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Margaret M. Coad

PhD Graduate

Stanford University

Mechanical Engineering/Robotics

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Hello! In the spring of 2021, I finished my PhD at Stanford University in mechanical engineering with Professor Allison Okamura in the CHARM lab. In the fall of 2021, I joined the faculty in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. This is my old website, and my new website should be up and running soon!

My research focuses on design, modeling, and control of robot systems that improve human health, safety, and productivity. I am especially excited about research that can benefit people in real-world applications in the near future. My goal is to enable transformative human-machine systems in areas including robotic exploration of environments where humans cannot or do not wish to enter, human-safe robotic manipulation, robot-assisted human training and rehabilitation, and remote telepresence. Technical contribution areas include mechanism design, actuator and sensor design, soft and bioinspired robotics, human-in-the-loop control, human motor learning, and haptics.

My PhD research was on a new class of robots called "vine robots," which move through their environment by extending from the tip, similar to how vines grow. These robots have immense potential for exploring spaces too small or dangerous for humans to enter, and I worked on developing models and principles for understanding these robots and endowing them with new capabilities. In a particularly adventurous endeavor in the summer of 2018, I brought a vine robot that I built to Chavín, Peru and used it to help explore an archeological site and take video in small spaces that were not previously viewable through other means.

Outside of academics, I played on the Stanford women's ultimate frisbee team and was an active member of the Catholic community at Stanford.



PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 2021

MS, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 2017

BS, Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015



M. M. Coad, "Design, modeling, and control of vine robots for exploration of unknown environments," PhD thesis, Stanford University, 2021.  Thesis  Presentation

I. Exarchos, K. Wang, B. H. Do, F. Stroppa, M. M. Coad, A. M. Okamura, and C. K. Liu, "Task-Specific Design Optimization and Fabrication for Inflated-Beam Soft Robots with Growable Discrete Joints," (submitted).  Preprint

W. E. Heap, N. D. Naclerio, M. M. Coad, S. Jeong, and E. W. Hawkes, "Soft Retraction Device and Internal Camera Mount for Everting Vine Robots," IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2021, pp. 4959-4965.

A. M. Gruebele*, A. C. Zerbe*, M. M. Coad, A. M. Okamura, and M. R. Cutkosky, "Distributed Sensor Networks Deployed Using Soft Growing Robots," IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics, 2021, pp. 66-73.  Paper  Video  *Indicates equal contribution  Finalist for RoboSoft 2021 Best Paper Award

L. H. Blumenschein, M. M. Coad, D. A. Haggerty, A. M. Okamura, and E. W. Hawkes, "Design, modeling, control, and application of everting vine robots," Frontiers in Robotics and AI, vol. 7, p. 153, 2020.  Paper

S. Jeong*, M. M. Coad*, L. H. Blumenschein, M. Luo, U. Mehmood, J. Kim, A. M. Okamura, and J. Ryu, "A Tip Mount for Transporting Sensors and Tools using Soft Growing Robots," IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2020, pp. 8781-8788.  Paper  Video  Presentation  *Indicates equal contribution  Finalist for IROS 2020 Best Paper Award in Robot Mechanisms and Design

F. Stroppa, M. Luo, K. Yoshida, M. M. Coad, L. H. Blumenschein, and A. M. Okamura, "Human Interface for Teleoperated Object Manipulation with a Soft Growing Robot," IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2020, pp. 726-732.  Paper  Presentation  Finalist for ICRA 2020 Best Paper Award in Human-Robot Interaction

M. M. Coad, R. P. Thomasson, L. H. Blumenschein, N. S. Usevitch, E. W. Hawkes, and A. M. Okamura, "Retraction of Soft Growing Robots without Buckling," IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 2115-2122, 2020.  Paper  Video  Presentation

M. M. Coad, L. H. Blumenschein, S. Cutler, J. A. Reyna Zepeda, N. D. Naclerio, H. El-Hussieny, U. Mehmood, J. Ryu, E. W. Hawkes, and A. M. Okamura, "Vine Robots: Design, Teleoperation, and Deployment for Navigation and Exploration," IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 120-132, 2020.  Paper  Video  Presentation  Winner of RAM Best Paper Award for 2020

F. Stroppa, M. Luo, G. Gerboni, M. M. Coad, J. Walker, and A. M. Okamura, "Human-Centered Control of a Growing Soft Robot for Object Manipulation," IEEE World Haptics Conference Work-In-Progress, 2019.  Paper

Y. A. Oquendo, Z. Chua, M. M. Coad, I. Nisky, A. Jarc, S. Wren, T. S. Lendvay, and A. M. Okamura, "Robot-Assisted Surgical Training Over Several Days in a Virtual Surgical Environment with Divergent and Convergent Force Fields," Hamlyn Symposium,2019.

N. Enayati, A. M. Okamura, A. Mariani, E. Pellegrini, M. M. Coad, G. Ferrigno, and E. De Momi, "Robotic Assistance-as-Needed for Enhanced Visuomotor Learning in Surgical Robotics Training: An Experimental Study," IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2018, pp. 6631-6636.  Paper  Video

M. M. Coad, A. M. Okamura, S. Wren, Y. Mintz, T. Lendvay, A. M. Jarc, and I. Nisky, "Training in Divergent and Convergent Force Fields During 6-DOF Teleoperation with a Robot-Assisted Surgical System," IEEE World Haptics Conference, 2017, pp. 195-200.  Paper


Media Coverage:

ARCS Foundation, Exploring Innovations: Slithering Into Unseen Worlds,May 2021: Article

Veritasium, This unstoppable robot could save your life,April 2021: Video

CBS Innovation Nation, Robots that grow as they slither along, October 2019: Video

Stanford Engineering, Robots help archeologists to explore pre-Incan ruins in Peru, December 2018: Article and Video

WIRED, The Clever Vine-Like Robot that Grows and Steers with Air, April 2018: Article and Video

NSF Science Nation, Soft "vine robots" grow into solutions, April 2018: Video