Picture of Dr. Pan Zhao

Assistant Professor

Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

1103D Bevill
 (205) 348-2807
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B.E., Automation, Beihang University, 2009
M.E., Mechanical Engineering, Beihang University, 2012
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of British Columbia, 2018


Dr. Zhao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Alabama (UA). He directs the Autonomous Systems and Control Lab (ASCL) at UA. Prior to joining UA, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include control and autonomous systems, and their applications to aerospace, robotics and wind energy systems. A current focus of his research group is to design and validate control and decision-making algorithms for autonomous systems to ensure their safe and efficient operation in challenging scenarios under various uncertainties. Besides theoretical development, Dr. Zhao is very interested in implementing and testing his developed algorithms on unmanned vehicles in the real world.

Honors and Awards

  • Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Excellent Reviewer, 2022
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, 2015

Areas of Research

Latest Publications

  • P. Zhao, R. Ghabcheloo, Y. Cheng, H. Abdi, and N. Hovakimyan. “Convex synthesis of control barrier functions under input constraints.” IEEE Control Systems Letters (L-CSS), vol. 7, pp. 3102-3107, 2023.
  • S. Snyder, P. Zhao, and N. Hovakimyan. “L1 adaptive control with switched reference models: Application to Learn-to-Fly.” Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 45(12): 2229-2242, 2022.
  • Y. Cheng*, P. Zhao*, F. Wang, D. J. Block, and N. Hovakimyan. “Improving the robustness of reinforcement learning policies with L1 adaptive control.” IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 7(3): 6574-6581, 2022. (* equal contributions)
  • P. Zhao, A. Lakshmanan, K. Ackerman, A. Gahlawat, M. Pavone, and N. Hovakimyan. “Tube-certified trajectory tracking for nonlinear systems with robust control contraction metrics.” IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 7(2): 5528-5535, 2022.
  • P. Zhao and R. Nagamune. “Switching LPV controller design under uncertain scheduling parameters.” Automatica, vol.76, pp. 243-250, 2017