Nicole W. XU
Assistant Professor • Robotics and Systems Design, Thermo Fluid Sciences

Office Location: ECME 216
Lab Location: ECSL 111

Research Interests

Bioinspired and Biohybrid Robotics, Underwater Vehicles, Fluid Dynamics, Biology, Oceanography, Bioethics

The Xu Lab is an interdisciplinary research group at the intersection of robotics, fluid dynamics, and biology. Our mission is to develop and deploy bioinspired aquatic robots for real-world applications using a combination of laboratory experiments, theoretical modeling, and field work. By combining features from both natural and engineered designs, we aim to create more energy-efficient, maneuverable, and robust robots and underwater vehicles to track climate change, observe natural phenomena in the ocean, and aid in environmental stewardship.

Select Publications

  • Webster-Wood V.A., Guix M., Xu N.W., Behkam B., Sato H., Sarkar D., Sanchez S., Shimizu M., Parker K.K. 2023. Biohybrid robots: Recent progress, challenges, and perspectives. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 18(1): 015001.
  • Xu N.W., Dabiri J.O. 2022. Bio-inspired Ocean Exploration. Oceanography, 35(2):3548, [Cover]
  • Sampath K.*, Xu N.W.*, Geder J.D., Pruessner M., Ramamurti R. 2022. Flapping soft fin deformation modeling using planar laser-induced fluorescence imaging. Journal of Visualized Experiments, (182), e63784, doi:10.3791/63784. *These authors contributed equally to this paper.*
  • Xu N.W., Townsend J.P., Costello J.H., Colin S.P., Gemmell B.J., Dabiri J.O. 2021. Developing biohybrid robotic jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) for free-swimming tests in the laboratory and in the field. Bio-protocol, 11(7): e3974.
  • Hoover A.P., Xu N.W., Gemmell B.J., Colin S.P., Costello J.H., Dabiri J.O., Miller L.A. 2021. Neuromechanical wave resonance in jellyfish bell swimming, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A., 118(11): e2020025118.
  • Xu N.W. 2021. Squid-inspired robots perform swimmingly. Science Robotics, 6, eabf4301.
  • Xu N.W., Townsend J.P., Costello J.H., Colin S.P., Gemmell B.J., Dabiri J.O. 2020. Field testing of biohybrid robotic jellyfish to demonstrate enhanced swimming speeds. Biomimetics, 5(4), 64.
  • Xu N.W., Dabiri J.O. 2020. Low-power microelectronics embedded in live jellyfish enhance propulsion. Science Advances, 6(5), eaaz3194. [Cover]


Dr. Xu is an Assistant Professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering. Prior to her appointment, she was a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Laboratories for Computational Physics & Fluid Dynamics at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C. She received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Stanford University, M.S. in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology, and B.S.E. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been featured in national and international media outlets, including live on BBC World News and various TV, radio, and podcast appearances, as well as in print publications such as WiredScientific American, and The Economist