STEM Shoutout: Dr. Meeko Oishi

ECE Associate Professor promoted to Professor, receives SoE Research Award and is part of a recently funded NASA initiative

Dr. Meeko Oishi, an associate professor at University of New Mexico’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE), has been promoted to professor, received the 2020 SoE Senior Faculty Research Excellence Award and is part of a Stanford-led team that has been selected by NASA to study urban air mobility.


“It’s an honor to be promoted to professor, as it means two things: new responsibilities and new opportunities, and I’m excited for both,” Oishi said. “There are things that I will be able to investigate and spend time on that I would have not been able to do as an assistant or associate professor.  Having that flexibility and freedom is a really wonderful privilege.”


Oishi’s research focuses on providing assurances of safety in autonomous cyber-physical systems, despite uncertainty in the environment and in human interaction with the autonomous system. She is interested in making autonomous systems truly human-centric, in a manner that can accommodate the heterogeneity and variability of humans, without sacrificing reliability or performance. Her lab develops computationally efficient methods and theory for probabilistic safety, based in control, optimization, and non-parametric learning.


Recently, Oishi began the first year of a five year major project funded by the National Science Foundation to improve how humans and autonomous technology interact.


“This project, funded through NSF’s Cyber-Physical Systems’ Frontiers program, is an exciting opportunity to design human-centric autonomy,” Oishi said. “My team seeks to develop novel algorithms and tools, to make autonomous systems highly responsive to humans.  This requires novel research at the intersection of control theory, learning, and human subject experimentation.” 


In addition to her other accomplishments, Oishi is also on a Stanford-led project that has been recently selected for funding through the NASA University of Leadership Initiative.  This project will focus on urban air mobility over the next four years, beginning in September 2020.


Oishi will be the only UNM faculty member working on the project, along with a graduate student. The team will be led by members of Stanford University, but will also include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, Hampton University, University of California at Berkeley, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and United Technologies Research Center Inc. in Berkeley.


The team will investigate verification and validation, failure detection and identification, and recovery methods in advanced air mobility situations. They will also develop tools to ensure that machine learning in autonomous systems used by unmanned aircraft works as expected in real-time environments, making them more robust, reliable and safe.


“This research focuses on a futuristic vision of drones and air taxis moving in urban environments, and involves interesting and difficult problems,“ Oishi said. “I’m very much looking forward to working on it.”