Graduate Study
Graduate Specializations
PhD Specialization in Dynamics, Control, Robotics & Neural Engineering


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University has several faculty members actively pursuing graduate-level research in this area.

  • J. Edward Colgate: robotics, human-machine interaction, actuator design and control, automatic control
  • Kevin Lynch: robotics and automation, robot manipulation and motion planning, human-robot interaction, multi-agent systems, bio-inspired sensing and locomotion
  • Todd Murphey: robotics, control, overconstrained mechanical systems, manipulation, friction-dominated mechanics and nonsmooth mechanics
  • Michael Peshkin: robotics and intelligent mechanical systems, cobots, sensors and actuators, human-robot interaction, rehabilitation robotics
  • James Patton: human motor control, rehabilitation robotics
  • Malcolm MacIver: biomechanics and the nervous system: neuromechanics, neuroethology, robotics, and simulation
  • Mitra Hartmann: neurobiology and biomechanics of active sensing behaviors

Suggested Courses

These courses are appropriate for first year MS and MS/PhD students. Courses in bold with an asterisk (*) are considered fundamental. Unless taken at the undergraduate level, these should be treated as requirements.

Check the mechanical engineering courses page to confirm availability of any course.

Dynamics & Control

  • ME 314: Theory of Machines—Dynamics*
  • ME 333: Intro to Mechatronics*
  • ME 390: Intro to Dynamic Systems or EECS 360 Introduction to Feedback Systems*
  • ME 433: Advanced Mechatronics*
  • ME 454: Optimal Control of Nonlinear Systems
  • EECS 374: Introduction to Digital Control
  • EECS 410: System Theory
  • EECS 422: Random Processes Comm and Control

Instrumentation & Data Analysis

  • EECS 353: Digital Microelectronics
  • EECS 359: Digital Signal Processing
  • EECS 418: Advanced Digital Signal Processing
  • PHYS 359: 1,2 Modern Physics Laboratory


  • EECS 302: Prob Systems and Random Signals
  • EECS 328: Numerical Methods for Engineers
  • EECS 479: Nonlinear Optimization
  • ESAM 311: 1,2,3 Methods of Applied Math

Robotics & Computing

  • ME 448: Flexible Automation and Robotics
  • ME 449: Robotic Manipulation
  • ME 450: Geometry in Robotics
  • EECS 311: Data Structures and Data Management
  • EECS 317: Data Management & Info Processing
  • EECS 325: Artificial Intelligence Programming
  • EECS 330: Human Computer Interaction
  • EECS 332: Digital Image Analysis
  • EECS 333: Intro to Communication Networks
  • EECS 336: Design And Analysis Of Algorithms
  • EECS 348: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • EECS 351: Introduction to Computer Graphics
  • EECS 390: Intro to Robotics

Typical Requirements

A typical program consists of no more than four courses each term plus a non-credit, one-day-per-week seminar (ME 512). Students supported on research assistantships sometimes take two classes per term. In addition, students must meet the requirements for the MS degree. These requirements are detailed in the ME Graduate Handbook, but key stipulations include:

  • Core course requirement (two courses outside of main research area)
  • Minimum of five 400-level courses (excluding research credits)
  • Minimum of five ME courses
  • Seminar: ME students must register for and attend ME 512 Mechanical Engineering Seminars

Exceptions to the required number of ME and 400-level courses are frequently granted (by adviser-approved petition to the Graduate Studies Committee) in this specialization for well-designed interdisciplinary programs of study.

Considerable variation exists among individual programs and special topics courses (395, 495) are frequently available. Course availability and scheduling change periodically; so confirm your intended schedule with the official class schedule for any given quarter. There are other relevant courses in ME, EECS, and BME as well as in other departments that may interface well with your research study. Take advantage of these courses.


Please see your graduate adviser to discuss your program of study. New graduate students may see any of the above faculty.