Silvia Ferrari

Silvia Ferrari

Associate Dean for Cross-Campus Engineering Research
Cornell Engineering
John Brancaccio Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Silvia Ferrari is John Brancaccio Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University.  Prior to that, she was Professor of Engineering and Computer Science at Duke University, and Founder and Director of the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) and Fellowship program on Wireless Intelligent Sensor Networks (WISeNet).  Currently, she is the Director of the Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Controls (LISC) at Cornell University and the co-Director of the Cornell-Unibo Věho Institute on Vehicle Intelligence at Cornell Tech.  Her principal research interests include active perception, robust adaptive control, learning, and approximate dynamic programming, and control of multiscale dynamical systems.  She is the author of the book “Information-driven Path Planning and Control,” MIT Press (2020), and of the TED talk “Do robots dreams of electric sheep?”.  She received the B.S. degree from Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University.  She is a Fellow of ASME, a Senior Member of the IEEE and AIAA, and a Member of SPIE and SIAM.  She is the recipient of the ONR young investigator award (2004), the NSF CAREER award (2005), and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award (2006).

Research Interests

Professor Ferrari's research focuses on design and analysis of methods and algorithms for computational intelligence and sensorimotor learning and control. Her contributions include the development of new theories and algorithms on the learning and approximation properties of graphical models, such as neural and probabilistic networks, as well their applications in many areas of science and engineering, such as reconfigurable aircraft control and robotics. Professor Ferrari developed new methods for adaptive dynamic programming, reinforcement learning, optimal control, and information-driven planning and control for distributed systems and mobile sensor networks. Recent contributions also include the development of new mathematical models of learning and plasticity uncovered from biological brains, as well as cognitive models of complex decision making derived from data.

Teaching Interests

Optimal control theory, intelligent systems, multivariable control, feedback control of dynamic systems, sensor networks.

Selected Publications

  • Zhang, X U., G R. Foderaro, C R. Henriquez, S I Ferrari. 2017."A Scalable Weight-Free Learning Algorithm for Regulatory Control of Cell Activity in Spiking Neuronal Networks."International Journal of Neural Systems 1750015.
  • Wei, H., W. Lu, P. Zhu, S. Ferrari, M. Liu, R H. Klein, S. Omidshafiei, J P How. 2016."Information Value in Nonparametric Dirichlet Process Gaussian Process (DPGP) Mixture Models of Target Kinematics."Automatica74: 360-368.
  • Foderaro, G., A. Swingler, S Ferrari. 2016."A Model-based Approach to Optimizing Ms. Pac-Man Game Strategies in Real Time."IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games 1-1.
  • Foderaro, G., P. Zhu, H. Wei, T A. Wettergren, S Ferrari. 2016."Distributed Optimal Control of Sensor Networks for Dynamic Target Tracking."IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems 1-1.
  • Zhu, P., J. Morelli, S. Ferrari. 2016."Proc. of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Las Vegas, NV."Paper presented at Value Function Approximation for the Control of Multiscale Dynamical Systems, December.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Outstanding Research Award (College of Engineering, Cornell University) 2020
  • Elected fellow of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) 2020
  • Elected a fellow of AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) 2020
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), 2006
  • International Crime Analysis Association Research Award, 2005
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (NSF), 2005
  • Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, 2004
  • NC Space Grant Consortium Research Seed Award, 2003


  • B.S. (Aerospace Engineering), Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 1997
  • M.A. (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Princeton University, 1999
  • Ph.D. (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Princeton University, 2002


In the News