Martin Nisser

PhD student in the HCI Engineering Group at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. My research advisor is Professor Stefanie Mueller.


Research interests:
Robotics, fabrication and human-computer interaction.

I completed a BEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, and a MSc in Robotics, Systems and Control at ETH Zurich. During this time, I spent a year as a visiting researcher at Harvard University. Before beginning my PhD, I interned at Tesla and worked as a graduate trainee in the Advanced Concepts Team at the European Space Agency.
Attended UIST '17 in Quebec City.
Started my PhD at MIT!
Finished working at the European Space Agency.
Paper on reconfigurable space structures published at ISTS in Matsuyama, Japan.


An Electromagnetically Actuated, Self-Reconfigurable Space Structure
Publication Venue: ISTS (2017) pdf
Advisor: Dario Izzo, European Space Agency

We present a conceptual framework for achieving on-orbit formation of reconfigurable space structures using individually actuated electromagnets embedded in the edges of large swarms of miniature spacecraft that are based on the PocketQube.

Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives
Publication Venue: IROS (2016) pdf doi
Advisor: Robert Wood, Harvard University

Design and fabrication of self-folding structures and robots. Starting with building composite materials from shape memory polymers, flexible PCBs and resistive heating elements, we implemented a controller to allow flat laminates to autonomously self-fold into arbitrary 3D configurations.

Visual Inertial Compassing
Research project (ETH Zurich, 2014). pdf
Advisor: Roland Siegwart, ETH Zurich

Heading estimation using visual-inertial sensor fusion. Using low-cost IMUs and a stereo camera system, I developed algorithms to estimate a heading of North without a magnetometer by leveraging the rotation of the Earth using a Kalman Filter and a Full Batch Optimizer.

Modelling Bounding Gaits for a Quadrupedal Robot
Research project (in collaboration with Marius Fehr and Wilson Ko, ETH Zurich, 2013).
Advisor: Fumiya Iida, ETH Zurich (now Cambridge University)

In this project, the bounding gait of a quadrepdal robot was modelled, dividing each step into 3 phases; a lift-off phase, an aerial phase and a touch-down phase. The equations of motion are derived in 2 dimensions and solved in order to simulate several steps of the gait. Parallel to this, a 3d model of the bounding quadruped was simulated in a physics engine for comparison.



  • Martin Nisser, Andreas Borggraefe and Dario Izzo, “An Electromagnetically Actuated, Self-Reconfigurable Space Structure,” the 31st International Symposium on Space Technology and Science, Matsuyama, Japan, June 2017.

  • M. E. W. Nisser, S. M. Felton, M. T. Tolley, M. Rubenstein and R. J. Wood, “Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives,” IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Daejeon, South Korea, October 2016.



    The Blanceflor Boncompagni Ludovisi, née Bildt Scholarship (2017)
    Granted in support of doctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Funch's Scholarship (2014)
    Granted in support of research conducted at Harvard University.

    IMechE Best Student Award (2013)
    Awarded by the University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to the best performing student of the graduating class.


    IEEE Spectrum (2016)
    Article on Master’s thesis: Swarm of Origami Robots Can Self Assemble Out of a Single Sheet.

    PhD Computer Science (09/2017 - Current)
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Supervisor: Prof. Stefanie Mueller.
    Area of Concentration: Artifical Intelligence.

    Visiting Researcher (09/2014 - 09/2015)
    Harvard University
    Supervisor: Prof. Robert Wood.
    Project: Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives.

    MSc Robotics, Systems and Control (09/2013 - 10/2015)
    ETH Zurich
    Degree GPA: 5.5/6
    Supervisors: Prof. Roland Siegwart and Prof. Bradley Nelson.
    Thesis: Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding with Shape Memory Composites.

    BEng Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy (09/2009 - 06/2013)
    University of Edinburgh
    Degree class: First Class Honours.
    Supervisor: Prof. Frank Mill.
    Thesis: Design and Optimization of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

    Young Graduate Trainee (09/2016 - 08/2017)
    Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Agency
    Research area: Morphing Space Structures.

    Project Intern (02/2016 - 07/2016)
    Supercharging Team, Tesla Motors
    Working area: Financial forecasting and charging trends analysis.