Michiel van de Panne's research interests are in physics-based models of human and animal movement, motion planning and control, robotics, sketch-based modeling, and applications of machine learning to computer graphics. He was awarded the 2016 Achievement Award for his contributions to computer graphics. He is an Element AI Faculty Fellow. In 2002 he co-founded the ACM/Eurographics Symposium on Computer Animation, a leading forum for computer animation research. He has served as Associate Editor of ACM Transactions on Graphics (2005-2008). He has co-chaired EG CAS 1997, ACM/EG SCA 2002, Skigraph 2004, GI 2005, SBIM 2007, and SCA 2011. He has served on numerous program committees, including ACM SIGGRAPH, Eurographics, ACM/EG SCA, ACM I3D, Graphics Interface, NPAR, and CASA. The work he did with his M.Sc. student Ivan Neulander helped form the basis of the Rhythm & Hues hair rendering pipeline for The Chronicles of Narnia and other films.
From 1993 to 2001 he was a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. Since 2002 he has been with the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia as Associate Professor (2002-2008) and as Full Professor (2008-). He served as Associate Head for Research and Faculty Affairs during 2011-14. During 2000-2001, he was a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, and founded Motion Playground Inc. to develop games and educational applications using physics-based animation and simulation. He was a visting Researcher at INRIA Sophia Antipolis during 2007-8.