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Yinan Li wins 2020 Huawei Prize for Best Research paper

Monday, April 6, 2020

Yinan Li (PhD ‘19) wis one of two students to take home the coveted Huawei Prize for Best Research paper by a Mathematics Graduate Student. The $4,000 award recognizes the impact of Li’s novel approach to controlling the cyber-physical systems that play an increasingly visible role in modern life through technologies like unmanned air vehicles, autonomous cars, and surgical robots.

In her winning research paper, Robustly Complete Synthesis of Memoryless Controllers for Nonlinear Systems with Reach-and-Stay Specifications, Li tackles the divide between the cyber and physical components of cyber-physical systems, which are essentially physical engineering systems controlled by computer-based algorithms. 

“Cyber-physical systems are notoriously difficult to design and verify because of the complex interactions between the cyber and the physical components,” explains Dr. Jun Liu, Li’s PhD supervisor and co-author of the paper. To address this challenge, Li developed a unique set of computational tools to replace the physical components of cyber-physical systems with their cyber abstractions so that design and verification tasks can remain in the cyber world. “These algorithms outperform the state-of-the-art by a significant margin,” affirms Dr. Liu. “Li’s work is at the forefront of cyber-physical systems research and is already generating considerable impact.”

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, a top journal in the field of control theory, has accepted the paper for publication. Li is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Hybrid Systems Lab within the Department of Applied Mathematics, where she focuses on hybrid system control using formal methods, control applications in robotics, and power electronics. She also serves as a leading researcher on an ongoing joint project with Clearpath Robotics, which will apply her trailblazing work to a NSERC Engage Grant focused on shared autonomy for ground vehicles.

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