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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Michael Jenkin (York University)

Written by Adam Vassallo

Episode 4 of Adam Vassallo‘s Prof Talks podcast features Dr. Michael Jenkin of York University. In this episode, they talked about crime scene robots, space experiments, and more. Here’s our takeaways.

Dr. Michael Jenkin

  • Professor, York University, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science


  • B.Sc. Mathematics & Computer Science, University of Toronto (Trinity College)
  • M.Sc. Computer Science, University of Toronto
  • Ph.D. Computer Science, University of Toronto

Research Interests:

  • Sensing strategies for amphibious autonomous robots.
  • Developing tools and techniques to support crime scene investigation.
  • Understanding the perception of self-motion and orientation in unusual environments, including microgravity.

Key Takeaways

What to Know:

  • The technology they use to solve crimes is incredibly old-fashioned, but it’s been proven in court and courts are very conservative in the way they accept evidence. For example, digital photographs for a long time weren’t accept because they were too easy to modify.
  • There are two places where they are interested in considering new technology: presenting evidence to the jury, and dealing with crime scenes where the scene itself poses a health risk, such as a bomb threat. That latter is where Michael comes in with his robots.
  • He’s also done work on the International Space Station (ISS). In one project, he studied how we decide which way is up. On Earth it’s easy: you feel pressure on your feet, the sky is blue, light comes from above, etc. When you go into space, a lot of these things go away. There’s no gravity, lighting is from wherever the designers of the space vehicle put it, and there’s no sky.
  • Making a mistake can be catastrophic, I’ll give you the worst-case scenario. You train on Earth so that if the fire alarm goes off and you’re in your bunk, you get out of your bunk, go out the hatchway and go left to the emergency space escape pod. Unfortunately, you wake up in the ISS and there’s a fire. You can’t see very well, but you get out of your bunk and go to the hatch. However, you haven’t realized you’re floating upside down. So, when you go to the left, you actually go to the right. Understanding how people build an internal model of which way is up is critical.

What to Check Out:

Where to Hear More:

Prof Talks is a podcast series hosted by Adam Vassallo. Over 100 days, Adam interviewed 100 notable professors.  He inquired about what led them to their field, their research interests, and their predictions for the future. Learn more at


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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.