Our research group’s name is LEADCAT: LEArning, Decision, Control, AuTonomy. We are proud of our informal, collaborative, and open-minded group culture. Please click on each current member’s name to read more about them and their work.

Hamza El-Kebir
Hamza El-Kebir

Hamza is a PhD student in aerospace engineering, co-advised by Prof. Joseph Bentsman. He completed his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology in 2020. He has been conducting undergraduate research in range-restricted sounding rocket guidance in Delft.

Hamza’s interests lie in the area of space vehicle guidance, trajectory prediction and reusable launch vehicle design. He is currently working on the in-flight estimation of environmental parameters and vehicle capabilities. He is an avid spaceflight enthusiast, and is intrigued by both its history and current developments. Hamza spends his free time working on future sounding rocket designs and enjoys taking long hikes in the countryside.

Pranay Thangeda
Pranay Thangeda

Pranay is a PhD student in aerospace engineering. He recently received his MSc from our group with the thesis titled “Efficient Learning and Planning Using Spatial Side Information”.

Pranay’s interests lie in the areas of decision making under uncertainty, learning and autonomy. Currently, he is working on problems in reinforcement learning, transit planning, and multi-agent coordination. Pranay spends his free time on photography, baking, and traveling.

Taha Shafa
Taha Shafa

Taha is a PhD student in aerospace engineering. He graduated with a dual master’s degree in electrical engineering and robotics from Arizona State University, where he was involved in design of a bipedal roadrunner robot.

Taha’s current work is on guaranteed reachability for partially unknown nonlinear systems. He is originally from the Boston area, and believes that, contrary to what you might hear, as nice as the seafood from Boston is, their cheesesteaks are better. He plays tennis and used to play the saxophone.

Gokul Puthumanaillam
Gokul Puthumanaillam

Gokul is a PhD student in aerospace engineering. He completed his bachelor’s degree in ECE, with a minor in computational mathematics, from Manipal Institute of Technology.
He is knee-deep into the world of planning, optimization, and controls with applications to adversarial environments. As an undergraduate student, he worked on applications of these topics in the field of robotics and unmanned systems.

Besides research, he spends most of his free time reading books, playing competitive chess and badminton and enjoys playing stringed instruments. He is an ardent follower of motorsport events, and a small part of his Saturdays and Sundays are set aside for watching Formula 1 and Formula 2 Grand Prix.

Ram Padmanabhan
Ram Padmanabhan

Ram Padmanabhan is an incoming PhD student in electrical and computer engineering. He graduated with an MSc from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he worked on analyzing the effect of varying step sizes on the convergence of first-order optimization algorithms. Ram’s research interests lie broadly at the intersection of control and learning, particularly involving optimization. He has previously worked on the design of discrete-time robust controllers, and adaptive iterative learning control.

In his free time, Ram spends “a little too much time on YouTube” (in his own words!), and enjoys watching Formula 1 races on weekends. He plays the Veena (an Indian stringed instrument), is an avid mobile photographer, plays badminton and enjoys cycling.

Karan Jagdale
Karan Jagdale

Karan is an MSc student in aerospace engineering. He completed his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from IIT Bombay, and has previously worked on designing and implementing an estimation law for states of human joints and execution of a coverage control algorithm using multiple bots.

Karan’s interests lie in the broad field of dynamics and control, both including theoretical research and implementations. He is an avid follower of chess and cricket and in his free time like to watch sports, go on a trek, and eat good food.

Manav Vora
Manav Vora

Manav is an MSc student in aerospace engineering, with a primary research interest in using learning methods in robotics and controls. During his undergraduate studies at IIT Bombay, manav had worked on controller design for drones as well as on various neural network architectures to help achieve robust control via learning. Currently, sequential decision making and reinforcement learning is a research avenue that interests him the most.

His hobbies include learning about, playing and watching sports. He is a huge cricket enthusiast and loves traveling and visiting new places.

Elena Fernández Bravo
Anakin Dey
Anakin Dey

Anakin is an undergraduate student in mathematics. His interest in math is primarily algebraic and probabilistic. In addition to mathematics his interests lie in computer science, particularly the more theoretical aspects that are closely related to math such as algorithms and cryptography.

Anakin’s current work is related to the multi-agent, multi-target planning over stochastic dynamics.. He is also an officer of the school’s cybersecurity club SIGPwny where he developed challenges for their yearly Capture the Flag event. Outside of his classes he enjoys teaching, drawing, and playing the saxophone.

Sam Ruggerio


Completed Degrees
Jean-Baptiste Bouvier, PhD (UIUC), 2023
Thesis title: Guaranteed Resilience of Autonomous Systems to Partial Loss of Control Authority over Actuators
First position after graduation: Postdoctoral fellow, UIUC
Farhad Nawaz, MSc (UIUC), 2021
Thesis title: Multi-Agent, Multi-Objective Path Planning in Complex Environments
First position after graduation: PhD student, University of Pennsylvania
Pranay Thangeda, MSc (UIUC), 2020
Thesis title: Efficient Learning and Planning Using Spatial Side Information
First position after graduation: PhD student, UIUC
Undergraduate Research Students

Yuto Kibe, 2021-2022
Ani Pirosmanishvili, 2021
Kathleen Xu, 2019-2021
Wanzheng Zheng, 2020-2021
Zhengguan Dai, 2019-2021
Peter Piatek, 2020


Alen Golpashin — PhD student, 2020-2021
Gregory Rodriguez — Summer Predoctoral Institute student, 2020