Floris Van Breugel

Floris van Breugel

Assistant Professor

Floris van Breugel earned his Ph.D. from Caltech in 2014 in control and dynamical systems under the support of NSF and Hertz graduate fellowships while working with Michael H. Dickinson on insect flight biomechanics, control, and multi-sensory integration. He subsequently went to the University of Washington to work with Jeff Riffell and J Nathan Kutz as a postdoc to work on insect search strategies and machine learning approaches to system identification of complex systems, supported by a Sackler Fellowship in Biophysics and a Moore-Sloan-WRF Fellowship in DataScience. Floris joined the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno in January 2019.

  • Ph.D., Control and Dynamical Systems, Caltech, 2014
  • B.S., Biological Engineering, Cornell, 2008

Prospective graduate students

I am currently hiring motivated undergraduates and Ph.D. students with interest in data-driven robotics and control, multi-modal sensory integration in insects, and bio-inspired robotics.

Learn more about our graduate programs 

Research interests

We study insects for inspiration in designing robust and novel control systems for robots. Our lab uses real-time tracking, high speed video, and virtual reality to study freely moving animals. Then, aided by modern machine learning tools and control theory, we analyze the behavior, and implement the principles on robotic systems. Along the way, we use genetic tools available in the fruit fly to gain insight into how brains function.

Selected publications


  • Distinct activity-gated pathways mediate attraction and aversion to CO2 in Drosophila. van Breugel, F., Huda, A., and Dickinson, M. (2018) Nature.
  • Superhydrophobic diving flies (Ephydra hians) and the hypersaline waters of Mono Lake. van Breugel, F and Dickinson, M. (2017) PNAS.
  • Mosquitoes use vision to associate odor plumes with thermal targets. van Breugel, F., Riffell, J., Fairhall, A., and Dickinson, M. H. (2015). Current Biology.
  • Plume-Tracking behavior of flying Drosophila emerges from a set of distinct sensory-motor reflexes. van Breugel, F. and Dickinson, M. H. (2014). Current Biology.


  • Monocular distance estimation from optic flow during active landing maneuvers. van Breugel, F., Morgansen, K. A., and Dickinson, M. H. (2014). Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
  • From insects to machines. van Breugel, F., Regan, W., and Lipson, H. (2008). Robotics and Automation Magazine.


  • FigureFirst: A Layout-first Approach for Scientific Figures.
  • Lindsay, T., Weir, P., and van Breugel, F. (2017). Scipy 2017.

Courses taught

  • ME 410 - System Control
  • ME/BIOL 487 - Comparative Biomechanics