Luke Burks

Luke currently works as a Research Engineer in the Aerospace Industry, after a year long sojourn in the Self-Driving Car space. He completed a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, graduating in the Summer of 2020. Luke studied under Dr. Nisar Ahmed, in the Cooperative Human-Robot Intelligence (COHRINT) lab. He obtained his B.S in Physics at the University of Arkansas in 2015.

The Latest: Started work as an AI/ML Research Engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences in Cambridge MA!



Currently Playing

Hand of Fate 2


Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos



Personal Summary


During his undergraduate years, Luke explored many ideas in physics. These included peer-reviewed research in Astronomy investigating Binary Star systems, work at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) at Caltech, and exploration of High Pressure Liquid-to-Glass transitions. These introduced him to control theory, which when pursued sparked his interest in optimal control of human-robot systems.


When not working, Luke enjoys reading, creative writing, video games, and distance running. One of these days he’ll probably get around to writing a novel, but until then you’re more likely to find him enjoying one of the local hiking trails or tinkering with his latest home project.


Luke’s research focuses on Autonomous Decision Making in Collaborative Human-Robot systems. In particular, he is interested in formal integrated planning and sensing strategies.

Humans and robots each have advantages and disadvantages, and the key to effective progress in robotics lies in allowing the two to work together as a team to bring their respective strengths to the fore.


In addition to programming required for research purposes, Luke engages in a variety of personally motivated programming projects, often exploring statistical and mathematical modeling techniques and their applications to novel practical problems.

Luke natively speaks Python, but is fluent in C++, Java, and Matlab, as well as being conversant in several others.


Education and Experience


2015 – 2020

University of Colorado Boulder

Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering Sciences

  • Controls and Autonomous Systems Track
2011 – 2015

University of Arkansas

Physics B.S

  • Graduated with Honors
  • Minor in Computer Science and Mathematics



Aurora Flight Sciences

AI/ML Research Engineer

  • Researching novel applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the Aerospace industry

Optimus Ride

Software Engineer

  • Designing Systems for Semantic Planning and Decision Making in Autonomous Vehicles
  • Implementing Algorithms for Obstacle Inference and Classification
  • Behavior, Inference, and Planning Team
2020 – 2021

University of Colorado Boulder

Postdoctoral Researcher

2015 – 2020

University of Colorado Boulder

Graduate Research Assistant

  • Research focusing on formal integrated planning and perception strategies for cooperative human-robot information gathering
  • Supervision of an undergraduate hardware integration team
  • Ph.D Advisor: Dr. Nisar Ahmed
Fall 2015

University of Colorado Boulder Aerospace Department

Graduate Teaching Assistant (TA)

  • Taught junior level Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer
  • Conducted interactive labs on subjects ranging from basic engine cycles to satellite radiator design
  • Held weekly office hours offering one-on-one supplementary assistance with homeworks and projects
2014 – 2015

University of Arkansas Physics Department

Senior Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Conducted research on High Pressure Liquid-to-Glass phase transitions using diamond anvil cell presses and laser spectroscopy
  • Integrated hardware/software interfaces for allowing the use of legacy equipment with modern computers
  • Advised by: Dr. William Oliver
Summer 2013

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

NSF Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow

  • Developed a model of optical responses for gravitational-wave strain sensing
  • Advised by: Dr. Alan Weinstein and Dr. Jameson Rollins
2012 – 2013

University of Arkansas Physics Department

Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Preformed analysis of photometric data for the triple star system HP Aurigae
  • Published results in The Astrophyiscal Journal
  • Advised by: Dr. Claud H. Sandberg Lacy

Programming Languages


Python, C++, Java, Matlab


Julia, Mathematica, R, Simulink, Labview


Javascript, PHP, HTML

Invited Seminars, Guest Lectures, Research Talks

November 2019

Adelphi, MD

Army Research Lab

Invited Seminar

March 2019

Boulder, CO

CU Boulder, Aerospace Department

Guest Lecturer in “Probabilistic Algorithms for Aerospace Autonomy”

March 2019

Houston, TX

Technology Collaboration Center

Invited session talk for the Automation, AI, and Robotics Workshop

May 2017

Boulder, CO

Boulder Startup Week

Invited Session Talk

April 2017

Boulder, CO

CU Boulder, Aerospace Department

Guest Lecturer for “Algorithms for Aerospace Autonomy”


Projects, Ideas, and Publications

HARPS Environment


Human Augmented Robotic Planning and Sensing