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Gu named to inaugural distinguished professorship

Yu Gu with Cataglyphis robot

Professor and Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering Academy of Distinguished Professorship inaugural recipient Yu Gu with the robot, Cataglyphis. (WVU Photo)

Professor, Yu Gu with the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University has been named to a distinguished professorship to elevate research and academic excellence.

Story by J. Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing and Communications
Photos by West Virginia University


The Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering Academy members recently established the MMAE Academy of Distinguished Alumni Professorship and appointed Gu as the inaugural holder.

“We as an academy see the dedication and ingenuity of this exceptional individual ... how he started as an assistant professor and built a legacy of robotics excellence at WVU,” explained W. Garth Smith, academy member and co-founder of MVRSimulation. “It’s difficult to envision where WVU robotics would be without Dr. Gu’s talents, history of groundbreaking research and success of our robotics teams.”

As the faculty advisor for several robotics teams, Gu has led the NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge Championship Team to first place in 2015 winning the $100,000 Prize, and in 2016 winning the $750,000 prize with the most recent success of the 2023 University Rover Challenge team clinching first place on the global stage.

Over a dozen academy members and department leadership acknowledged the need to recognize and support highly productive faculty in the department and raised funds to establish a newly named professorship.

“Gu is highly deserving of this recognition and support,” said Jason Gross, associate professor and chair of the MMAE department. “His strong track record of leading a high-impact research program in robotics and leading students in world-class experiential learning through winning international robotics competitions made him the ideal candidate for this recognition.”

After obtaining his BS in Controls from Shanghai University in 1996, MS in Controls from Shanghai Jio Tong University in 1999, and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from WVU in 2004, Gu joined the department as a research assistant professor in March 2005. He then rose through the tenure-track to become a full professor in August 2023.

“The resources provided by the professorship will allow students and I to explore forward-thinking ideas in robotics,” explained Gu. “I am very thankful for this recognition and opportunity to work on interesting research directions with students.”

During his tenure, Gu has conducted research spanning areas including improving robots’ ability to function in increasingly complex environments and situations. As the director of the Interactive Robotics Laboratory, his team is currently working on precision robotic pollinators, autonomous planetary rovers, teams of robots for exploring underground environments, and swarms of ground and space robots.

“Dr. Gu is a talented faculty member in the College who has established an impeccable reputation in the area of robotics research,” said Pedro Mago, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “He has not only been instrumental in the success of our robotics teams but an essential collaborator in the development of the new robotics engineering program in the college. I am extremely thankful to the MMAE Academy members for their continued support of the MMAE department and the college.”

Gu was named Statler College Outstanding Researcher (2014-2015) and Excellence in Research Senior Level (2017-2018), WVU Big XII Faculty Fellow (2018-2019), NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Fellow (2019), and Statler College Researcher of the Year (2021-2022).

“The establishment of this professorship is very important for the department as it represents the first professorship established specifically to recognize the contributions of faculty in the MMAE department at WVU,” Gross stated. "I am so grateful to W. Garth Smith and the many members of our distinguished alumni academy who recognized the value of this initiative and offered their strong support in making it happen.”

The academy, established in 1990 has inducted 101 members, including individuals in industry, government agencies and private businesses. The establishment of the professorship was created through their collaboration with Gross and Smith.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135