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ASSET Seminar: What makes learning to control easy or hard? (Nikolai Matni, University of Pennsylvania)
January 25 @ 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Designing autonomous systems that are simultaneously high-performing, adaptive, and provably safe remains an open problem. In this talk, we will argue that in order to meet this goal, new theoretical and algorithmic tools are needed that blend the stability, robustness, and safety guarantees of robust control with the flexibility, adaptability, and performance of machine and reinforcement learning. We will highlight our progress towards developing such a theoretical foundation of robust learning for safe control in the context of two case studies: (i) characterizing fundamental limits of learning-enabled control, and (ii) developing novel robust imitation learning algorithms with sample-complexity guarantees. In both cases, we will emphasize the interplay between robust learning, robust control, and robust stability and their consequences on the sample-complexity and generalizability of the resulting learning-based control algorithms.
Nikolai Matni is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a member of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (by courtesy), the GRASP Lab, the PRECISE Center, and the Applied Mathematics and Computational Science graduate group. He is also a Visiting Faculty Researcher at Google Brain Robotics, NYC. Prior to joining Penn, Nikolai was a postdoctoral scholar in EECS at UC Berkeley. He has also held a position as a postdoctoral scholar in the Computing and Mathematical Sciences at Caltech. He received his Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems from Caltech in June 2016. He also holds a B.A.Sc. and M.A.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. His research interests broadly encompass the use of learning, optimization, and control in the design and analysis of autonomous systems. Nikolai is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award (2021), a Google Research Scholar Award (2021), the 2021 IEEE CSS George S. Axelby Award, and the 2013 IEEE CDC Best Student Paper Award. He is also a co-author on papers that have won the 2022 IEEE CDC Best Student Paper Award and the 2017 IEEE ACC Best Student Paper Award.