University of Texas at Austin


Ufuk Topcu Wins Distinguished Research Award

By John Holden

Published May 11, 2021

Dr. Ufuk Topcu

Dr. Ufuk Topcu has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Peter O’Donnell Distinguished Research Award by the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Dr. Topcu’s outstanding research record is matched only by the distinction of his work – accomplishments that have brought in impressive and sustained contributions to the Oden Institute, and strengthened the reputation of the University of Texas at Austin worldwide.

The Distinguished Research Award is given annually to Oden Institute core faculty who have demonstrated a sustained level of distinguished research in computational science and engineering. The award provides $100,000 paid in annual installments of $25,000 per year for four years, funding that can be used at the discretion of the awardee in support of their research within the Institute.

“We are proud to have Dr. Topcu as a member of the Oden Institute,” said Institute Director, Dr. Karen Willcox. “His trailblazing autonomy research exemplifies the Oden Institute spirit not just in its excellence, but also in the way it blends computing and mathematics to solve societal grand challenges.”

Ufuk Topcu obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. He then moved to the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and then became a postdoctoral scholar at California Institute of Technology until 2012.

Dr. Topcu joined UT as an assistant professor in 2015. He is currently associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at UT Austin and core faculty member at the Oden Institute.

His research focuses on the theoretical and algorithmic aspects of design and verification of autonomous systems, typically in the intersection of formal methods, reinforcement learning and control theory. He takes a relatively broad view on autonomy and tends to tackle abstract problems motivated by challenges cutting across multiple applications of autonomy. His research contributions have been recognized by the NSF CAREER Award, the Air Force Young Investigator Award, and the IEEE CSS Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize.

“I am honored to receive the award,” said Dr. Topcu. The Oden Institute has provided an excellent environment to conduct research and recruit great students. I am planning to utilize the funds that come with the award toward attracting an increasingly diverse group of students.”