Professor Nisar Ahmed


Dr. Ahmed is an Associate Professor in the Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at CU Boulder. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY in January 2012, focusing on Dynamics, Systems and Controls with minors in ECE and Applied Math. From 2012-2013, he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Cornell Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) with Professor Mark Campbell. He obtained his B.S. in Engineering in 2006 from The Cooper Union in his hometown of New York City. He joined the CU Boulder as an Assistant Professor in 2014 and was named a Smead Faculty Fellow for 2021-2023.

Prof. Ahmed’s CV (periodically updated) and Google Scholar page.


Current Graduate Students

Aastha Acharya (Ph.D. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)Aastha

Aastha is a Draper Fellow and earned her B.S. and M.Eng. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University. While at Cornell, she was involved in Satellite and Rocketry project teams and also performed research on direct imaging of radial velocity exoplanets. Prior to joining CU Boulder for her PhD, she worked as a Controls Engineer with Lockheed Martin Space. Her research focuses on machine learning, uncertainty quantification, and competency awareness for autonomous aerospace systems.



Nicholas Conlon (Ph.D. student, Computer Science)

(co-advised with Prof. Daniel Szafir, CS) nick_conlon_sr_71_headshot Nick received his BS and MS in computer science from the University of Massachusetts. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Nick worked as an engineer in the defense and aerospace industry, contributing to projects in the domains of unmanned vehicle autonomy, deep learning, and computer vision. He also served several years as a soldier in the U.S. Army airborne infantry. Nick is interested in robotics, in particular human-robot interaction, planning, teaming, and trust.


Ofer Dagan (Ph.D. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)


Ofer is currently a PhD student in the Aerospace engineering sciences department at CU boulder.  He received the B.S. degree in aerospace engineering, in 2010 (summa cum laude), and the M.S. degree in mechanical engineering, in 2015 (cum laude), from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. Prior to coming to CU Boulder, He worked in an R&D aerospace industry for about 10 years as a research engineer and team leader. His research interests include theory and algorithms for decentralized Bayesian reasoning in heterogeneous autonomous systems.


Hunter Ray (Ph.D. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)


Originally from Portland, Oregon, Hunter earned is B.Sc in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University. As an undergraduate he led the effort on a 1U CubeSat’s integration and testing before it was launched to the ISS in 2018. Upon graduation, he worked at Draper evaluating spacecraft systems for civil and defense projects, including Human Lander Systems. His research involves improving human-autonomy teaming in aerospace systems, including geostationary satellite constellations and uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) for public safety. In his free time, Hunter is a first responder and UAS division leader with the Boulder Emergency Squad, a local rescue team involved in search & rescue, firefighting, water rescue, and SWAT operations.

Anne Theurkauf (Ph.D. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)anne_theurkauf_304x400

(co-advised with Prof. Morteza Lahijanian, Aero) After getting undergraduate degrees at Lehigh University, Anne got her start in engineering at Draper labs working on precision navigation instruments. After a few years of instrument prototyping and testing, she moved out to Boulder to pursue an MS in Aerospace, working an the controls side for an atom-based inertial sensing project. Her Ph.D. research now focuses on navigation and multi-objective planning for collaborative multi-agent systems exploring the lunar surface, specifically using formal methods to generate decision making strategies that maximize both mission value and safety.

Shohei Wakayama (Ph.D. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)


Shohei completed his B.Eng in Mechanical Engineering from Kyushu University in Japan, where he worked on perception systems for a lower-limb exoskeleton robot. He is pursuing his PhD in Aerospace Engineering through a fellowship from the Masason Foundation. His research interests lie in decision making under uncertainty, state estimation, and human-robot interaction for robotic exploration of unknown remote environments.

personal website


Abdoulaye Diallo (Masters Student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Class of 2024)


From Dakar, Senegal, Abdoulaye earned his B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering at CU Boulder. His research involves developing human-robot teaming interactions in search-and-rescue-operations with UAVs. His research interests are primarily on computer vision, machine-learning, and decision-making algorithms. During the last two summers, Abdoulaye interned at Zoox as a Software Engineer in the AI Verification & Validation team where his work consisted of testing and validating software features from the Collision Avoidance System team.


Tycho Cinquini (Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Class of 2023)


Current Undergraduate Students

Luke Morrissey (Bachelors Physics and Computer Science, Class of 2023)

Luke joined lab in 2020. He is working on the ONR MinAu UUV and NASA INPASS projects, assisting with the development of novel event-triggered and decentralized data fusion algorithms for autonomous robotic information fusion. Luke us also on the software team of the CU RoboSub and is an ASAP Tutor and Peer Mentor.



