CHARM LAB Main/Allison Okamura

Allison Okamura

Contact Information

Allison M. Okamura
Mechanical Engineering Dept.
Stanford University
Building 550, Room 107
416 Escondido Mall
Stanford CA 94305-4021

phone: 650-721-1700
fax: 650-723-3521

aokamura [snail] stanford [period] edu -> mailto:aokamura [snail] stanford [period] edu


Collaborative Haptics in Robotics and Medicine (CHARM) Lab
Stanford Neurosciences Institute
Stanford Wearable Electronics Initiative (E-Wear)
Center for Design Research
Biomechanical Engineering Program
Design Group
Department of Computer Science
Department of Mechanical Engineering
School of Engineering
Stanford University

Short Biography

Allison M. Okamura received the BS degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994, and the MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University in 1996 and 2000, respectively, all in mechanical engineering. She is currently Professor in the mechanical engineering department at Stanford University, with a courtesy appointment in computer science. She was previously Professor and Vice Chair of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She has been an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, editor-in-chief of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation Conference Editorial Board, an editor of the International Journal of Robotics Research, and co-chair of the IEEE Haptics Symposium. Her awards include the 2016 Duca Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, 2009 IEEE Technical Committee on Haptics Early Career Award, 2005 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award, and 2004 NSF CAREER Award. She is an IEEE Fellow. Her academic interests include haptics, teleoperation, virtual environments and simulators, medical robotics, neuromechanics and rehabilitation, prosthetics, and engineering education. Outside academia, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, running, and playing ice hockey. For more information, please see Allison Okamura's CV (pdf). (High-resolution picture here.)


My research focuses on developing the principles and tools needed to realize advanced robotic and human-machine systems capable of haptic (touch) interaction, particularly for biomedical applications. Haptic systems are designed and studied using both analytical and experimental approaches. Topics of particular interest are: (1) Teleoperation: Devices, models, and control systems that allow human operators to manipulate environments that are remote in scale and/or distance. (2) Virtual Environments: Models, control systems, and devices that enable compelling touch-based interaction with computers. (3) Robotic manipulation: Robots that physically manipulate their environment or their own shape, incorporating novel designs, sensors, and control systems. Application areas include surgery, simulation and training, rehabilitation, prosthetics, neuromechanics, exploration of hazardous and remote environments, design, and education.

Find out more on the CHARM Lab wesbite.

See my Google Scholar Page for publications.


  • Spring 2016: Dynamic Systems (ME 161)
  • Winter 2016: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Autumn 2016: Medical Robotics (ME 328) and Surgical Robotics Seminar (CS/ME 571)
  • Spring 2016: Robotics: Technology and Culture (Bing Overseas Study Program, Kyoto campus)
  • Winter 2016: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Autumn 2015: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME 327)
  • Spring 2015: Medical Robotics and Surgical Robotics Seminar (CS/ME 571)
  • Winter 2015: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Autumn 2014: Freshman Seminar and launching Self-paced Online Course on Haptics
  • Spring 2014: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME327)
  • Winter 2014: Feedback Control Design (E105) and Product Design Seminar (ME 495A)
  • Autumn 2013: Freshman Seminar and Online Course on Haptics
  • Spring 2013: Medical Robotics (ME 328) and Surgical Robotics Seminar (CS/ME 571)
  • Winter 2013: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Autumn 2012: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME327)
  • Spring 2012: Medical Robotics (ME 328) and Surgical Robotics Seminar (CS/ME 571)
  • Winter 2012: Feedback Control Design (E105)

An important component of my teaching role is mentoring students on research. I am very proud of the accomplishments of my lab members!

A Message for Prospective Students/Postdocs/Visitors

Thank you for taking the time to look at my web pages. I appreciate your interest in my research and in the activities of our group. Due to the ease of electronic communications and large interest in my research area, I receive an overwhelming number of e-mail messages from prospective students who wish to be involved with my research group. Unfortunately, there are too many messages for me to give a response to each one. I regret that I cannot reply to messages that are so important to the people who send them, so below I provide some answers to frequently asked questions. Best wishes for your future research career!

