Joseph Ayers

Affiliated Faculty,  Bioengineering
Affiliated Faculty,  Civil and Environmental Engineering
Affiliated Faculty,  Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor,  Marine and Environmental Sciences



  • (781) 581-7370

Research Focus

Development of underwater robots for civil infrastructure and explosive sensing; neurophysiology and behavior biomimetics


We build biomimetic robots based on simple neurobiological models, the lobster and sea lamprey. The robots feature a physical plant that captures the biomechanical advantages of the body form, a neuronal circuit-based controller, neuromorphic sensors, myomorphic actuators and a behavioral set based on action patterns, reverse engineered from movies of the animal models. Our controllers are based on neuronal circuits established from neurophysiology. To achieve real-time operation, we base our electronic neurons on nonlinear dynamical models of neuronal behavior rather than physiological models. We employ both UCSD electronic neurons and synapses (analog computers that solve the Hindmarsh-Rose equations) and discrete time map based neurons and synapses that are integrated on a DSP. Together these components provide an integrated architecture for the control of innate behavioral action patterns and reactive autonomy.


  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz
  • B.S., University of California, Riverside

Research Overview

Development of underwater robots for civil infrastructure and explosive sensing; neurophysiology and behavior biomimetics

Selected Research Projects

  • Utilizing Synthetic Biology to Create Programmable Micro Bio-Robots
    • – Co-Principal Investigator, Office of Naval Research

Selected Publications

  • R.T. Myers, J. Ayers, A Nitric Oxide Sensor Fabricated Through E-Jet Printing Towards Use in Bioelectronics Interfaces, Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, 48, 2018, 1-11
  • L.L. McGrath, S.V. Vollmer, S.T. Kaluziak, J. Ayers De Novo Transcriptome Assembly for the Lobster Homarus Americanus and Characterization of Differential Gene Expression Across Nervous System Tissues, BMC Genomics, 17, 2016, 3-12
  • J. Ayers, Underwater Vehicles Based on Biological Intelligence, ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement and Control, 138, 2016, 1-5
  • L. Zhu, A.I. Selverston, J. Ayers, The Role of Ih in Differentiating the Dynamics of the Gastric Mill and Pyloric Neurons in the Stomatogastric Ganglion of the Lobster, Homarus Americanus, Journal of Neurophysiology, 115(5), 2016, 2434-2445
  • J. Lu, J. Yang, Y.-B. Kim, J. Ayers, K.K. Kim Implementation of Excitatory CMOS Neuron Oscillator for Robot Motion Control Unit, Journal of Semiconductor Technology and Science, 14(4), 2014, 383-390
  • J. Ayers, D. Blustein, A. Westphal, A Conserved Biomimetic Control Architecture for Walking, Swimming and Flying Robots, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, 2012, 1-12


Jan 25, 2023

Announcing Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards. Base Camp Awardees Sophia Nguyen COE’26, “Neuromodulation of Motor Cortex’s Response to Different Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Pulse Waveforms” Mentor: Mathew Yarossi, Bouvé, Physical Therapy/Movement/Rehab Science This project seeks to use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive […]

Amy Mueller and Joseph Ayers


Apr 21, 2020

Mueller and Ayers Awarded MIT Sea Grant Funding to Develop Miniature Aquaculture Sensors

CEE/MES Assistant Professor Amy Mueller and MES Professor Joseph Ayers were awarded a grant to develop miniature E-Jet printed multi-sensors for aquaculture water quality monitoring and management.

May 19, 2016

Inventing Marine Robots

Professors Hanumant Singh (ECE), Mark Patterson (CEE & MES), and Joseph Ayers (MES) are inventing new and improved robots to explore parts of the ocean that humans cannot.

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