Robert Full completed his undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1979. He also did his graduate work at SUNY Buffalo, receiving a master’s degree in 1982 and a doctoral degree in 1984. He held a research and teaching post doctoral position at the University of Chicago from 1984–86 during which time he did research at Harvard University. In 1986 he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, as an assistant professor of zoology. He was promoted to associate professor of integrative biology in 1991, and to full professor of integrative biology in 1995, a position he holds today. In 1996 he was given a Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1997, Full became a Chancellor’s Professor and the director of a new biological visualization center. In 1998 Full received a Goldman Professorship for teaching.
Professor Full directs the Poly-P.E.D.A.L. Laboratory which studies the performance, energetics and dynamics of animal locomotion in many-footed creatures. His research laboratory applies the same techniques used in the study of human gait — 3D kinematic, force platform and EMG analysis — but in miniature. His internationally recognized research program in comparative physiology and biomechanics has shown how examining a diversity of animals leads to the discovery of general principles of locomotion. General principles can then be used as hypotheses to explain the remarkable diversity in physiology and morphology in nature. His programmatic theme is “diversity enables discovery.” At the same time, discovering the function of simple, tractable neuromechanical systems along with a knowledge of evolution can provide new design ideas applicable to the control of animal and human gait. Recently, Full’s research has focused on the role of the mechanical system in self-stabilization.
Full’s research also has provided biological inspiration for the design of multilegged robots and computer animations. His research interests extend from analyzing the pitching motion of a Hall of Fame pitcher to assisting computer animators in making children’s movies (Pixar/Disney A Bug’s Life). In 1990 Full received a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigators Award. In 1994 he presented his research at the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. Full’s research has been featured in the popular press such as newspapers, various science magazines and on several television shows (CNN, NBC Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, Discovery Channel).