Sheng Zhong (Johnson)

Robotics PhD Candidate


2018-09 to now

University of Michigan

PhD Candidate in Robotics under Dmitry Berenson

Cumulative GPA: 3.964.0

2013-09 to 2018-06

University of Toronto

B.ASc in Engineering Science Robotics with high honours

Cumulative GPA: 3.914.0

Major GPA: 4.04.0

Rank 2161 in semester 5 | 5158 in semester 6

Journal Publications


S. Zhong, N. Fazeli, and D. Berenson, “Soft Tracking Using Contacts for Cluttered Objects to Perform Blind Object Retrieval,” RA-L, 2022. link


S. Zhong, Z. Zhang, N. Fazeli, and D. Berenson, “TAMPC: An Online Controller for Escaping Traps in Novel Environments,” RA-L, 2021. link


K. E. Murray, O. Petelin, S. Zhong, J. M. Wang, M. Eldafrawy, J.-P. Legault, E. Sha,A. G. Graham, J. Wu, M. J. P. Walker et al., “Vtr 8: High-performance CAD and Customizable FPGA Architecture Modelling,” TRETS, 2020. Best Paper Award. link

Conference Publications


S. Zhong, N. Fazeli, and D. Berenson, “CHSEL: Producing Diverse Plausible Pose Estimates from Contact and Free Space Data,” RSS, 2023. link

Academic Funding

2018-09 to 2019-09

Robotics Institute Fellowship 75000

2013-09 to 2018-05

Shaw Admission Scholarship 20000


Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) grant from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) 6000


Walter Scott Guest Memorial Scholarship 5000



Engineering Science Award of Excellence


3rd in Ontario Engineering Competition 2018 Programming category 500


1st in Ontario Engineering 2016 Competition Programming category 2000


1st in Canada in IEEEXtreme 9.0 (286800 globally)

2015-01 API prize in PennApps Winter 2015 500


8th in Canada in IEEEXtreme 8.0 (526500 globally)


Google Cloud Platform prize in Hack the North 2015 1000


6th in Canada in IEEEXtreme 7.0 (437500 globally)

Research Projects

2017-09 to 2018-05

Magnetic Microbead Control for Intracellular Manipulation with Prof. Yu Sun

Undergraduate Thesis at the Advanced Micro and Nanosystems Laboratory MATLABQT

The lab develops a cutting edge magnetic tweezer to manipulate nano-sized beads

Created simulation of the magnetic system

Explored how practical constraints impacted controllable region

Designed a learned gain scheduling controller to optimize controllable region

2016-05 to 2017-09

Verity Studios R&D Engineering Intern with Prof. Raffaello D'Andrea

16 months Professional Experience Year, Zurich C++QTboost

Verity Studios is an ETH spinoff specializing in indoor drone show systems.

Modelled novel indoors localization system using physics first principles

Enabled optimization of flight performance

Achieved correlation of 0.86 (95% confidence >0.80) against experimental performance

2015-05 to 2015-09

FPGA CAD Routing Optimization with Prof. Vaughn Betz

Summer research with USRA NSERC 5k grant, University of Toronto C++

Verilog-to-Routing (VTR) is a CAD flow mapping Verilog to FPGAs. Its runtime performance was bottlenecked by the routing phase for large circuits.

Developed route tree pruning algorithm to allow incremental reroutes, speeding up routing by up to 3x on difficult benchmarks

Designed targeted rerouting algorithm for critical yet suboptimal connections, producing up to 30% faster resulting circuits (maximum frequency)

Benchmarked over realistic circuits, with speedups scaling with circuit size

Teaching Experience

2022-07 to 2023-01

Graduate Student Instructor for ROB 502 Programming for Robotics (new course) link

Designed assignments, labs, and quizzes

Set up automated grading for assignments and quizzes

Led weekly 2 hour interactive labs


2021-01 to 2022-06

PyTorch Differentiable Robot Kinematics

Open source library pythonPyTorch

Parallel and differentiable robot forward kinematics and Jacobian calculation

>150 stars

Differentiable robot kinematics and Jacobian computation

Load robot description from URDF, SDF, and MJCF formats

2020-01 to 2022-03

PyTorch Model Predictive Path Integral Controller

Open source library pythonPyTorch

Batched and GPU friendly implementation of Model Predictive Path Integral (MPPI) controller.

>200 stars

Used by many university labs

Handle stochastic dynamic models

2015-09 to 2015-11

Autonomous Cooperating Robots

AER201 Design Project in a team of 3 C++Arduino

The task was to design and build a mobile robot to play connect-4 on a semi-randomized game board. We decided to pursue a two robots approach, one for retrieving the ball and one for playing the ball.

Targeted randomly placed high-reward ball dispensers to obtain fastest ball retrieval time (3 ball/min vs average 0.5 ball/min)

2014-11 to 2015-09

Simple Algorithms and Data Structures Library

Open source personal project C++

Header only C++ template library with an interactive tester focused on implementation readability.

Implemented sets and maps with treaps to get 4x insertion and 2x read time improvements over standard library

  • Experience [> thousands of lines of code]
  • Python
  • 100
  • C++
  • 60
  • Javascript
  • 15
  • C
  • 5
Software Skills
  • Specialities
  • Asynchronous programming, Parallelization
  • Build tools
  • CMake, Makefile, Catkin
  • Version control
  • Git, SVN
  • Environments
  • ROS, Linux, Web, Arduino
  • Libraries
  • PyTorch, numpy, cvxpy, Boost, QT, D3
  • Simulators
  • PyBullet, MuJoCo
  • Code review
  • Gerrit
  • Integration
  • Buildbot, Jenkins
  • Database
  • PostgreSQL, MySQL