Allison Okamura

Contact Information

Allison M. Okamura
Mechanical Engineering Dept.
Stanford University
Building 550, Room 107
416 Escondido Mall
Stanford CA 94305-2203

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
Wu Tsai 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 is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. 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 2020 IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Technical Achievement Award, 2019 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Distinguished Service Award, 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, soft robotics, neuromechanics and rehabilitation, prosthetics, and 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).

Very Short Biography

Allison Okamura received the BS degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and the MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University. She is Professor in the mechanical engineering department at Stanford University, with a courtesy appointment in computer science. She is an IEEE Fellow and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. Her awards include the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Technical Achievement Award, IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Distinguished Service Award, and Duca Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. Her academic interests include haptics, teleoperation, virtual reality, medical robotics, soft robotics, rehabilitation, and education.

A high-resolution picture is here.

Also, you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about Allison's early research history in this oral interview from the IEEE Engineering and Technology History project.


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 2021: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Spring 2020: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME 327)
  • Winter 2020: Feedback Control Design (E105)
  • Autumn 2019: Soft Robotics for Humanity (ME 23N, Freshman Introsem)
  • Spring 2019: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME 327)
  • Winter 2019: Medical Robotics (ME 328) and [[ | Surgical Robotics Seminar (CS/ME 571)
  • Summer/Autumn 2018: BSME 2.0 Dynamic Systems and Control Concentration (lab development)
  • Spring 2018: Dynamic Systems (ME 161)
  • Winter 2018: Design and Control of Haptic Systems (ME 327)
  • Autumn 2017: Freshman Introductory Seminar on Haptics (ME 20N)
  • Spring 2017: Dynamic Systems (ME 161)
  • Winter 2017: 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 personalized 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 working with proactive, passionate, and diverse students. My aim as an advisor is to give strong personal guidance that will maximize a student's chances of building a rewarding and impactful 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 key conferences and journals; (4) the development of personal communication and presentation skills that are needed to maximize visibility in the research community, and increase future opportunities; and (5) involvement in outreach and mentoring activities to educate and inspire the next generation of technically excellent, diverse, and globally aware engineers. If you find this emphasis and our research area appealing, I believe our group could provide you with a vibrant, impactful, and inclusive 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 contact me to request to attend, and 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). We also usually bring on "rotators" (1-qtr volunteer or for-course-credit undergraduate and graduate student researchers) in Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters based on rotator projects proposed by current lab members at the FIRST lab meeting of each quarter. Rotation matches are made at or soon after this meeting. For Stanford Undergraduates seeking SURI positions, please email me a resume, transcript, and short cover letter describing your interests and qualifications by February 15, since we typically make these appointments long before the beginning of summer.
  • Q. I am a current Stanford undergrad/grad student and want to know what classes I should take to be prepared for the kind of work done in your lab. A. The following classes could be 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 M.S./Ph.D. students, and will you consider me? A. First, if you are interested in doing research and the Ph.D. program at Stanford, you should apply directly to that program. Our M.S. program is course-only (no thesis), and Ph.D. students in our "rotation program" have a first-year fellowship to find a Ph.D. advisor. Funded graduate research positions in my lab are usually only for Ph.D. students; M.S. students are sometimes matched to projects for volunteer or course credit (and are not considered for future Ph.D. positions). Students in the Ph.D. program can pick up an M.S. along the way. 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 Ph.D. students graduate each year, I always consider new Ph.D. students who start in Autumn quarter. (Note that to apply for an Autumn quarter start, the application deadline is early December of the previous year. I am only considering Ph.D. students starting in Autumn quarter.) The number of new students I will take 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. Note that it also helps to make the issue of long-term funding moot by obtaining a multi-year fellowship such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship or NDSEG Fellowship -- please apply the Autumn before you plan to start graduate school.
  • Q. What are my chances of getting into Stanford or joining your lab as a graduate student? A. If you are interested in applying to the Mechanical Engineering graduate program, please see this page. You can also find advice about applying to the program here. 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, visiting student, or visiting professor 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!)