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Rachel Holladay
EECS PhD Student, MIT
rhollada [at] mit [dot] edu
Office: MIT 32-331
Pronouns: she/her

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I am an incoming Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (MEAM Department + GRASP Lab), starting in Fall 2025!

I am a PhD student at MIT in EECS where I am co-advised by Alberto Rodriguez and Tomás Lozano-Pérez in the MCube Lab and LIS Group. I have been supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. I previously received a B.S. in Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon.

Research. My research focuses on enabling robots to robustly perform long-horizon, contact-rich manipulation tasks in everyday environments. I envision a world in which robots are cooking dinner at home, packing supplies in hospitals and cleaning up messy classrooms. Completing these types of tasks requires a robot to execute long sequences of actions, where each action involves many connected, discrete and continuous choices that are critically impacted by physical constraints. Furthermore, for robots to operate in the real world, it is critical that they be able to cope with partial or uncertain information. To solves these types of tasks, my research proposes models and algorithms that exploit the physics and geometry of the world in order to tackle the dual challenges of long-horizon decision-making and acting under uncertainty. I contribute models based on engineering mechanics and learned from data and I build on tools from motion planning, control and task planning.

My research is motivated by and grounded in deployments to real robots. From left-to-right, the top row of videos demonstrate previous contributions on:
Service and Outreach. My aim is to foster greater inclusion and belonging in academia by building supportive communities and to address inequity by advocating for increased transparency. A few major efforts include: 
  • Mentoring gender-minority high school FIRST Tech Challenge robotics teams, the Winsor Wildbots (Team 13620) and Winsor Wirecats (Team 20409)
  • Serving in EECS REFS (Resources for Easing Friction and Stress), a peer support group trained to help fellow graduate students manage stress and conflict
  • Co-founding and co-leading GWiRC (Graduate Women in Robotics Community), a student group focused building a tighter-knit community, across departments, for the female-identifying robotics researchers at MIT
  • Serving on the founding Executive Council for EECS's GAAP (Graduate Application Assistance Program), which provides mentoring and resources to underrepresented communities

Teaching and Mentoring. As a graduate student, I helped design and create an online robotics course, served as a teaching assistant to a robotics manipulation course, and earned a graduate teaching certificate. It is also my joy to work with some really rad students:
Miscellaneous. My academic lineage is more of a "family graph" than a "family tree".

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