Ruike Renee Zhao is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University where she directs the Soft Intelligent Materials Laboratory. Renee received her BS degree from Xi'an Jiaotong University in 2012, and her MS and PhD degrees from Brown University in 2014 and 2016, respectively. She was a postdoc associate at MIT during 2016-2018 prior to her appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University from 2018 to 2021.
Reneeā€™s research concerns the development of stimuli-responsive soft composites for multifunctional robotic systems with integrated shape-changing, assembling, sensing, and navigation. By combining mechanics, polymer engineering, and advanced material manufacturing techniques, the functional soft composites enable applications in soft robotics, miniaturized biomedical devices, flexible electronics, deployable and morphing structures.
Renee is a recipient of the ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics award (2021), the NSF Career Award (2020), and the ASME Haythornthwaite Research Initiation Award (2018).

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Terman Faculty Fellow, Stanford University (2021)
  • Gabilan Faculty Fellow, Stanford University (2021-2024)
  • Journal of Applied Mechanics Award, ASME IMECE Applied Mechanics Division (2021)
  • CAREER Award, National Science Foundation (2020)
  • Haythornthwaite Foundation Award, ASME IMECE Applied Mechanics Division (2018)
  • Plastech Graduate Fellowship, Brown University (2015-2016)

Professional Education

  • Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering (2018)
  • PhD, Brown University, Mechanical Engineering, Solid Mechanics (2016)
  • MS, Brown University, Mechanical Engineering (2014)
  • BS, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Mechanical Engineering (2012)

2021-22 Courses

Stanford Advisees

  • Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
    Qiji Ze
  • Master's Program Advisor
    Edward Fouad, Victor MAURIN
  • Doctoral (Program)
    Shuai Wu

All Publications

  • Stretchable origami robotic arm with omnidirectional bending and twisting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Wu, S., Ze, Q., Dai, J., Udipi, N., Paulino, G. H., Zhao, R. 2021; 118 (36)


    Inspired by the embodied intelligence observed in octopus arms, we introduce magnetically controlled origami robotic arms based on Kresling patterns for multimodal deformations, including stretching, folding, omnidirectional bending, and twisting. The highly integrated motion of the robotic arms is attributed to inherent features of the reconfigurable Kresling unit, whose controllable bistable deploying/folding and omnidirectional bending are achieved through precise magnetic actuation. We investigate single- and multiple-unit robotic systems, the latter exhibiting higher biomimetic resemblance to octopus' arms. We start from the single Kresling unit to delineate the working mechanism of the magnetic actuation for deploying/folding and bending. The two-unit Kresling assembly demonstrates the basic integrated motion that combines omnidirectional bending with deploying. The four-unit Kresling assembly constitutes a robotic arm with a larger omnidirectional bending angle and stretchability. With the foundation of the basic integrated motion, scalability of Kresling assemblies is demonstrated through distributed magnetic actuation of double-digit number of units, which enables robotic arms with sophisticated motions, such as continuous stretching and contracting, reconfigurable bending, and multiaxis twisting. Such complex motions allow for functions mimicking octopus arms that grasp and manipulate objects. The Kresling robotic arm with noncontact actuation provides a distinctive mechanism for applications that require synergistic robotic motions for navigation, sensing, and interaction with objects in environments with limited or constrained access. Based on small-scale Kresling robotic arms, miniaturized medical devices, such as tubes and catheters, can be developed in conjunction with endoscopy, intubation, and catheterization procedures using functionalities of object manipulation and motion under remote control.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2110023118

    View details for PubMedID 34462360