Nikolay A. Atanasov

Assistant Professor

office Atkinson Hall 6127
lab Atkinson Hall 6400


I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of California, San Diego. I direct the Existential Robotics Laboratory (ERL) and am affiliated with the Contextual Robotics Institute (CRI) at UCSD.

Before joining UCSD, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania, working with Vijay Kumar. I defended my Ph.D. dissertation on Active Information Acquisition with Mobile Robots at the department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania in July, 2015. My advisors were George J. Pappas and Kostas Daniilidis. I received an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, in 2012 and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Trinity College, Hartford, CT, in 2008.

Research Interests

My research goal is to develop scientific principles aimed at increasing the reliability, efficiency, and versatility of autonomous robot systems. My work focuses on autonomous information collection using ground and aerial robots for localization and mapping, environmental monitoring, and security and surveillance. My theoretical contributions relate to probabilistic environment models that unify geometry and semantics and optimal control and reinforcement learning algorithms for minimizing uncertainty in these models.

The fields relevant to my research are robotics, machine learning, control theory, optimization, and computer vision.


Jun '21
I am co-organizing a workshop on Safe Robot Control with Learned Motion and Environment Models at the 2021 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).
May '21
I am co-organizing an invited session on Safe and Risk-aware Planning and Control for Learning-enabled Systems at the 2021 American Control Conference (ACC).
Apr '21
I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the NSF CAREER award!
Mar '21
I am presenting a guest lecture on terrain mapping and quadrotor control at the IEEE RAS/CS/IAS Connecticut chapter on March 24th, 2021.
Mar '21
I am presenting a guest lecture at the IEEE student branch at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on March 24th, 2021.
Mar '21
Papers accepted at ICRA'21 and RA-L.
May '20
I am presenting at the Workshop on Emerging Learning and Algorithmic Methods for Data Association in Robotics, part of the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). All workshop talks are available here.
Feb '20
I am giving a seminar at ITA 2020 in San Diego, CA.
Dec '19
I am giving a seminar at JPL, Pasadena, CA.
Nov '19
Our research on wildfire detection was featured in the Jacobs School News.
Apr '19
Michael Ostertag won the Best Poster award at Research Expo 2019 for our work on minimizing uncertainty in persistent monitoring.
Apr '19
I am giving a seminar at the Decision and Control Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology.
Mar '19
I am giving a seminar at the Maryland Robotics Center, University of Maryland.
Oct '18
I received the ECE Best Graduate Teacher Award for 2017-2018.
Jun '17
We won the best conference paper award at ICRA17!