Alan Papalia

Alan Papalia

PhD Student | Autonomy | Robotics | Design

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


I am a PhD student in Robotics with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Joint Program. I’m fortunate to work alongside great people in the Marine Robotics Group, under Prof. John Leonard.

My research leverages graph theory, geometry, and probability to build novel optimization algorithms which enable robust localization and mapping in the real world.

Before working in robotics I spent my undergraduate years working with a great group of people on the Illini Motorsports Formula SAE team. Here I oversaw a team of over 40 members, engaged in a number of mechanical design projects, and took part in a number of international competitions.

Helping to mitigate climate change is of huge importance to me and is a central aspect to my future plans.

I’m always open to chat! Send me an email or reach out over LinkedIn if you think there's an idea or opportunity that we'd both like to discuss.


  • Robotics
  • SLAM
  • Perception
  • Climate Change


  • PhD Robotics, 2024

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • BS Mechanical Engineering, 2019

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign






Mechanical Design







Graduate Student

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sep 2019 - Present Cambridge, MA
Research in multi-robot planning and localization

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Oregon State University

Jun 2018 - Aug 2018 Corvallis, OR
Developed object pose-tracking system for robotic grasping experiments

Mechanical Engineering Intern

Seurat Technologies

Jun 2017 - Aug 2017 Wilmington, MA
Designed and installed cooling systems for industrial metal 3D printer

Undergraduate Research Assistant

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sep 2016 - Sep 2018 Urbana, IL
Research in precision machine design and cloud manufacturing

Team Captain

Illini Motorsports

Sep 2015 - Jun 2019 Urbana, IL
Led system architecture and component design for $200,000+ racecar



3-Speed Transmission

Design and manufacturing of a transmission with 3 speeds, idle, and reverse

6-DOF Object Tracking

A system for automated data collection and off-line pose estimation for predetermined objects for robotic grasping testbed

Aluminum Fuel Tank

Numerical simulations, design, and full fabrication of the fuel tank

Carbon Fiber Hybrid-Monocoque Chassis

Design, simulation, validation, and fabrication of hybrid-monocoque chassis

Formula Racecar System Design

Lead system architect for the 2019 Illini Motorsports Vehicle

Mechanical Walker

Structural design, packaging, and linkage analysis of a ballerina themed walker

Mixed-Integer Model Predictive Control

Mixed-integer program to perform path-planning with model predictive control for simplified 2-D quadrotor environment

Steel Spaceframe Jigging

Design and fabrication of jigging for the entire steel-tube spaceframe chassis assembly