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
  • B.S. 2005, Peking University
  • 2012 - 2015:  Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
Research Areas
  • Terradynamics, locomotion, comparative biomechanics, bio-inspired robotics, robophysics
  • 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:  Best Student Paper, Robotics: Science and Systems
  • 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
  • 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
  • Haldane, D. W., Casarez, C., Karras, J. T., Lee, J., Li, C., Pullin, A. O., Schaler, E. W., Yun, D., Ota, H., Javey, A., Fearing, R. S. (2015).  Integrated manufacture of exoskeleton and sensing for folded millirobots.  Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics.  7.  021011.
  • Li, C., Pullin, A. O., Haldane, D. W., Lam, H. K., Fearing, R. S., Full, R. J. (2015).  Terradynamically streamlined shapes in animals and robots enhance traversability through densely cluttered terrain.  Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.  10(4).  046003.
  • Li, C., Zhang, T., Goldman, D. I. (2013).  A Terradynamics of Legged Locomotion on Granular Media.  Science.  339(6126).  1408–1412.
  • Ding, Y., Li, C., Goldman, D. I. (2013).  Swimming in the desert.  Physics Today.  66(11).  68–69.
  • Ding, Y., Gravish, N., Li, C., Maladen, R. D., Mazouchova, N., Sharpe, S. S., Umbanhowar, P. B., Goldman, D. I. (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., Hsieh, S. T., Goldman, D. I. (2012).  Multi-functional foot use during running in the zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides).  Journal of Experimental Biology.  215.  3293–3308.
  • Li, C., Umbanhowar, P. B., Komsuoglu, H., Goldman, D. I. (2010).  The effect of limb kinematics on the speed of a legged robot on granular media.  Experimental Mechanics.  50(9).  1383–1393.
  • Li, C., Umbanhowar, P. B., Komsuoglu, H., Koditschek, D. E., Goldman, D. I. (2009).  Sensitive dependence of the motion of a legged robot on granular media.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  106(9).  3029–3034.
  • Maladen, R. D., Ding, Y., Li, C., Goldman, D. I. (2009).  Undulatory swimming in sand: Subsurface locomotion of the sandfish lizard.  Science.  325(5938).  314–318.
Other Publications
  • Li, C. (2011).  Biological, robotic, and physics studies to discover principles of legged locomotion on granular media. Doctoral Dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology.
Conference Proceedings
  • Li, C., Kessens, C. C., Young, A., Fearing, R. S., Full, R. J. (2016).  Cockroach-inspired robot reveals principles of ground-based, dynamic self-righting.  IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.  2128–2134.
  • Zhang, T., Qian, F., Li, C., Masarati, P., Hoover, A. M., Birkmeyer, P., Pullin, A. O., Fearing, R. S., Goldman, D. I. (2013).  Ground fluidization promotes rapid running of a lightweight robot.  International Journal of Robotics Research.  32(7).  859–869.
  • Li, C., Zhang, T., Goldman, D. I. (2012).  A resistive force model for legged locomotion on granular media.  Proceedings of CLAWAR.  443–440.
  • Li, C., Ding, Y., Gravish, N., Maladen, R. D., Masse, A., Umbanhowar, P. B., Komsuoglu, H., Koditschek, D. E., Goldman, D. I., Paul, B. (2012).  Towards a terramechanics for bio-inspired locomotion in granular environments.  ASCE Earth and Space Conference.  264–273.
  • Qian, F., Zhang, T., Li, C., Masarati, P., Hoover, A. M., Birkmeyer, P., Pullin, A. O., Fearing, R. S., Goldman, D. I. (2012).  Walking and running on yielding and fluidizing ground.  Robotics: Science & Systems.
  • Li, C., Hoover, A. M., Birkmeyer, P., Umbanhowar, P. B., Fearing, R. S., Goldman, D. I. (2010).  Systematic study of the performance of small robots on controlled laboratory substrates.  Proceedings of SPIE.  76790Z.
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