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 and incoming member’s name to read more about them and their work.

Yiming Meng
Yiming Meng

Yiming is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Coordinated Science Laboratory. Before joining UIUC, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo, where he collaborated with Prof. Jun Liu. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Waterloo in October 2022, advised by Prof. Jun Liu and Prof. N. Sri Namachchivaya. His research addresses intelligent control synthesis for nonlinear dynamical systems operating in uncertain environments.

Yiming spends his free time listening to well-arranged music, particularly favoring bass and classical genres. He also used to be a semi-professional swimmer at a young age. Now, he swims to stay fit.

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 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 is a 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.

Manav Vora
Manav Vora

Manav is a PhD 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.

Aamir Hussain Chughtai
Aamir Hussain Chughtai

Aamir is a visiting research scholar in our group. He is a graduating PhD student in Electrical Engineering at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Lahore, Pakistan. His research has been recently directed towards topics in information engineering. In particular, he has been interested in devising and evaluating different mathematical algorithms, for robust state estimation and learning, using tools from statistical signal processing and AI, mostly from a Bayesian perspective. The developed techniques have been successfully tested in applications across domains including localization, positioning, spatial perception, healthcare data cleaning, etc.

He plans to leverage estimation, detection and learning theories to enable solutions for intriguing real-world problems related to mobility, sensor fusion for machine intelligence, and securing cyber-physical systems, e.g., detection and mitigation of adversarial attacks on critical infrastructure. He remains interested in both modeling-based and data-driven methods for intelligent systems and using both approaches to build practical inferential pipelines.

Elena Fernández Bravo
Elena Fernández Bravo

Elena is a PhD student in aerospace engineering, advised by Prof. James Allison, and affiliated with our group for a project on sensitivity of optimal controllers on the problem parameters. She completed her MSc degree in spacecraft design at Luleå University of Technology in 2021, where she worked on attitude control of flexible spacecraft.

Elena’s current work is on integrated physical and control system design (co-design) optimization methods. In her free time, she likes to read fantasy books and travel.

Rohan Balchandani
Rahul Bansal
Aaliyah Gaffey
Aaliyah Gaffey

Aaliyah is an undergraduate studying aerospace engineering. She is additionally on the pre-medical track, with the intention to work as a flight surgeon in the future and focusing on surgical innovation in spaceflight. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, reading, chess, and traveling.

Will Song
Will Song

Will is an undergraduate student in aerospace engineering who until recently taught as a UAV/Drone Assistant Instructor at the Army Intelligence School in South Korea. During his time there, he developed an interest in multi-agent systems and swarm algorithms and is looking to further explore the field as an undergrad. During his free time, Will likes to work on his home media server and read sci-fi novels.

Siddharth Dinkar
Jesse Wei


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
Karan Jagdale, MSc (UIUC), 2023
Thesis title: Planning in Modular Multi-Agent Systems
First position after graduation: Industry — Monarch Tractors
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

Anakin Dey, 2021–2023
Yuvraj Mamik, 2023
Sam Ruggerio, 2022–2023
Yuto Kibe, 2021–2022
Ani Pirosmanishvili, 2021
Kathleen Xu, 2019–2021
Wanzheng Zheng, 2020–2021
Zhengguan Dai, 2019–2021
Peter Piatek, 2020
Hamza El-Kebir, 2019


Adhiraj Saxena — Independent study (MSc), 2023
Alen Golpashin — PhD student, 2020–2021
Gregory Rodriguez — Summer Predoctoral Institute student, 2020