Dr. Matarić is a Distinguished Professor, Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics, Founding Director of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center (RASC), and co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab. She pioneered the field of socially assistive robots that provide therapies and care through social interaction, especially for special-needs populations. Inspired by the potential for affordable human-centered technologies, she and her students conduct research over a broad interdisciplinary terrain to assist in mitigating societal challenges that require sustained personalized support. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, private foundations, and corporate sponsors.
She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the IEEE, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). She is a recipient of many awards including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Innovation, the Okawa Foundation Award, and the NSF Career Award. She authored the popular textbook The Robotics Primer (MIT Press, 2007), is an associate editor of three major journals, and has published extensively. She also served as the president of the USC Academic Senate and faculty in 2006-2007.
Prior to this role, Dr. Matarić served as the Vice Dean for Research in the Viterbi School of Engineering from 2006 to 2019. In that capacity, she established the Viterbi Internal Center Incubator which has supported over 10 centers; established and lead the Viterbi Research Committee which helped to shape the school’s research priorities and organize the annual research retreat; organized numerous cross-USC interdisciplinary retreats and networking events for faculty; established the USC Center for Excellence in Research (in 2006, in collaboration with the USC Office of Research); established the Viterbi Awards Office; established and ran the weekly research newsletter, on-line research topic database for facilitating research collaborations, web resources for junior researchers, an internal grant proposal reviewing program, a system for facilitating center-scale proposals, a twice-yearly mentoring panel for PhD students and postdocs, annual PhD research fellowship training works for undergraduates and PhD students, and faculty-student matching for undergraduate researchers. To promote K-12 STEM outreach and facilitate broader impacts of faculty research, Dr. Matarić was PI of two consecutive NSF Research Experience for Teachers Sites for the Viterbi School, originated the annual USC Robotics Open House, and lead the unification of the Viterbi K-12 stem outreach into the new K-12 STEM Center.
Dr. Matarić is deeply passionate about conveying the importance and promise of interdisciplinary engineering research and careers in STEM to a diverse audience including K-12 students and teachers, women and other underrepresented groups in engineering, the media, and policymakers. She received her PhD in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from MIT, MS in Computer Science from MIT, and BS in Computer Science from the University of Kansas.