Video Highlights

New!: BlueSwarm: Biologically-inspired Little Underwater Explorers

Visit our Youtube channel for videos on the latest robots and projects from our lab.

Lab Info

Our lab is part of Computer Science and Robotics, within the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. We are a member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, and Prof. Nagpal co-leads the Bio-inspired Robotics Platform (2008-20). We do research that spans computer science, robotics, and biology in many different ways. Our lab is committed to having a diverse, creative, interdisciplinary, team-oriented, and fun environment.

How to get to our Lab:
Our lab recently moved to the new Allston campus SEC building! More information to come.

Outreach and Lab Tours: We enjoy doing lab tours for groups aiming at broadening participation in robotics and STEM with underrepresented groups. For now our lab is closed to tours due to covid.

Joining our lab: At the moment we are not taking new postdocs or graduate students. However many of our alumni are faculty and have related (and cool!) research programs. Check out their labs! e.g. Kirstin Petersen@Cornell, Nils Napp@Cornell, Mike Rubenstein@Northwestern, Spring Berman@ASU, and Sabine Hauert@Bristol-UK.

Kilobots image on the UCSF Bus


Biological systems, from cells to social insects, get tremendous mileage from the cooperation of vast numbers of cheap, unreliable, and limited individuals. What would it take to create our own artificial collectives of the scale and complexity that nature achieves?

Our group is interested in self-organizing systems, where large numbers of simple agents cooperate to produce complex and robust global behavior. We design and build novel bio-inspired robots and algorithms for collective intelligence, drawing inspiration from social insects and cells and body-brain-colony interactions. We also study self-organization in nature, specifically how social insects and cells cooperate to achieve complex tasks and what organizational principles translate accross scales. Our work combines AI, robotics (CS, EE & ME), and field biology.

A common theme in all of our work is understanding the relationship between local and global behavior: how does robust collective behavior arise from many locally interacting agents, and how can we engineer the local interactions of simple agents to achieve the global behaviors we want.

Fall SSR Retreat 2018Fall SSR Retreat, 2017

SSR Summer Kayak TripSummer Kayaking, 2018

Research and Lab Highlights

 JaScience Robotics, Jan 2021n 2021: BlueSwarm on the cover of Science Robotics! Our fish-inspired underwater robot collective can achieve multiple self-organized 3D behaviors, using only local implicit coordination. Congrats to Florian and Melvin on this achievement, and to all SSR group members who helped make this happen! (Wired, SEAS, ScienceRobotics). Also see some fun videos

Jan 2021: Radhika Nagpal has been named an ACM Fellow for contributions to collective intelligence, including self-organizing systems and swarm robotics.

Fall 2020: Our lab has successfully moved (mid covid lockdown) to the new Allston Campus SEC Building! We are grateful this year for many things, including 3 new grants from ONR, NSF FMRG, and NASA supporting our robotics work.

Sept 2020: Radhika Nagpal will be spending her sabbatical as an Amazon Scholar working with Amazon Robotics&AI on multi-agent cooperation (Fall 2020/Spring 2021). On other days, she hangs out with the coolest people at the Wyss InstituteWith Elizabeth Warren 2020

For more about our Lab's accomplishments, see our Press page.

Root robot at TED conference (April 2018)