  • Q. What kind of advisor are you? A. I am very excited about the possibility of working with exceptional students. My aim as an advisor is to give strong personal guidance that will maximize a student's chances of building a rewarding and enjoyable career in research and development or academia. This is accomplished through: (1) the identification of important research problems and transformational ideas by developing a thorough understanding of the literature and application domain needs; (2) the development of a strong technical background that enables the proposal of independent and innovative solutions to challenging problems; (3) the presentation and publication of research in the most prestigious conferences and journals; (4) the development of personal communication and presentation skills that are needed to maximize visibility in the research community, and increase chances of future success. If you find this emphasis and my research area appealing, I believe our group could provide you with a vibrant and exciting educational experience. I meet with my students regularly (individual and group meetings), and also have weekly lab hours. (Thanks to Steven LaValle for allowing me to use some of his text on this subject.)
  • Q. I am a current Stanford undergrad/grad student who would like to learn more about your work or join your research group. A. Stanford students (and students already accepted to Stanford) are welcome to attend CHARM Lab meetings to learn about our work. Please introduce yourself if you come to a meeting. Attending these meetings, participating actively, and reading the relevant literature (both our own work and that of others) are all good ways to learn about what we do and increase the chance of getting involved in one of our research projects (i.e., do an independent study with me as a possible first step toward becoming a Ph.D. student in my group if you are a graduate student, or becoming a SURI student if you are an undergraduate student). For Stanford Undergraduates seeking SURI positions, please email me a resume, transcript, and short cover letter describing your interests and qualifications by March 15, since we typically make these appointments long before the beginning of summer. The following classes are useful (but not required) background for working in my lab:
    • dynamic systems and controls (ME161/261, E105, E205)
    • mechatronics (ME218AB or ME210)
    • linear algebra (ME300A, EE263, or CS205A)
    • robotics-related computer science courses (in order of relevance: CS 223A, CS 277, CS225A, CS231A, CS221, CS229)
    • C++ programming
    • courses on building and fabrication (e.g. ME 203), and
    • any class I teach, especially my self-paced online haptics class.
    • Courses in biomechanics and finite element analysis may also be helpful, depending on your research interest.
  • Q. Are you hiring new graduate students starting next fall? A. In order to be a good mentor, I want to spend a significant amount of time with each of my graduate students and therefore must limit the size of my group. However, since students are always graduating, I am always able to consider new graduate students. The number of new students I will consider each year depends on the current size of my lab, available funding sources, and my current feeling about how many students I can effectively mentor. These can change on a monthly basis, so I cannot say with certainty what "positions" will be open in the future. At least one research rotation/independent study is done to make sure there is a good fit before I agree to advise a Ph.D. student. Note that it also helps to make the issue of funding moot by obtaining a multi-year fellowship such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship or NDSEG Fellowship -- don't be shy to apply the year before you plan to start graduate school.
  • Q. What are my chances of getting into Stanford/joining your lab as a graduate student? A. If you are interested in applying to the Mechanical Engineering graduate program, please see this page (which includes information about the prospective graduate student information session). Admissions in our department are done by committee, so I cannot tell you anything about your chances of admission and/or joining the CHARM Lab. If you have been accepted to Stanford, I will be happy to talk to you at one of the visit days for admitted students. (Due to the large number of requests we get, we are not typically able to accommodate visits from prospective students at other times.)
  • Q. Can I be a postdoc or visiting researcher in your laboratory? A. This is highly dependent on the relevance and background of the applicant, and space/funding constraints. If I have position available, I will advertise it on our lab web page and robotics/haptics mailing lists. If I have not advertised a position, you can send me your CV and research statement if you have your own financial support. I apologize if I do not respond to your inquiry; this means that I don't have space in my lab for a new postdoc/visitor at the moment.
  • Q. I am a K-12 student/teacher and would like information for a school report, tour, help with my robotics team, a research internship, etc. A. My students and I are very excited about using robotics as a teaching tool to encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) topics. We actively involved in outreach and are have an outreach webpage to answer your questions. (Unfortunately, we can't usually give tours to individuals -- otherwise, we'd be giving tours all day, every day, and we wouldn't get any research done!)