Fall Evening Lecture Series kicks off with expert in autonomous ocean robotics

Nic Radford wants us to love ocean exploration the way we romanticize space exploration.

He knows whereof he speaks. Radford is an engineer, roboticist, inventor, and entrepreneur who spent 14 years at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center’s Dexterous Robotics Laboratory at NASA in Houston. He now is founder, president, and CEO of Nauticus Robotics Inc., a company that creates and deploys autonomous marine robotic systems.

He launched the Fall 2023 Evening Lecture season at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) with the talk, “From Outer Space to Inner Space: Developing Robots for Final Frontiers,” on Sept. 20. You can watch the lecture here if you missed it in person.

Nauticus Robotics

One of Nauticus Robotics’ autonomous marine robotic devices. Nauticus founder and CEO Nic Radford opens the Fall 2023 IHMC Evening Lecture season.

“Space flight dominates our romantic thinking,” Radford said. “I’d like to see us explore Mars, but there are lot of pressing challenges here on Earth and those pressing challenges could use investment.”

Radford calls Nauticus his life’s work and says it directly ties to his 14 years at NASA. Applying technological principles his team learned from spaceflight robotics, Nauticus challenges the aging and inefficient existing service infrastructure of the offshore industries, Radford says.

“The ocean is fundamental to almost every aspect of human life but is rarely top of mind for people and research for it is vastly underfunded,” he says.

He was the principal investigator leading the development of Valkyrie for participation in the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge and NASA’s future Mars robotics missions. At NASA, he received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

He hopes that the Lecture audience comes away with a deeper understanding of how the investment we have made in space and space flight can translate into the realm that dominates the planet we call home.

“Nauticus is making strides for ocean exploration and methods for cleaner energy production while challenging status quo methods,” he said.

Space investment outpaces ocean investment by 100 times, but as Radford notes, “ocean space is 20 times more valuable” as an immediate economic and social resource to our species.

The ocean, Radford notes, is a huge economic engine for humanity. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, even the day-to-day transfer of information and energy all are tied to the ocean. Radford believes it’s time to give this vital space its due.

“The resources we all use every day are connected to the ocean,” he said.

The remainder of the Fall season of the Lecture series will feature experts in pavement design, robotics, planetary science, and more. Visit https://www.ihmc.us/life/evening_lectures/pensacola-lecture-series/ to stay up to date.


Dr. Stephen Anton

Anton has spent his career looking at the influence of lifestyle on healthy aging and chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. His October lecture focuses on the importance of stress and recovery in healthy aging. Anton has previously been a featured guest on IHMC’s podcast, STEM-Talk, highlighting how eating and exercise behaviors can influence obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic conditions. A UF alumnus, he is currently a professor in the department of physiology and aging at the University of Florida. Watch his talk here.

Dr. Jeff Phillips

Phillips is a Senior Research Scientist at IHMC who develops mitigation strategies for common environmental, physiological, and cognitive stressors that break down optimal performance in military operators. Prior to joining IHMC, he spent six years as a research psychologist at the Naval Medical Research Unit in Dayton, Ohio. He worked almost exclusively on hypoxia in tactical aviation and served on a team that was instrumental in getting the F-22 Raptors back in operation. The Navy recognized his contributions to the F-22 project with the 2012 Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers in the Navy award.

Dallas Little

Little’s research interests include asphalt technology, pavement design, soil stabilization, fracture mechanics, soil mechanics and foundation engineering. He has served as principal investigator on more than $35 million in research in his academic career. He is a distinguished member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Little has published more than 230 refereed journal publications, over 80 refereed proceedings, has contributed five books and has given more than 420 invited lectures.

Ocala lectures will include:

Sept. 28: Dr. Alexander Fleming: In his Pensacola lecture earlier this year, Fleming spoke about aging. People are living longer, but also are suffering with multiple chronic diseases — and the exploding cost of managing those conditions — in the final and least productive years of life. In the first lecture of 2023, Dr. Alexander Fleming talked about efforts to understand how we can extend our productive, healthy years. He also touched on geroscience, a discipline focused on the biological roots causes of aging and disease, that ultimately could reduce the financial and societal burden of unhealthy aging. Watch his talk here.

Oct. 19: Dr. Lori Marino: Marino is a neuroscientist and adjunct professor of Animal Studies at New York University. She is the founder and president of The Whale Sanctuary Project and executive director of The Kimmela Center for Scholarship-Based Animal Advocacy. Her work focuses on the evolution of the brain and intelligence in dolphins and whales and on the effects of captivity on wildlife. Watch her talk here.

Nov. 16: Dr. Niranjan Suri: Suri is a Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director at IHMC, the Division Associate for Research in the Military information Sciences Division at the US Army Research Laboratory, and a Director of Research Professor in the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Program at the University of West Florida. His research focuses on networking, communications, distributed systems, information management, interoperability, Internet of Things (IoT), and the application of Machine Learning these domains.

Dec. 5: Dr. Morley Stone: Stone is IHMC’s Chief Strategic Partnership Officer. He served as the Senior Vice President for Research at The Ohio State University. Prior to OSU, he served as the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), where he was responsible for assisting with the planning and execution of the Air Force’s science and technology program. From 2003 to 2006, he was Program Manager in the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).