Communications and Signal Processing Seminar

Reinforcement Learning with Robustness and Safety Guarantees

Dileep KalathilAssistant Professor, Electrical & Computer EngineeringTexas A&M University
1690 Beyster BuildingMap

Abstract:  Reinforcement Learning (RL) is the class of machine learning that addresses the problem of learning to control unknown dynamical systems. RL has achieved remarkable success recently in applications like playing games and robotics. However, most of these successes are limited to very structured or simulated environments. When applied to real-world systems, RL algorithms face two fundamental sources of fragility. First, the real-world system parameters can be very different from that of the nominal values used for training RL algorithms. Second, the control policy for any real-world system is required to maintain some necessary safety criteria to avoid undesirable outcomes. Most deep RL algorithms overlook these fundamental challenges which often results in learned policies that perform poorly in the real-world settings. In this talk, I will present two approaches to overcome these challenges. First, I will present an RL algorithm that is robust against the parameter mismatches between the simulation system and the real-world system. Second, I will discuss a safe RL algorithm to learn policies such that the frequency of visiting undesirable states and expensive actions satisfies the safety constraints. I will also briefly discuss some practical challenges due to the sparse reward feedback and the need for rapid real-time adaptation in real-world systems, and the approaches to overcome these challenges.

Robust RL papers: [(R-P1] [R-P2], [R-P2],
Safe RL papers: [SP-1], [SP-2], [SP-3], [SP-4]

Bio:  Dileep Kalathil (webpage) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU). His main research area is reinforcement learning theory and algorithms, and their applications in communication networks and power systems. Before joining TAMU, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the EECS department at UC Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. from University of Southern California (USC) in 2014, where he won the best Ph.D. Dissertation Prize in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He received his M. Tech. from IIT Madras, where he won the award for the best academic performance in the Electrical Engineering Department. He received the NSF CRII Award in 2019 and the NSF CAREER award in 2021. He is a senior member of IEEE.

***Event will take place in hybrid format. The location for in-person attendance will be room 1690 Beyster Building.   Attendance will also be available via Zoom.

Join Zoom Meeting https:

Meeting ID: 914 1429 7851

Passcode: XXXXXX (Will be sent via e-mail to attendees)

Zoom Passcode information is also available upon request to Michele Feldkamp (

See full seminar by Professor Kalathil

Faculty Host

Lei YingProfessor, Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceUniversity of Michigan