Welcome to Alumni & Corporate Relations

Prof.Rajesh Rajamani

1989/B.Tech/ME Benjamin Y. H. Liu- TSI Endowed Chair Professor and Associate Director (Research), Minnesota Robotics Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Prof. Rajesh Rajamani obtained his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1989. He then pursued his Master’s and PhD in the same field at the University of California, Berkeley, completing them in 1991 and 1993, respectively. From his beginnings as an Assistant Professor, he has become the Benjamin Y. H. Liu – TSI Endowed Chair Professor and Associate Director (Research) of the Minnesota Robotics Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. 

His research interests include the design of estimation algorithms, sensors and controllers for smart and autonomous systems, with applications ranging from vehicles to medical wearables. His lab has substantial funding and a strong publication record, where he has published over 175 journal papers, over 125 refereed conference publications, and been granted 14 patents. He has also authored the widely acclaimed textbook “Vehicle Dynamics and Control”, which has been adopted for graduate courses by numerous universities worldwide, including his alma mater Berkeley. This book receives over 500 citations by other authors each year. He has supervised over 50 graduate students – his students highly admire him as one of the best teachers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

In 2015, he co-founded the start-up company Innotronics, which markets his patented invention of a new magnetic position sensor. The US National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer recognized Innotronics as one of the top 35 most promising university start-ups of 2016. This company has seen its sensor sales grow significantly over the last two years and sold over 11,000 sensors in 2022.

With 17+ awards and honors, such as the O. Hugo Schuck Award, the Charles Stark Draper Innovative Practice Award, the Ralph Teetor Award, and the NSF CAREER Award already behind him, we once again would like to give Prof. Rajesh Rajamani’s talent the recognition it deserves by presenting him with the Distinguished Alumni Award.


 1) How do you balance the demands of teaching, research and entrepreneurship, and what do you find most rewarding about these activities?

     In terms of time, my work is dominated by research activities. But the kind of research I do involves development of technology for real-world applications. Since our work is inspired and motivated by real-world problems, it is possible to commercialize our research, patent our inventions and take them to market. This is why I have been able to indulge in entrepreneurship while having an academic career

2) What advice do you have for students aspiring to enter these fields? Is there anything to keep in mind before getting into these fields?

     My advice to students is “Follow your passion. It is possible to be financially successful no matter what path and which field you choose to pursue. Brilliant students from institutions like IIT Madras are bound to be successful, no matter whether they pursue entrepreneurship or an academic career.”

3) Everything you have done revolves around the field of Mechanical Engineering. Did you always know that this was the road to take? When did you have that ‘eureka’ defining moment?

    I have to confess I did not know much about Mechanical Engineering (ME) when I joined IIT Madras (or about any other field of engineering). But during my ME studies both at IIT Madras and at Berkeley, I found many interesting problems to work on. Another aspect is that engineering is now very inter-disciplinary. I find that solving major engineering problems often requires a mix of some fundamental mechanical engineering together with algorithm development, software development, use of electronics and design of circuits. So you do end up learning and using a little bit of everything.

4) How did you get into entrepreneurship without doing some sort of MBA? Who or what guided/inspired you?

    An MBA degree is perhaps needed for high-level management jobs in large corporations. It is not necessarily needed for starting a company. Of course, marketing and sales are crucial for enabling a startup to succeed. In my case, I was lucky to have a co-founder Mike Gust who had retired from working in an industry consisting of companies which were potential customers for our sensor product. He is an excellent salesman and had a strong network with these potential customer companies. All our marketing and sales needs were overseen by Mike Gust.

5) You have seen the field of mechanical engineering advance over time through your lab research and industry experience. How do you see the field of mechanical engineering evolving over the next decade? What do you think will be the most exciting developments in this area?

    There are lots of exciting problems to work on for Mechanical Engineers today, including autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, robotic chargers, robots, automatic monitoring, sensing and diagnostics, and of course all kinds of renewable energy applications. I think there will be huge advances in technology in these areas in the coming years.

6) Last but not least, how does it feel to be back to where it all started? Could you share some of your favourite memories here and how IIT Madras has helped you in your journey?

   IIT Madras was a great place to start my engineering career. Coming from IITM, I had instant credibility and was able to get fellowship funding and admissions into graduate studies at Berkeley. In those days, both me and my family had very little money and it was practically impossible for somebody like me to travel to the US without obtaining funding.

   Besides all the success it enabled, IIT Madras was also simply an outstanding place for students. Whether it was the great library facilities or the wonderful green campus, it was a high-quality environment. Some of my fond memories are watching the Saturday night movies at OAT with friends and also often going for jogging from the hostel up to the IIT entrance gate.


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