Professor Zhong-Ping Jiang provides a round-up of robotics news

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Zhong-Ping Jiang recently participated in a research project aimed at helping New York City’s health and government leaders make smart, up-to-date testing and contact-tracing decisions during the COVID-19 crisis. It involved building a mathematical model specifically for the city’s unique social and transportation structures — important in a locale where few people own cars for drive-through assessment, and testing was often conducted at hospitals already strained by the virus.

Now, he has embarked on a three-year study that could have an impact on another pressing health issue: neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. With the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he will be examining human motion in an attempt to expand our understanding of the brain and aid clinicians in devising new therapies for their patients.

The interdisciplinary project combines tools and methods from reinforcement learning, nonlinear control theory, and adaptive dynamic programming, and while it targets human motion, findings could prove helpful in developing effective methods of robotic rehabilitation. 

Concurrently, Jiang is working on a research project with wide applications in the field of marine robotics, again with the help of the NSF. His aim is to provide mathematical control theory and algorithms for systems of nonlinear differential equations that are prone to uncertainties, which arise in control engineering from unknown model parameters or incomplete information about the systems' states or their surroundings. His goal is to minimize operational costs and ensure that tolerance and safety requirements are satisfied. 

Currently, he is working on a three-year NSF project led by Prof. Michael Malisoff from the LSU Department of Mathematics. His other co-PI, LSU’s Corina Barbalata, has worked extensively with the Schmidt Ocean Institute and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to design underwater vehicle controls and manipulators, and the researchers expect to deploy real physical marine robotic platforms in the Mississippi River.

And while their focus will be on marine robots, which help oceanographers gain a better understanding of a vital part of our ecosystem, the researchers expect their methods to eventually apply in other important engineering settings prone to uncertainties, such as renewable energy networks.