Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version

Madhusudhan (Madhu) Venkadesan
Assistant Professor

Photo of MV

Control and Morphology Lab link
National Centre for Biological Sciences GKVK Campus, Bellary Road Bangalore 560065, Karnataka, India. Phone: +91-80-2366 6060 Fax: +91-80-2363 6662 Email: Email address through recaptcha Web: link

Positions available

Please see this page on the lab's website for details.


Ph.D. in Mechanical EngineeringCornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2007. M.S. in Mechanical EngineeringCornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2003. B.Tech. in Mechanical EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology, Madras, 2000.

NCBS appointments
Feb 2011 – present: Assistant Professor, NCBS

Other experience
Jan 2011 – present: Associate in Human Evolutionary BiologyHarvard University, Cambridge, MA. June 2008 – Dec 2010: Postdoc in Applied Mathematics and Human Evolutionary BiologyHarvard University, Cambridge, MA. Aug 2007 – May 2008: Postdoc in MathematicsCornell University, Ithaca, NY. Sept 2006 – Aug 2007: Postdoc in Mechanical EngineeringCornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Selected publications

  • N.T. Roach, M. Venkadesan, M.J. Rainbow, and D.E. Lieberman. Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in HomoNature, 498(7455): 486-6, 2013.
  • D.E. Lieberman, M. Venkadesan, W.A. Werbel, A.I. Daoud, S. D’Andrea, I.S. Davis, R.O. Mang’eni, and I. Pitsiladis. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280):531–5, 2010.
  • M. Venkadesan and F.J. Valero-Cuevas. Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, 367(1891):1163–1179, 2009.
  • M.Venkadesan and F.J. Valero-Cuevas. Neural control of motion-to-force transitions with the fingertip. Journal of Neuroscience, 28(6):1366-1373, 2008.
  • M. Venkadesan, J. Guckenheimer, and F.J. Valero-Cuevas. Manipulating the edge of instability. Journal of Biomechanics, 40(8):1653–1661, 2007.
Honours & awards
Sibley School Exceptional Teaching Assistant Award, Cornell University (August 2004).
Journal of Biomechanics Award (August 2006).
WellcomeTrust/DBT India Alliance's Intermediate Fellowship (April 2011 – March 2016).
Human Frontier Science Program's Young Investigator Grant (2013-2016).
Simons Foundation (2013-2018).
Funding support
Biomechanics, Motor control, Morphology, Optimal control, Locomotion, Leg, Foot, Arm, Hand, Finger, Dexterity, Grasp, Throwing, Hunting, Walking, Running, Crawling, Jumping, Muscle mechanics, Robotics, Bifurcation theory, Nonlinear dynamical systems, Randomness, Probability, Rigid body mechanics, Numerical methods for dynamical systems.
Research description
Animals routinely perform motor behaviors that are beyond the abilities of current robots. A cockroach navigates uneven terrains at speeds that are unmatched by any machine. Most humans, even with cold and numb fingers, can handle objects with far greater dexterity than the most precise robot. On the other hand, compared to animals, robotic joints are more precise, motors have higher force and power output, sensory feedback control is faster, and computations are more repeatable. How do apparently sloppy animals outperform the fast and precise robots that we build? Are animals better because of, or despite their sloppiness, i.e. how do the body’s mechanics affect control? My research, straddling the areas of Mechanics, Control theory and Biology, aims at extracting the design and control principles that underlie the deftness of animal motor behavior, and translate that to next generation actuators, robots and prostheses. A common thread to the various projects in my lab is to develop systematic methods for biologically inspired mechanical designs that alleviate the need for precise and fast continuous feedback control.
We use a combination of techniques ranging from human biomechanical experiments to theory and computational models. More recently, we have started to build passive and actuated analogs, i.e. robots, to further develop, test and apply our theories.