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National Space Technology Applications Program Office

Machine Learning & Instrument Autonomy


Lukas Mandrake

Lukas Mandrake

Machine Learning Liason for Science & Instrument Data (818) 354-1705

Dr. Lukas Mandrake is a senior researcher, principal investigator, and group lead of the Machine Learning and Instrument Autonomy (MLIA) group at JPL since 2007. His group brings ML techniques to bear against a wide range of applied problems in space, science, technology, and medicine. Our products have empowered flight missions (MSL Curiosity rover, MER Opportunity/Spirit rovers, EO-1, OCO-2/3…), advanced the state of the art for commercial customers like Kaiser, Statoil, and Chevron, were infused into numerous university settings, and addressed governmental agency needs (USDA, DOE, and DOD). Specifically, Dr. Mandrake specializes on scoping sponsor needs, assessing available data, and constructing ML-based solutions that are explanable and scientifically defensible (e.g. no 'black box' solutions). Lukas is also an ML liaison to the Information and Data Science program office at JPL, bringing a 'trench-view' perspective on science-grade data-driven exploration to the highest levels of strategy. He is passionate about bringing Data Science, and especially ML, to the JPL science community as well as the Ops and On-board autonomy contexts. He has over twenty first-author major publications in applied ML application, received 2nd place for the prestigious, NASA-wide Software of the Year award for his work on OCO-2 data quality estimation, and is an award-winning speaker and educator within JPL and beyond to the external community. Lukas entered college at the age of thirteen and spent his 'high school' years exploring college topics in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. He received a bachelor's degree (BSE) in Engineering Physics from the University of Arizona in 1995, a MS in Theoretical Plasma Physics and a PhD in Computational Plasma Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. While there, he also overhauled and oversaw new, computerized physics labs for undergraduates receiving several outstanding teaching awards for his efforts.