Webster earns IEEE Early Career Award for his pioneering robotics work

A Vanderbilt University researcher credited with pioneering work in robotics has earned one of electrical engineering’s highest honors, being recognized for innovations involving flexible, minimally invasive surgical robots.

Robert Webster, associate professor of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, otolaryngology, neurological surgery and urologic surgery, will collect his Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award in May at a Seattle conference.

Robert Webster

Webster was nominated by Allison Okamura, his adviser at John Hopkins University, who is now an associate professor at Stanford University.

She wrote in her nomination:  “Dr. Webster is one of the top young researchers in robotics due to his body of work contributing to (1) design, modeling, and control of novel continuously flexible robots, (2) novel robotics applications in minimally invasive surgery. These contributions expand the field of robotics because tentacle-like, flexible robots can work in cluttered, constrained, and/or unstructured environments inaccessible to traditional robots, due to their high dexterity and elasticity.

“The contributions yield societal impact by demonstrating how robots can make surgery safer, less invasive, and more accurate, giving doctors better tools to save lives and heal their patients more effectively.”

In addition, the nomination outlines Webster’s contributions to society, the profession and in the classroom. He reviews articles for IEEE, reviews grant proposals for the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, plans robotics conferences and earned the 2014 Award for Excellence in Teaching – given to one faculty member among the more than 100 faculty in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering each year.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
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