017 Ars Electronica STARTS Prize Honorable Mention. She was also named a 2017/2018 World Economic Forum Cultural Leader. She holds a PhD in Computational Design from Carnegie Mellon University, where she explored human-centered interfaces for autonomous fabrication machines. She also holds a Masters in Architecture from Florida International University.

Colombia Girl Powered Program

Girl Powered – VEX

The Girl Powered Program is a recent initiative from VEX and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, showcasing examples of how women can change the world, providing tools to enable girls to succeed, and providing safe spaces for them to do it in. Girl Powered focuses on supporting diverse creative teams, building inclusive environments, and redefining what a roboticist looks like.

Verity Harding

Co-Lead, DeepMind Ethics and Society – DeepMind

Verity Harding is Co-Lead of DeepMind Ethics & Society, a research unit established to explore the real-world impacts of artificial intelligence. The unit has a dual aim: to help technologists put ethics into practice, and to help society anticipate and direct the impact of AI so that it works for the benefit of all. Prior to this Verity was Head of Security Policy for Google in Europe, and previously the Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Sir Nick Clegg MP, with responsibility for Home Affairs and Justice. She is a graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford University, and was a Michael Von Clemm Fellow at Harvard University. In her spare time, Verity sits on the Board of the Friends of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Lydia Kavraki

Nora Harding Professor – Rice University

Prof. Lydia Kavraki is known for her pioneering works concerning paths for robots, reflected in her influential book Principles of Robot Motion. A professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering at Rice University, she is the developer of Probabilistic Roadmap Method (PRM), a system that uses randomizing and sampling-based motion planners to keep robots from crashing. She’s also the recipient of numerous accolades, including an ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, an NSF CAREER Award, a Sloan Fellowship and the ACM Athena Award in 2017/2018.

Dana Kulic

Professor – Monash University

Prof. Dana Kulić develops autonomous systems that can operate in concert with humans, using natural and intuitive interaction strategies while learning from user feedback to improve and individualise operation over long-term use. She serves as the Global Innovation Research Visiting Professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and the August-Wilhelm Scheer Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Munich. Before coming to Monash, she established the Adaptive Systems Lab at the University of Waterloo, and collaborated with colleagues to establish Waterloo as one of Canada’s leading research centers in robotics.

Jean Liu

President – Didi Chuxing

Jean Liu runs the largest mobility company in China, rapidly innovating in the smart cityscape. A native of China, Liu, 40, studied at Peking University and earned a master’s degree in computer science at Harvard. After a decade at Goldman Sachs, Liu joined Didi in 2014 as chief operating officer. During Liu’s tenure, Didi secured investments from all three of China’s largest internet service companies — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. It also bought Uber’s China operations in China and has announced a joint venture with the Japan’s Softbank. Liu is outspoken about the need for inclusion and women’s empowerment, also the role of technology in creating a better society.

Amy Loutfi

Professor at the AASS Research Center, Department of Science and Technology – Örebro University
Prof. Loutfi is head of the Center for Applied Autonomous Sensor Systems at Örebro University. She is also a professor in Information Technology at Örebro University. She received her Ph.d in Computer Science with a focus on the integration of artificial olfaction on robotic and intelligent systems. She currently leads one of the labs at the Center, the machine perception and interaction lab ( Her general interests are in the area of integration of artificial intelligence with autonomous systems, and over the years has looked into applications where robots closely interact with humans in both industry and domestic environments.

Sheila McIlraith

Professor – University of Toronto
Prof. Sheila McIlraith researches knowledge representation and automated reasoning, and is known for her practical contributions to next-generation NASA space systems and to emerging Web standards. She is a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and an associate editor of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR). In 2018, McIlraith served as program co-chair of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-18). In 2011 she and her co-authors were honoured with the SWSA 10-year Award, recognizing the highest impact paper from the International Semantic Web Conference.

Nancy McIntyre

Community Innovation Manager – REC Foundation
Nancy McIntyre has a Masters in Education and over 23 years of experience as a science teacher. As a coach and organizer, she has seen the impact of competition robotics programs in preparing young women for a career in STEM, whether it be an aerospace engineer or doing biomedical research. Since 2012, McIntyre has been the Regional Manager of the REC (Robotics Education & Competition) Foundation in the California and Silicon Valley region. Currently, she is also the Community Innovation Manager for the new global Girl Powered program run by VEX and REC Foundation.

