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Program Description

Caltech’s Control and Dynamical Systems (CDS) program has initiated a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program targeted at undergraduate juniors who are interested in pursuing research in applications related to modeling, dynamics, and feedback in natural and engineering systems. The CDS SURF program is administered through the Caltech SURF program and provides a stipend of $5000 for 10 weeks of research and includes a travel stipend of $500 to help cover transportation costs to and from Pasadena. Housing is available in campus housing at a reasonable cost.

Caltech’s SURF program provides a variety of campus-wide activities to enhance the summer experience. More information on the Caltech SURF program is available at

In addition to the activities associated with the Caltech SURF program, CDS SURF students will have specialized activities designed to enhance their understanding and build linkages with fellow students and faculty. This includes a weekly CDS SURF group meeting at which students will give brief presentations on their research projects and, as the summer progresses, report on the progress they have made. This environment allows students to interact with other similar projects and to get feedback from CDS SURF students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty. In addition to their research benefit, these group meetings will provide good practice for the required Caltech SURF presentations at the end of the summer.

Individual CDS SURF projects are done under the supervision of a Caltech faculty member, with the assistance of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The projects can range from theoretical, to computational, to experimental, but all will involve ideas from control or dynamics in some way.

CDS Faculty

  • John Doyle (Professor)
  • Hideo Mabuchi (Associate Professor)
  • Doug MacMynowski (Senior Research Fellow)
  • Jerrold Marsden (Professor and Option Rep)
  • Richard Murray (Professor)
  • Houman Ohwadi (Assistant Professor)
  • Jeff Shamma (Visiting Associate; UCLA)
  • Stefano Soatto (Visiting Associate; UCLA)
  • Claire Tomlin (Visiting Associate: Stanford)
  • Jim Beck (Applied Mechanics)
  • Joel Burdick (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Michael Dickinson (Bioengineering)
  • Babak Hassibi (Electrical Engineering)
  • Steven Low (Computer Science, Electrical Eng)
  • Pietro Perona (Electrical Engineering)
  • Thanos Siapas (Computational & Neural Systems)
  • Tapio Schneider (Environmental Science and Eng)


Applications are sought from exceptional candidates with interdisciplinary interests. Successful applicants will generally have strong preliminary preparation in mathematics and dynamics/systems, through engineering, mathematics, or science courses. The strongest applicants have typically had at least one quarter of instruction in either feedback or dynamical systems. A list of CDS SURF projects can be found on the web at Interested students must identify a CDS-affiliated faculty member who agrees to serve as their sponsor. This initial contact should be done by e-mail with the faculty member. Students who have specific research interests but do not see a listed project matching there interests or are not sure which faculty member to contact should contact Richard Murray (, the CDS SURF coordinator.

Once a faculty member has been identified, the normal SURF application procedures should be followed (see The student should also send e-mail to Richard Murray indicated that they are applying for the CDS SURF program.

Research Areas and Projects

Faculty and students in CDS are active in a number of research areas. The primary theoretical areas of research include robust control, multivariable and nonlinear dynamical systems, multiscale modeling, optimal and decentralized control, system identification and estimation theory, and com-munications and information theory. Applications include mixing and transport processes in fluids, cooperative control of multi-vehicle systems, networking and communication systems, biological systems, quantum measurement and control, control of nonlinear and mechanical systems, nonlinear and chaotic dynamics, mechanics, nonlinear flight dynamics for highly maneuverable aircraft, and robotics.

The following SURF projects are available as CDS SURF projects: