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Smiling woman with long, curly brown hair wearing a purple, pink and white button down shirt with white shirt underneath. It is a formal headshot.Dr. Nancy M. Amato, Unocal and Regents Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been elected as a 2018 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Fellow.

The AAAI Fellows program began in 1990 to recognize individuals who have achieved unusual distinction in the field of artificial intelligence. The AAAI Fellows selection committee typically selects five to 10 new Fellows each year, with eight Fellows being inducted in 2018.

Amato was selected for significant contributions to the algorithmic foundations of motion planning in robotics and computational biology and leadership in broadening participation in computing. She was inducted during the Thirty-second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which was held Feb. 2–7 in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to this, she is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the World Technology Network (WTN).

Amato’s research focuses on motion planning and its applications in robotics, computational biology, animation, computer-aided design and virtual reality. Motion planning deals with finding paths to move an object (the robot) from an initial to a goal position. She has developed novel algorithms that work by using probabilistic methods to strategically generate configurations of the robot. She and her students have developed several important strategies that can be used for robots operating in very crowded environments or help them plan how to manipulate or grasp an object. Her group was also the first to apply these sampling-based planning methods to proteins and other biomolecules.

Amato has been instrumental in setting up key national programs for women and minorities in computing. She received the 2014 Computing Research Association (CRA) Haberman Award, the inaugural National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Harrold/Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award in 2014, the 2013 IEEE HP/Harriet Rigas Award, and Texas A&M Association of Former Students university-level awards for teaching (2011) and research (2018). She has also received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

She has graduated 23 doctoral students, with most going on to careers in academia, government or industry research labs, and the rest going to industry or postdoctoral studies. She was program chair for the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation and for Robotics: Science and Systems in 2016. She is an elected member of the CRA board of directors (2014-2020), currently serves as vice president for member activities for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), was twice elected as a member of the RAS AdCom, was co-chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) from 2014-2017, and was co-chair of the NCWIT Academic Alliance from 2009-2011.

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, formerly the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, is a nonprofit scientific society devoted to advancing the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines. AAAI aims to promote artificial intelligence research. The organization also aims increase the public understanding of artificial intelligence, improve the teaching and training of artificial intelligence practitioners, and provide guidance for research planners and funders in respect to the current developments and future directions of the area of study.