Malika Meghjani

Assistant Professor – Singapore University of Technology
Dr. Meghjani received her PhD degree in Computer Science from McGill University, Canada, then was a Research Scientist and Technical Lead at Autonomous Vehicle Lab within Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). She was awarded SMART Postdoctoral Fellowship for her research proposals on “Multi-Class Autonomous Mobility-on-Demand System” and “Context and Intention Aware Planning under Uncertainty for Self-Driving Cars”. Her work on “Multi-Target Rendezvous Search”, was nominated as the finalist for the best paper award at IEEE/RSJ IROS. A start-up proposal based on her work, titled, “Multi-Agent Rendezvous on Street Networks”, won her the NSERC Strategic Network Enhancement Initiative Award.

Cristina Olaverri Monreal

BMVIT Endowed Professorship and Chair for Sustainable Transport Logistics 4.0 – Johannes Kepler University
Prof. Cristina Olaverri-Monreal graduated with a Master’s degree in Computational Linguistics, Computer Science and Phonetics from the Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich and received her PhD in cooperation with BMW. She worked several years internationally in industry and academia. Currently she is full professor and holds an BMVIT Endowed Professorship and Chair for Sustainable Transport Logistics 4.0 at Johannes Kepler University Linz, in Austria. Her research in Intelligent Transportation Systems focuses on minimizing the barrier between users and road systems with automation, wireless communication and sensing technologies.

Wendy Moyle

Program Director – Menzies Health Institute
Prof. Wendy Moyle’s research focus is in the areas of ageing and mental health, specifically neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Her research aims to achieve the best evidence possible for care of people with dementia and to reduce the distresses of the disease for the individual and their carers. She is internationally recognised for her research with social robots and assistive technologies. In 2012, she was invited to be advise the World Health Organization (WHO) Consultation Group on the Classification of Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms in Neurocognitive disorders for ICD-11. Currently, she is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth.

Yukie Nagai

Project Professor and Director of Cognitive Developmental Robotics Lab – University of Tokyo
Prof. Yukie Nagai is Director of the Cognitive Developmental Robotics Lab at the University of Tokyo, where she studies the neural mechanisms of human cognitive development using computational and robotic technologies, designing neural network models for robots to learn to acquire cognitive functions, in order to better understand the causes for social difficulties with among people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Nagai received her Ph.D. in Engineering from Osaka University in 2004, was a Post-Doctoral Researcher with the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) from 2004 to 2006, at Bielefeld University from 2006 to 2009, a Specially Appointed Associate Professor with Osaka University in 2009, and a Senior Researcher with NICT in 2017. Since April 2019, she is a Project Professor with the University of Tokyo.

Temitope Oladokun

Robotics Trainer – TechieGeeks
Temitope Oladokun is a Robotics Trainer who teaches robotics to high school and primary school students. After finishing her Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Maiduguri, Oladokun has focused on her company TechieGeeks and also volunteer work to alleviate poverty and spread science and techology literacy in Lagos, Nigeria. Since joining #WomenInRobotics, Oladokun is keen to set up mentorships between African students and overseas.

Svetlana Potyagaylo

SLAM Algorithm Engineer – Indoor Robotics
Svetlana Potyagaylo received her PhD in Aerospace Engineering on Planning and Operational Algorithms for Autonomous Helicopters at Technion-Machon Technologi Le’ Israel. She then developed an underwater autonomous robotic system for inspection and monitoring of aquacultures as part of the research project AQUABOT co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus, before returning to Technion as a research scientist. Potyagaylo is now an engineer at Indoor Robotics, a stealth mode startup.

Suriya Prabha

Founder & CEO YouCode
Suriya Prabha is the founder and CEO of YouCode, on a mission to teach rural Indian children AI skills, starting with remote villages and schools in Tamilnadu, India. Her curricula develops computational thinking via play, so robots are an integral part of the AI class. She believes that every small town and village in India should have the opportunity to learn about electronics and coding to help build a Intellectual, Innovative & Incredible India. So far she has trained 2500 students in 25 schools and is campaigning to get an AI lab in all government run schools.

Amanda Prorok

Assistant Professor – University of Cambridge
Amanda Prorok is a Lecturer in Cyber-Physical Systems at the University of Cambridge, UK. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, where she worked on networked robotic systems. Her PhD at EPFL, Switzerland, addressed the topic of localization with ultra-wideband sensing for robotic networks. Her dissertation was awarded the Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) award for the best thesis at EPFL in the fields of Computer Sciences, Automatics and Telecommunications. Further awards include Best Paper Award at DARS 2018, Finalist for Best Multi-Robot Systems Paper at ICRA 2017, Best Paper at BICT 2015, and MIT Rising Stars 2015.

