Dr Nathan Lepora


I am a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Engineering Maths at the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory. I am also a Program Director for the MSc in Robotics.

I lead and am a Principal Investigator for the Tactile Robotics Research Theme at Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

I have previously been a Research Fellow in the Adaptive Behaviour Research Group and Sheffield Robotics at the University of Sheffield. I trained originally in Applied Mathematics, with a BA, MMath (Part III), PhD and JRF from Cambridge University.

I also work as a commissioned author, mainly in science education and popular science (ages 8-16).

My research interests span robotics, neuroscience and biomimetics. My principal focus is robot and animal perception. In robotics, I specialize in tactile perception and manipulation with robot arms and hands. In neuroscience, I specialize in models of perceptual decision making based on statistical optimality. Biomimetics links these research areas: robots can test models of biological perception and robot perception can use principles from biology.


Aug 2016 My paper Biomimetic Active Touch with Whiskers and Fingertips is #1 ranked by popularity in IEEE Transactions on Haptics at the moment.

Aug 2016 (funding): I have been awarded (with Maria Elena Giannaccini and Ben Ward-Cherrier) EPSRC impact acceleration funds for our work on tactile sensing (£20k).

Aug 2016 (new paper): I have have a paper accepted in Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) on Threshold Learning for Optimal Decision Making.

Aug 2016 I'm helping organize a special issue of the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics based on papers from Living Machines 2016.

May 2016 (new papers): My paper on Biomimetic Active Touch with Whiskers and Fingertips has been published in IEEE Transactions on Haptics, in the Special Issue on Active Touch that I was a co-editor.

May 2016 (new papers): Luke Cramphorn and I both presented papers at ICRA on Tactile manipulation and Tactile quality control. Ben Ward-Cherrier gave invited presentations on his paper in IEEE Robotics Automation Letters in two workshops.

May 2016 (funding): Maria Elena Giannaccini has been awarded an equipment pump priming grant (£3k); Ben Ward-Cherrier has been awarded funds to attend ICRA.

Jan 2016 (new RA): Maria Elena Giannaccini has started an RA post with me on my EPSRC First Grant on Tactile Superresolution Sensing.

Jan 2016 (new papers): Ben Ward-Cherrier and I have have two papers in the first issue of IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters on Tactile manipulation with a TacThumb integrated on the Open-Hand M2 Gripper and Tactile quality control with biomimetic active touch.

Dec 2015 (funding): I have been awarded (with A. Richards) a University of Bristol Capital Bid (£22k) to buy robotic equipment (an arm and F/T sensor) for the MSc and CDT in Robotics.

Dec 2015 (new PhD student): To complement my EPSRC First Grant, the Engineering Faculty has assigned me a DTP PhD Scholarship, which I have awarded to Nick Pestell.

Nov 2015: I'm serving as Program Chair for Living Machines 2016 (18-22 July, Edinburgh).

Nov 2015 (funding): I have been awarded an EPSRC First Grant on 'Tactile superresolution', with funding (£100k) for a postdoc for just over a year.

Oct 2015 (new PhD student): Luke Cramphorn has chosen to do his CDT PhD with me in Tactile Robotics.

Oct 2015 (new PhD student): Fliss Inkpen has chosen to do her Welcome Neural Dynamics PhD on 'Modelling ion channel expression in developing neurons' with Mike Ashby and I.

Oct 2015 (new PhD student): Asma Alzaid has started a PhD in Medical Robotics with Sanja Dogramadzi and I.

Oct 2015 (announcement): We have 6 Scholarships of £5k available for UK and International Students on the MSc in Robotics for 2016.

Sep 2015 (announcement): Welcome to the 23 new students on the MSc in Robotics this year.

July 2015 (new paper): I have a paper in IEEE Transaction on Robotics on 'Tactile superresolution and biomimetic hyperacuity'.

Mar 2015: I have contributed an article to Scholarpedia on 'Active tactile perception'.

Jan 2015 (new paper): Giovanni Pezzulo and I have a paper in PLoS Computational Biology on 'Embodied choice: How action influences perceptual decision making'.

Nov 2014 (funding): I have been awarded a University of Bristol Pump Priming award (£5k) on Tactile Superresolution.

Oct 2014: I have been invited to serve as guest editor for a special issue on active touch in IEEE Transactions on Haptics.

Sep 2014 (new PhD student): Ben Ward-Cherrier been awarded a DTP PhD Scholarship to study Tactile Robotics.

Sep 2014 (announcement): Welcome to the 24 new students on the MSc in Robotics this year.

Jan 2014: My paper 'State-of-the-art in biomimetics' in Biomimetic and Bioinspiration was the most highly read paper in that journal last year, with more than 10000 reads.

Jan 2014 (announcement): Welcome to the 12 students on the MSc in Robotics.

Jan 2014: I have taken up a Lectureship in the Dept of Engineering Maths at the University of Bristol, affiliated with Bristol Robotics Laboratory, with responsibility as Program Director for their MSc in Robotics.