William C. Messner-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

William C. Messner

Adjunct Professor, Mechanical Engineering

204 Anderson Hall
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155
Phone: 617-627-3239
Fax: 617-627-3058


Professor Messner's research emphasis application of linear and nonlinear control to robotics, data storage systems, and most recently in biological research.  Two specialties are devising insightful and user friendly methods for controller design and  identifying and compensating for nonlinear dynamics in control systems.

Professor Messner and his students work projects relating to control issues in data storage systems and robotics. Data storage projects include  (1) compensation for nonlinear friction dynamics in disk drive rotary actuators to improve servo performance at very high data track densities (more than 150,000 tracks per inch), (2) active tape steering control to eliminate the need for guide flanges in tape drives employing extremely thin tape (3 micron) for a 10 terabit capacity tape drive, and (3) an electrothermal rotary microactuator for skew compensation for disk drives. 

Professor Messner's work on robotics has included highly distributed manipulation using a planar array of actuators, obstacle avoidance for manipulator arms, flight control of unmanned helicopters, and the unmanned ground vehicles for the DARPA Grand Challenge.  Work on the CMU/Yamaha R50 led record setting performance for that platform.

In the bio area, Professor Messner is collaborating with his colleague Dr. Phil Leduc to design and build a new instrument for probing cellular mechanics using microfluidics, mechatronics, and computer vision. The goal is the abilitiy to acquire high quality time series data of cells for black box or grey box system identification.

Professor Messner is a Fellow of the AAAS, a Fellow of the ASME, and a Senior Member of IEEE.


B.S. 1985 (Mathematics), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

M.S. 1989, Ph.D. 1992 (Mechanical Engineering), University of California at Berkeley

Selected Publications

Recent Publications

  • B. Kuczenski, P. LeDuc, and W. Messner, “Pressure-Driven Spatiotemporal Control of the Laminar Flow Interface in a Microfluidic Network,” Lab on a Chip, v. 7, n. 5,  May 2007, p. 647-9.

  • D. Helmick, W. Messner, and C. F. Higgs, “Bias in Hard Disk Drive Rotary Actuator Pivot Bearings: Measurements and Lubrication Phenomen,” Microsystem Technologies, v.13, n. 8-10, May 2007, p. 1377-82

  • W. Messner, L. Xia, M. Bedillion, and D. Karns, “Lead and Lag Compensators with Complex Poles and Zeros: Design Formulas for Modeling and Loop Shaping,” IEEE Control Systems Magazine, v. 27, n. 1, February 2007, p. 44-54

  • C. Urmson, J. Anhalt, D. Bartz, M. Clark, T. Galatali, A. Gutierrez, S. Harbaugh, J. Johnston, H. Kato, P. Koon, W. Messner, N. Miller, A. Mosher, K. Peterson, C. Ragusa, D. Ray, B. Smith, J. Snider, S. Spiker, J. Struble, J. Ziglar, W. Whittaker, “A Robust Approach to High-Speed Navigation for Unrehearsed Desert Terrain.” Journal of Field Robotics, v. 23, n. 8, August 2006, p. 467-508.

  • M. La Civita, G. Papageorgiou, W. Messner, and T. Kanade, “Design and Testing of a High-Bandwidth H∞  Loop Shaping Controller for a Robotic Helicopter.” AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, v. 29, n. 2. March-April 2006, p. 485-94.

Other Significant Publications

  • E. Hughes and W. Messner, “New servo pattern for hard disk storage using pattern media,” Journal of Applied Physics, v. 93, n. 10, 15 May 2003, p. 7002-4.

  • J. Luntz, W. Messner, H. Choset, “Distributed Manipulation Using Discrete Actuator Arrays,” International Journal of Robotics Research, v. 20, N.7, Jul 2001, p. 553-83.

  • S. Schroeck, W. Messner, and R. McNab, “On Controller Design for Linear Time-Invariant Dual-Input Single-Output Systems,” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, v. 6, n. 1, Mar 2001.

  • R. Evans, J. Griesbach, and W. Messner, “Piezoelectric Microactuator for Dual Stage Control,” IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, v. 35, n. 2, 977-82, Mar 1999.

  • P. Mathur and W. Messner, “Controller Development for a High-Speed Low-Tension Tape Transport,” IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology, v. 6, n. 4, p. 534-542, Jul 1998.

  • K. Eddy, J. Steele, and W. Messner, “Bias in Disk Drive Rotary Actuators: Characterization, Prediction, and Compensation,” IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, v. 33, n. 3, p. 2424-2436, May 1997.