Ellen Purdy

Director, Emerging Capabilities & Prototyping Initiatives & Analysis Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
Ellen M. Purdy currently serves as the Director, Emerging Capabilities & Prototyping Initiatives & Analysis in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (R&E). She is responsible for rapid development of fieldable prototypes and capability supporting emerging needs in autonomy, communications, sensing, and electronic warfare, with a focus on assessing resilience of new capabilities against adaptive adversaries. Previously, Purdy served as the Enterprise Director, Joint Ground Robotics where she had oversight of the unmanned ground systems portfolio, strategic planning for ground robotics and the annual RDT&E funding for ground robotic technology development, and where ground robotics inventory grew from under 1000 systems to over 6000 under her tenure.

Signe Redfield

Engineer – Naval Research Laboratory
Signe A. Redfield is currently working on the DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geostationary Satellites (RSGS) project as the Payload Mission Manager Lead. Prior to joining NRL in 2014, she was an engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Florida, supporting autonomous robotics projects and providing expertise gained during a three-year tour as the Associate Director for Autonomy and Unmanned Systems at the U.S. Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) in London. She is currently participating in a NATO Research Task Group focused on autonomy in limited-communications environments, and is part of the working group that developed the first IEEE RAS standard, covering core ontologies for robotics and automation.

Marcela Riccillo

Specialist in Artificial Intelligence & Robotics – Professor Machine Learning & Data Science
Prof. Marcela Riccillo specializes in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. She has more than 15 years of experience in
companies like IBM, carrying out consulting projects in predictive analytics, data mining, machine learning, information management and Artificial Intelligence applied to the industry. She was also a robotics columnist for Radio Palermo, part of the Jury in the TV show Eureka of Canal Encuentro, and writes about robotics and AI for popular magazines, courses and seminars. She currently works as a Professor in Data Science and Machine Learning at ITBA.

Selma Sabanovic

Associate Professor – Indiana University Bloomington
Prof. Selma Sabanovic works in human-robot interaction focusing on the design, use, and consequences of socially interactive and assistive robots in different social and cultural contexts. Sabanovic was a Visiting Professor at Bielefeld University’s Cluster of Excellence Center in Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC), lecturer in Stanford University’s Program in Science, Technology and Society in 2008/2009, and a visiting scholar at the Intelligent Systems Institute in AIST, Tsukuba, Japan and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Maria Telleria

Cofounder and CTO – Canvas
Maria Telleria is co-founder and CTO of Canvas – a startup making new machines for construction that empower the current workforce to be more productive and free from repetitive, physically taxing, and dangerous tasks. She moved from Mexico when she was 14, and then discovered a passion for robotics through robotics clubs. She studied Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and went on to do a PhD there studying centimeter-scale robotics (tools that can get into small places) and “no barcode” machines (inexpensive, low-energy use robotics feasible for one-time use).

Ann Whittaker

Head of People and Culture – Vicarious Surgical
Ann Whittaker is Head of People and Culture at Vicarious Surgical. Previously, she was co-founder of Rethink Robotics, and held high-level administration and communications roles in educational, philanthropic and life sciences organizations. Her past affiliations include MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the David Rockefeller Jr. Family Office, Millennium Pharmaceuticals and PAREXEL International Corporation. Ann holds a Bachelor of Arts from the American University and an MBA from Babson College.

Jinger Zeng

Community & Partnership – Auterion
Jinger Zeng is a technologist and entrepreneur. A mechanical engineer by training, she led a team in the development of a net-zero solar house that won international awards when she was at University of Nevada Las Vegas. She then co-founded Dronesmith Technologies in 2014, a company that develops drone hardware and software for developers and corporates. She graduated from Women’s Startup Lab and Techstars IoT. Currently, she works for Swiss startup Auterion, which builds open source infrastructure for autonomous robots. Her role is to develop global partnerships bringing state-of-art drone innovations to market.

Want to keep reading? There are 150 more stories on our 2013 to 2018 lists. Why not nominate someone for inclusion next year! Want to show your support in another fashion? Join the fashionistas with your very own #womeninrobotics tshirt, scarf or mug.

And we encourage #womeninrobotics and women who’d like to work in robotics to join our professional network at


Women In Robotics is a global community for women working in robotics, or who aspire to work in robotics
Women In Robotics is a global community for women working in robotics, or who aspire to work in robotics

Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.
Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large
Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large

Sabine Hauert is President of Robohub and Associate Professor at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Sabine Hauert is President of Robohub and Associate Professor at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory

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