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Expert: Robots Are Changing How Humans Relate to Each Other

Renowned Researcher Holly Yanco to Speak at UMass Lowell Event

NASA's Valkyrie robot
NASA's humanoid robot, R5, also known as "Valkyrie," will soon be the subject of research by Prof. Holly Yanco and other faculty. Yanco will speak on robots and how they influence our lives at the 2016 Distinguished University Professor Lecture.


Media contacts: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or and Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

* M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y *

Tuesday, March 29

4 p.m.

WHAT:  Internationally respected robotics researcher and UMass Lowell computer science faculty member Holly Yanco will share her understanding of how the use of robots – from Mars rovers to assistive technology – is changing how humans relate to each other. 

Yanco – who has been awarded numerous research grants, including from sources like NASA, Google and the National Science Foundation in just the last year – will speak on the topic at UMass Lowell’s annual Distinguished University Professor lecture. Yanco was selected as Distinguished University Professor, the highest honor presented to a UMass Lowell faculty member, for this academic year because of her outstanding teaching, research and service to the campus. 

Yanco is the founder of the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center (NERVE), one of the most advanced robotics-testing facilities in the nation. Later this spring, NERVE will become the temporary home of a humanoid robot known as R5, or “Valkyrie,” one of only two of its kind developed by NASA. At NERVE, faculty and student researchers will explore how the robot, which stands more than 6 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, can assist humans in space travel and exploration. 

Yanco’s other research looks at a variety of topics, including how technology can be used to improve communication by first-responders in the event of natural and man-made disasters and how robots can help respond in such emergencies; how robotic arms and wheelchairs can be improved to better assist the physically challenged; using robots in new training methods for law-enforcement bomb squads; and how autonomous robots can be employed in manufacturing and warehouse facilities. In addition to her research, Yanco teaches a variety of courses and developed the university’s robotics minor, and served as faculty adviser for the student “Rover Hawk” team that won a national NASA contest to design, build and operate a Mars rover-style robot.

WHERE:  Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, North Campus, 40 University Ave., Lowell. Contact UMass Lowell media relations for directions and parking information.