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The Pransky interview: Dr Nabil Simaan, Vanderbilt University Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Otolaryngology, Thought Leader in Medical Robotics

Joanne Pransky (Robotic Psychiatrist, Sonoma County, California, USA)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 29 July 2021

Issue publication date: 19 August 2021




The following article is a “Q&A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry PhD and innovator regarding his pioneering efforts. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The interviewee is Dr Nabil Simaan, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University. He is also director of Vanderbilt’s Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications Research Laboratory. In this interview, Simaan shares his unique perspective and approaches on his journey of trying to solve real-world problems in the medical robotics area.


Simaan received his BSc, MSc and PhD in mechanical engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He served as Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University. In 2005, he joined Columbia University, New York, NY, as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering until 2010, when he joined Vanderbilt. His current applied research interests include synthesis of novel robotic systems for surgical assistance in confined spaces with applications to minimally invasive surgery of the throat, natural orifice surgery, cochlear implant surgery and dexterous bimanual microsurgery. Theoretical aspects of his research include robot design and kinematics.


Dr Simaan is a leading pioneer on designing robotic systems and mechanisms for medical applications. Examples include technologies for snake robots licensed to Intuitive Surgical; technologies for micro-surgery of the retina, which led to the formation of AURIS Surgical Robotics; the insertable robotic effector platform (IREP) single-port surgery robot that served as the research prototype behind the Titan Medical Inc. Sport (Single Port Orifice Robotic Technology). Simaan received the NSF Career award for young investigators to design new algorithms and robots for safe interaction with the anatomy. He has served as the Editor for IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Robotics, Editorial Board Member of Robotica, Area Chair for Robotics Science and Systems and corresponding Co-chair for the IEEE Technical Committee on Surgical Robotics. In January 2020, he was bestowed the award of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow for Robotics Advancements. At the end of 2020, he was named a top voice in health-care robotics by technology discovery platform InsightMonk and market intelligence firm BIS Research. Simaan holds 15 patents. A producer of human capital, his education goal is to achieve the best possible outcome with every student he works with.



Pransky, J. (2021), "The Pransky interview: Dr Nabil Simaan, Vanderbilt University Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Otolaryngology, Thought Leader in Medical Robotics", Industrial Robot, Vol. 48 No. 4, pp. 473-477.



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