New CSL faculty Mehr brings autonomy research to Illinois


Lizzie Roehrs, CSL

CSL’s newest faculty member has won the IEEE ITSS Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award. Negar Mehr, a member of Illinois’ Aerospace Engineering faculty, won the award for her thesis entitled “Smart Traffic Operation: from Human-Driven Cars to Mixed Vehicle Autonomy.” This award is given to celebrate and encourage the work of doctoral research that combines theory and practice, makes in-depth technical contributions, or is interdisciplinary in nature.

“My thesis has been a key step towards understanding the potential system-level impact of autonomous cars on mobility,” says Mehr. “My thesis work has had contributions to deep understanding of traffic networks with mixed vehicle autonomy and has also opened many new challenges that initiate promising research directions. I am excited that this was recognized by IEEE ITSS.”

Mehr joined the AE faculty as an assistant professor in August. She received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2019 from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed her work as a postdoctoral scholar in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department at Stanford University. Mehr earned her BS in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, in 2013.

Mehr was the co-recipient of the first prize for the best student paper award at the International Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 2016. She was also the graduate winner of the 2017 Women Transportation Seminars-Orange County Chapter scholarship. Mehr was recognized as a rising star in EECS, Aeronautics & Astronautics, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The focus of Mehr’s research is to develop control algorithms that allow autonomous systems to become prevalent and integrated into the fabric of human life and act in the favor of society as a whole. Mehr’s work draws from the fields of control theory, robotics, game theory, and machine learning. She is excited to continue her research in developing algorithms that enable safe, interactive, and altruistic autonomy here at the University of Illinois.

“I am looking forward to working with the great faculty and students here at Illinois,” says Mehr. “UIUC is one of the top schools in my area and I am excited to be collaborating with students and faculty here.”