Chen Li

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Terradynamics, locomotion, comparative biomechanics, bio-inspired robotics, robophysics

Dr. Li received his B.S. degree from Peking University in 2005 and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011, both in physics. From 2012 to 2015 he performed postdoctoral research in integrative biology and robotics at University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Li’s research aims at creating terradynamics, a new field analogous to aero- and hydrodynamics at the interface of interface of biology, robotics, and physics, and using terradynamics to understand animal locomotion and advance robotic mobility in the real world. For example, his doctoral research has led to the creation of the first terradynamics of legged animal and robot locomotion on flowable ground (e.g., sand). During his postdoctoral research he expanded terradynamics to 3-D, multi-component terrain (e.g., dense vegetation, building rubble) and discovered terradynamic streamlining that helps animals and robots traverse cluttered obstacles. Dr. Li is recipient of a Miller Research Fellowship from University of California, Berkeley and a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface.

Instructions for applicants: https://li.me.jhu.edu/join/


  • Ph.D. 2011, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • 2012 - 2015:  Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
Research Areas
  • Bio-inspired robotics
  • Comparative biomechanics
  • Locomotion
  • Robophysics
  • Terradynamics
  • 2018:  PhD students Ratan Othayoth and Yuanfeng Han selected as 2 of 8 finalists Best Student Paper, Division of Comparative Biomechanics, Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Annual Conference
  • 2017:  Young Investigator Award
  • 2016:  Paper selected as Highlights at IROS 2016 conference (20 out of 840)
  • 2016:  Paper selected as Highlights of 2015 by Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (12 out of 110)
  • 2015:  Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (12 out of ~300)
  • 2012:  Miller Research Fellowship, Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, University of California, Berkeley (11 out of ~300)
  • 2012:  Sigma Xi Best PhD Thesis Award, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • 2012:  Best Student Paper, Robotics: Science and Systems
  • 2009:  Amelio Fellowship for Excellence in Research, Georgia Tech School of Physics
  • 2009:  Best Student Paper, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Division of Comparative Biomechanics
Journal Articles
  • Gart SW, Li C (2018).  Body-terrain interaction affects large bump traversal of insects and legged robots.  Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
  • Gart SW, Yan C, Othayoth R, Ren Z, Li C (2018).  Dynamic traversal of large gaps by insects and legged robots reveals a template.  Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.  IOP Publishing.  13.  026006.
  • Li C, Kessens CC, Fearing RS, Full RJ (2017).  Mechanical principles of dynamic terrestrial self-righting using wings.  Advanced Robotics.  Taylor & Francis.  DOI: 10.1080/01691864.2017.1372213.
  • Aguilar J, Zhang T, Qian F, Kingsbury M, McInroe B, Mazouchova N, Li C, Maladen R, Gong C, Travers M, Hatton R, Choset H, Umbanhowar P, Goldman D (2016).  A review on locomotion robophysics: The study of movement at the intersection of robotics, soft matter and dynamical systems.  Reports on Progress in Physics.  79.
  • Li C, Pullin AO, Haldane DW, Lam HK, Fearing RS, Full RJ (2015).  Terradynamically streamlined shapes in animals and robots enhance traversability through densely cluttered terrain.  Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.  IOP Publishing.  10.  046003.
  • Haldane DW, Casarez C, Karras JT, Lee J, Li C, Pullin AO, Schaler EW, Yun D, Ota H, Javey A, Fearing RS (2015).  Integrated manufacture of exoskeleton and sensing for folded millirobots.  Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics.  7.  021011.
  • Zhang T, Qian F, Li C, Masarati P, Hoover AM, Birkmeyer P, Pullin AO, Fearing RS, Goldman DI (2013).  Ground fluidization promotes rapid running of a lightweight robot.  International Journal of Robotics Research.  32.  859--869.
  • Ding Y, Li C, Goldman DI (2013).  Swimming in the desert.  Physics Today.  66.  68--69.
  • Li C, Zhang T, Goldman D (2013).  A terradynamics of legged locomotion on granular media.  Science.  339.
  • Li C, Hsieh S, Goldman D (2012).  Multi-functional foot use during running in the zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  215.
  • Li C, Umbanhowar PB, Komsuoglu H, Goldman DI (2010).  The effect of limb kinematics on the speed of a legged robot on granular media.  Experimental Mechanics.  50.  1383--1393.
  • Maladen RD, Ding Y, Li C, Goldman DI (2009).  Undulatory swimming in sand: Subsurface locomotion of the sandfish lizard.  Science.  325.  314--318.
  • Li C, Umbanhowar PB, Komsuoglu H, Koditschek DE, Goldman DI (2009).  Sensitive dependence of the motion of a legged robot on granular media.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  106.  3029--3034.
Conference Proceedings
  • Li C, Kessens CC, Young A, Fearing RS, Full RJ (2016).  Cockroach-inspired robot reveals principles of ground-based, dynamic self-righting.  IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.  2016-Novem.  2128--2134.
  • Li C, Ding Y, Gravish N, Maladen RD, Masse A, Umbanhowar PB, Komsuoglu H, Koditschek DE, Goldman DI, Paul B (2012).  Towards a terramechanics for bio-inspired locomotion in granular environments.  ASCE Earth and Space Conference.  264--273.
  • Ding Y, Gravish N, Li C, Maladen RD, Mazouchova N, Sharpe SS, Umbanhowar PB, Goldman DI (2012).  Comparative studies reveal principles of movement on and within granular media.  Natural Locomotion in Fluids and on Surfaces, The IMA Volumes in Mathematics and its Applications.  155.  281--292.
  • Li C, Zhang T, Goldman DI (2012).  A resistive force model for legged locomotion on granular media.  Proceedings of CLAWAR.  443--440.
  • Qian F, Zhang T, Li C, Masarati P, Hoover AM, Birkmeyer P, Pullin AO, Fearing RS, Goldman DI (2012).  Walking and running on yielding and fluidizing ground.  Robotics: Science & Systems.
  • Li C, Hoover AM, Birkmeyer P, Umbanhowar PB, Fearing RS, Goldman DI (2010).  Systematic study of the performance of small robots on controlled laboratory substrates.  Proceedings of SPIE.  76790Z.
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