Robotics Master of Science from Northwestern University

Prof. Argall and students collaborating on an autonomous wheelchair.


An interdepartmental program, the Master of Science in Robotics (MSR) is a one-year, full-time graduate program that equips engineers with the tools required of a robotics engineer. Robotics is a cutting-edge field that is forecasted to grow substantially over the next 20 years. It is also a broad field requiring engineers to have expertise in computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, and mathematics. Most undergraduate programs focus on one of these areas. This program is designed to provide intense, hands-on training to bridge the knowledge and experience gap between an undergraduate engineering degree and a career in robotics.

Curriculum Overview

Close-up of Darwin robotThe program features a combination of traditional courses and in-depth, project-based courses.

Robotics curriculum course subject areas
  • automatic control
  • kinematics and dynamics
  • machine learning
  • path planning
  • human-machine interfaces
  • biomedical engineering
  • neuroscience
  • robotic rehabilitation
  • prosthetics 
Robotics research projects

Students will be given the opportunity to participate in a diverse set of robotics research projects with faculty from all over Northwestern. This includes working with the Neuroscience and Robotics Laboratory, a world leader in robotics, haptic interfaces, and biomedical engineering. Project areas include multi-robot systems, robotic manipulation, haptics, simulation and control of multibody systems, swarm robotics, bio-inspired sensing and control, and prosthetics engineering.

Industrial collaboration and internships

Industrial ties are an essential part of the program. The program will feature seminars, networking events, and projects from leading industrial partners. Additionally students will be encouraged to participate in industrial internships.

Project portfolios

The program features many open-ended, project-oriented experiences provided by faculty-led, independent research work and through courses such as Embedded Systems in Robotics. Each student will create an online project portfolio detailing the projects they complete as part of the program. These portfolios may be used for evaluating student performance in courses, and they will provide the student with an ideal place to showcase their work for potential employers or PhD schools.

Who Should Apply

The program is aimed at outstanding students who have already completed a BS in engineering or related field and are seeking a career in robotics. Possible undergraduate majors include computer science, and mechanical, electrical, or biomedical engineering. Students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to have programming experience in C, C++, and Python prior to enrolling. Programming experience will facilitate participation in upper-division EECS courses that have programming prerequisites. Students with less programming background will be presented with supplementary instruction during the Fall term.

Program Duration and Requirements

Magnet-wheeled differential drive robot

The program requires 10 courses during the three-quarter academic year with courses offered in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, and biomedical engineering. Required courses for the program are ME 449: Robotic Manipulation, ME 495: Embedded Systems in Robotics, and ME 333: Intro to Mechatronics. For those students with no experience in Lagrangian dynamics, ME 314: Theory of Machines—Dynamics is highly recommended. During the academic year students will additionally participate in 2 quarters of project courses. Finally, each student will conduct a quarter of full-time, faculty-led research. Details of these projects can be found below.
Project details

Students will complete a single course unit of project work in both the Winter and Spring quarters as well as one quarter of full-time project work. The full-time quarter of project work occurs in the Summer quarter immediately after the student has completed their other course requirements. Alternatively, the student may instead participate in a summer internship and then return the following fall to complete this requirement. Depending on the student's interests and the preferences of their faculty advisors there is flexibility as to whether the project worked on during the Winter and Spring is direclty related to the full-time project.

The program concludes with a final report and presentation where the student describes their project work and its relevance and importance to the robotics industry and robotics research. The project work from all three quarters must be documented in the student's project portfolio.


The cost of tuition for the 2015-2016 academic year has not been set. For reference, the 2014-2015 tuition rate is $15,612 per quarter for full-time students. Please see The Graduate School website for more information about tuition and financial aid.

Master of Science in Robotics

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