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Robotics Engineer Tan Named MSU Foundation Professor

Xiaobo Tan

Michigan State University (MSU) has named Xiaobo Tan an MSU Foundation Professor. Tan, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of MSU’s Smart Microsystems Laboratory, focuses his research on electroactive polymer sensors and actuators, modeling and control of smart materials, and bio-inspired underwater robots.

According to MSU Provost June Pierce Youatt, MSU Foundation Professorships demonstrate the university’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding world-class scholars. The title is bestowed by MSU, with support from the MSU Foundation, to provide five years of supplemental research support to awardees. Tan will hold the MSU Foundation Professor designation permanently.

“Professor Tan’s work – particularly with fish-like underwater robots and their application to environmental sensing – has received worldwide attention,” said Youatt. “He has developed prototype robots that have applications for such wide-ranging problems as detection of environmental contaminants to tracking of invasive species in lakes.

Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering, said Tan “is an innovator who is continuously developing smarter robots and systems, using advanced control theory, new materials, and novel, bio-inspired approaches. His work is fascinating, even as it produces immediately practical applications.”

Tan’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission among others. Stephen Hsu, Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, said “Tan’s research has advanced the field of robotics and inspired a new generation of engineers.”

Hsu noted that Tan, who received his doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 2002 and joined MSU in 2004, was already awarded twelve NSF grants as a sole or lead principal investigator. Tan also has a strong outreach effort. He has been leading a Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Site program at MSU since 2009, and serves as the curator for an upcoming exhibit “Robofish Rendezvous”, scheduled to open at the MSU Museum in March.    

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