Lab Alumni

Dr. Luke Burks (Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2020)


Dissertation title: “Active Collaborative Sensing, Learning, and Planning in Human-Robot Teams”

Post-grad position: Research Scientist, Optimus Ride (Cambridge, MA)

personal website



Dr. Stephen McGuire (Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2019)


Dissertation title: “Autonomous Online Learning of Assistant Selection Policies for Fault Recovery” (funded by NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship)

Post-grad position: Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California Santa Cruz.



Dr. Brett Israelsen (Ph.D., Computer Science, 2019)BrettI_fancy

Dissertation title: “Algorithmic Assurances and Self-Assessment of Competency Boundaries in Autonomous Systems”

Post-grad position: Senior Research Engineer, United Technologies Research Center (East Hartford, CT)

personal website



Eli Kravitz (M.S. student, Aerospace Engineering, 2023)


Luke Barbier (M.S. student, Computer Science, B.S. ECEE 2019)


Luke is a CS MS student who joined the lab in 2017. He was part of the CU Boulder Discovery Learning Apprenticeship (DLA) program, and previously contributed to the active collaborative semantic sensing research effort. He is now leading the “MinAu” project, where his thesis research will focus on novel techniques for communication-limited underwater cooperative localization and data fusion. He was also the captain of the successful CU Boulder RoboSub autonomous underwater vehicle team.


Jamison McGinley (M.S. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences, B.S. 2019)


A graduate of the Smead AES program (B.S. 2020) who joined the lab in 2017. Jamison’s M.S. thesis research focuses on how machine generated assurances for decision making under uncertainty can be used to adjust user trust in reinforcement learning frameworks. As an undergraduate he was part of the CU Boulder Discovery Learning Apprenticeship (DLA) program, and has contributed to the active collaborative semantic sensing research effort as well as the “TRAADRE” project, which studied user trust in autonomous planning systems for lunar rover operations.  He is also an officer on the CU Boulder Rugby Team.


Trevor Slack (M.S. student, Aerospace Engineering Sciences, B.S. 2021)


Dawson Beatty (M.S., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2021)

M.S. Thesis: “Decentralized and Event-triggered Filtering for Position, Velocity, and Clock Bias Estimation”dawson

Post-grad position: PhD at Virginia Polytechnic (Aerospace and Ocean Engineering)





Jack Daniel Center (M.S., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2021)

M.S. Thesis: “Data Fusion Aware Motion Planning for Information Gathering Tasks”


Akash Rateesh Babu (M.S., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2020)

M.S. Thesis (co-advised with Prof. Morteza Lahijanian, Aero): “Resource-Aware Planning Framework for Autonomous Systems in Communication-limited Environments”


Jonathan Manni (M.S., Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2020)


M.S. Thesis (co-advised with Prof. Jay McMahon, Aero): “Template Matching for Terrain Relative Navigation Under Varying Lighting Conditions”





Benjamin Mellinkoff (M.S. 2019, B.S. 2017, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)

M.S. thesis (advised with Prof. Jack Burns, Dept. of Astrophysics): “Model-based Reinforcement Learning with Feedback from Machine Self-confidence”

Jeremy Muesing (M.S. 2020, B.S. 2017, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)

M.S. Thesis: “Fully Bayesian Human-Machine Data Fusion for Robust Dynamic Target Surveillance andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Characterization”

Post-grad position: Research Engineer, San Diego Padres (Major League Baseball)




Ian Loefgren (M.S. 2020, B.S. 2018, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)FullSizeRender

M.S. Thesis: “Scalable Navigation-Integrated Decentralized Data Fusion in Communication-Limited Environments”

Post-grad position: Draper (Cambridge, MA)





Cody Charland (M.S. 2020, B.S. 2018, Aerospace Engineering Sciences)

M.S. Thesis: “Autonomous Aerial Search and Mapping of Unknown Built Environments”

Post-grad position: Stratom, Inc. (Boulder, CO)


David Iglesias (M.S. Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2017)

M.S. Thesis: “Cooperative Robot Localization Using Event-triggered Estimation ” davidi

Post-grad position: Point One Navigation (San Francisco, CA)

Nicholas Sweet (M.S. Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2016)

nicksweetlatestM.S. Thesis: “Semantic Likelihood Models for Bayesian Inference in Human-Robot Interaction”

Post-grad position: Engineer at Maidbot (Austin, TX).



Matthew Aitken (M.S. Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2016)

M.S. Thesimattaitkens: “Assured Human-Autonomy Interaction through Machine Self-Confidence”

Post-grad position: Engineer at Draper (Cambridge, MA).


Sousheel Vunnam (B.S. Computer Science, 2019)

sousheelPost-grad position: Amazon (Seattle, WA)

Holden Kjerland-Nicoletti (B.S. Computer Science, 2021)holden




Sierra Williams (B.S. Aerospace Engineering Sciences, 2017)

Post-grad position: Lockheed Martin Space Systems (Littleton, CO).