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The Pransky interview: Professor Robin R. Murphy, Co-founder of the Field of Disaster Robotics and Founder of Roboticists Without Borders

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

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 16 October 2018

Issue publication date: 7 December 2018




This paper 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 engineer-turned successful innovator and leader regarding the challenges of bringing technological discoveries to fruition. This paper aims to discuss these issues.


The interviewee is Dr Robin R. Murphy, Raytheon Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University; Co-lead, Emergency Informatics EDGE Innovation Network Center, Texas A&M, Director of the Humanitarian Robotics and AI Laboratory and Vice President of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) In this interview, Dr Murphy provides answers to questions regarding her pioneering experiences in rescue robotics.


As a child, Dr Murphy knew she wanted to be a mechanical engineer and obtained her BME degree from Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). While working in industry after her BME, she fell in love with computer science and received an MS and PhD in Computer Science at Georgia Tech where she was a Rockwell International Doctoral Fellow. In the mid-1990s, while teaching at the Colorado School of Mines, she pioneered rescue robots after one of her graduate students returned from the Oklahoma City bombing and suggested that small rescue robots should be developed for future disasters. The National Science Foundation awarded Murphy and her students the first grant for search-and-rescue robots. She has since assisted in responses at more than 20 worldwide disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, the Tohoku Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.


The response to the World Trade Center attacks after September 11, 2001 by Dr Murphy’s team from the University of South Florida (the only academic institution), along with four other teams brought together by CRASAR, marked the first recorded use of a rescue robot at a disaster site. In addition to being a founder in the field of rescue robots, she is also a founder in the field of human–robot interaction and the Roboticists Without Borders. She has written over 100 publications and three books: the best-selling textbook, Introduction to AI Robotics, Disaster Robotics and Robotics-Through-Science-Fiction: Artificial Intelligence Explained Six Classic Robot Short Stories. Dr Murphy has received approximately 20 national awards and honors including: the AUVSI’s Al Aube Outstanding Contributor Award, the Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics, CMU Field Robotics Institute “Pioneer in Field Robotics” and TIME Magazine, Innovators in Artificial Intelligence. She is an IEEE Fellow.



Pransky, J. (2019), "The Pransky interview: Professor Robin R. Murphy, Co-founder of the Field of Disaster Robotics and Founder of Roboticists Without Borders", Industrial Robot, Vol. 45 No. 5, pp. 591-596.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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