Maja J. Matarić is an American computer scientist and roboticist, and the Chan Soon-Shiong Chaired Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California. She is known for her work in human-robot interaction for socially assistive robotics, a new field she pioneered, which focuses on creating robots capable of providing personalized therapy and care through social rather than physical interaction, through technologies aimed at aiding special needs populations including the elderly, stroke patients, children with autism, and others. She is also known for her earlier work on coordination of robot teams and robot navigation.
Matarić was born in Belgrade, the capital of the former Yugoslavia. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas. She then moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she earned her MSc in 1990 and her Ph.D. in 1994, both under the supervision of Rodney A. Brooks. She joined the faculty at Brandeis University as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in January 1995, then moved to the University of Southern California in 1997 as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science with a courtesy appointment in the Neuroscience Program. There she was promoted to Associate Professor, received a courtesy appointment in the Department of Pediatrics, and was then promoted to Professor. She served as the Chair of the Women in Science and Engineering Committee of the Viterbi School of Engineering (2005), the President of the USC Faculty and Academic Senate (2006), as the Senior Associate Dean for Research in the Viterbi School of Engineering (2006-2011) and then as Vice Dean for Research (2011–present).
Awards and honors
In 2009, Matarić received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Fellow of the IEEE, and a recipient of the Okawa Foundation Award, the National Science Foundation Career Award, the MIT Technology Review TR35 Award, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award. She is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi, is one of five LA Times Magazine 2010 Visionaries, and is featured in the Emmy Award-nominated documentary movie "Me & Isaac Newton" and in the New Yorker article “Robots that Care”.
- Professional web site
- “Socially Assistive Robots and the Growing Healthcare Problem”, TEDx talk, Sep 15, 2010.
- “Robots that Care”, Jerome Groopman, New Yorker, November 2, 2009.
- “The social roboticist”, Jascha Hoffman, Nature, Vol. 4, August 16, 2012.
- “Socially Assistive Robots Provide a Break for Patients”, Rebecca Lurye, USA Today, June 28, 2012.
- “Wanted: Coach, Companion, Robot”, The Atlantic, April 13, 2012.
- “The New Face of Autism Therapy”, Gregory Mone, Popular Science, June 1, 2010.
- “Caregiver Robots”, IEEE Spectrum, Susan Karlin, February 2010.
- “President Honors Outstanding Science, Math and Engineering Mentors”, The White House Office of the Press Secretary blog.
- “MIT TR 35 Innovators Under 35 Profile”
- “Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award”
- “Visionary Robocare” LA Times Magazine, January 2010