ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of all, I would like to express my special and sincere gratitude to my advisor Dr. George Vachtsevanos for his persistent guidance and trust throughout my research. His enthusiasm for the career affected me greatly. I would also like to thank my co-advisor Dr. Bonnie Heck-Ferri and Wayne Daley, my project supervisor, for their support and technical discussions. Secondly, I wish to thank Drs. Dorrity for serving my committee. I thank them for their time, support, and suggestions. I must thank Dr. Anthony Yezzi for spending much time to teach me and to discuss with me. His source code expedited my research progress considerably. I thank all present and past members of the Intelligent Control Systems Laboratory, whose assistance, encouragement, and friendship made the lab a lovely place. Special thanks must be given to for their sincere friendship, wam-hearted and on-demand help to me and to my family, and technical and moral support throughout the research. I am forever indebted to my parents, Xianglin Cheng and Dun Ding, for constantly providing me the moral support and encouragement, which enabled me to achieve every goal in my life. I thank my big sister, Yuqing Ding, for being my sole model, my teacher, my friend, and my caregiver throughout the years. Finally, I am deeply grateful to my husband Xudong Wang, who shared with me the good times and supported me through the bad times with his love, encouragement, incredible understanding, great tolerance, and sacrifices. Special thanks to my son Zhouzhou, who brought me joy everyday and made even the hardships enjoyable.
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