Akhil Padmanabha

I am a first year Ph.D. student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. I am co-advised by Zackory Erickson and Carmel Majidi.


After going through several severe health challenges and hospitalizations in high school and switching to homeschooling, where I was not offered honors or AP courses, I surprisingly received admission to UC Berkeley. I initially chose to study Psychology with the aim of becoming a licensed therapist for chronically-ill adolescents, but later switched majors to Mechanical Engineering, inspired to pursue a career in robotics for social good. My health challenges have showed me that life should not be taken for granted. Over the last few years, I've made an effort to live my life to the fullest, pursuing and fighting for exciting and impactful opportunities. I've accomplished so much so far and I can't wait to do more.

I recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. During my undergraduate years, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Professor Sergey Levine at the Robotic AI & Learning Lab, Professor Alice Agogino at the Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities Lab, and with Professor Wenzhen Yuan at the RoboTouch Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.

In addition to research, I had the amazing opportunities to intern at SpaceX, in Boca Chica, Texas where I led a project to deploy robot dogs for the Starship Launch Operations Team, and in Cape Canaveral, Florida where I upgraded the control systems for the Of Course I Still Love You droneship for the Falcon 9 Booster Recovery Team. I additionally interned for funded robotics startup, ViaBot, where I did rapid prototyping and mechatronics design for RUNO 1.3. Lastly, I led the RoboBears combat robotics team at UC Berkeley, where I started the annual Cal Combat Robotics Competition.