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Dr Helge Wurdemann

Dr Helge Wurdemann

Associate Professor in Robotics

Dept of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
11th Jan 2016

Research summary

My vision is to create the next-generation of inherently safe robots and 

advance prototypes from my lab bench into real-world applications.


To achieve my ambition, my research focus is on the hardware and software design of soft robotic systems that change shape and stiffness on demand bridging the gap between traditional rigid and entirely soft robots. Soft robotic systems are considered as inherently safe. My innovative solutions crucially contribute to accelerating the introduction of robotic hardware into our lives and the lives of future generations. This field of robotics is a truly multidisciplinary engineering subject as it requires knowledge in, e.g., material science, design and manufacturing, electrical and electronic engineering as well as computer science. As my research is application-driven, the feasibility of my innovative research is informed and supported by experts from, e.g., transport engineering, healthcare, and industrial sectors.

In the area of minimally invasive interventions, I explore novel flexible tools for colo-rectal and abdominal surgery, haptic feedback actuators to support margin control in robotic surgery and data from valvuloplasty balloons to overcome current shortcomings in transcatheter aortic valve implantation. For industrial application, I develop a new generation of collaborative robots that have variable stiffness links and are inherently safe to work closely together with the human. In the field of autonomous vehicles, I build a soft, stiffness-controllable and shape-changing driving seat to guide the driver in a safe way when changing between different levels of autonomy.

Teaching summary

My research excellence provides the basis for inclusive supervision and exciting research-led teaching resulting in education excellence. At UCL, I am involved in teaching activities:

  • I am tutor of the modules Control and Instrumentation and Control and Robotics. 
  • I supervise third year UGT students during their individual project (Undergraduate Individual Project) and group projects (MEng Capstone Group Design Project), PGT students during their MSc individual projects (MSc Individual Project) and PGT students during their group projects (MSc Group Design Project).
  • For students enrolled to the MRes/MSc students Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering as well Robotics and Computation, I offer individual projects within the field of studies. 
  • I have volunteered to offer my expertise and experience in project report writing and presentations to all project students – UCL Mechanical Engineering organise these sessions during the summer term. 
  • I am heavily involved in the assessment process of all these modules, in particular, the progress of all UGT individual projects is monitored throughout the term by presentation/interview sessions during 2-3 full days. 

Education

King's College London
Doctorate, Doctorat | 2012
Leibniz Universitat Hannover
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diplom- Ingenieur | 2008

Biography

I am a roboticist and started an academic tenure-track position at the UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2016. I am one of the core roboticists at UCL developing innovative robotic hardware demonstrated by my contributions to world leading premium robotic conferences and journals.


I have established and sustained the growth of a truly diverse research team and lab (Soft Haptics & Robotics Lab, http://softhaptics.website) - one of the largest groups at UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering. I have accomplished this through sustained success in securing highly competitive, multidisciplinary research-related activities: So far, I have been leading 8 projects as PI with a total budget of over £1.7m (ca. £280,000 per annum). In addition, I have been UCL PI/Co-I of 8 projects with a total budget of £14.4m. This has established and maintained my international reputations in academia and as sustained provider of advice to international industry and government with significant international engagement:

  • I have (co-)authored/submitted over 100 papers published in high-impact journals (e.g., Soft Robotics, IEEE ToH, IEEE RA-L) and peer-reviewed full-length conference papers presented at robotics conferences (e.g., ICRA, IROS).
  • The number of invitations to give (keynote) talks (to date, I have given a total of 53 invited (keynote) talks) has significantly increased on a high level. Notably, I have been invited to give a presentation at the launch of the soft robotics programme by the German Research Foundation and at many highly ranked universities (e.g., ETH, Imperial, KCL, UoT) and at robotics conference and workshops (e.g., organised at IROS, ICRA and RoboSoft).
  • I have been (co-)organiser of conferences, workshops, and symposia (e.g., workshops at ICRA, IROS, and the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics) in the field of robotics, notably, I am the Co-General Chair of ICRA 2023 – premium robotics conference of IEEE RAS.
  • I was invited by IEEE RAS to become Associate VP (2018-2021) as the first UK roboticist, and by IET to join the Technical and Professional Network (TPN) Robotics and Mechatronics. 
  • Beyond peer review activities (e.g., for high-impact journals and international funding bodies such as EPSRC, MRC, DFG, RGC), I have been asked to join strategy boards and funding panels: I have been invited to strategic meetings of The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany, to share my expertise in allocation of annually €70m for the next five years for the topic Human-Machine Interaction. Further, I have been on the EPSRC Healthcare Technologies Investigator Led Panel. As an active member of the Strategic Task Groups for Surgical Robotics and Soft Robotics, I contributed to the UK-RAS White Paper on Surgical Robotics in 2020.


Prior to my position at UCL, I was awarded Dipl-Ing in Electrical Engineering from the Leibniz University of Hanover and was invited to take a part-time EU project manager/part-time post-doctoral research associate position on EU project STIFF-FLOP. Between 2012 and 2015, I effectively coordinated research activities of this multidisciplinary consortium of 12 partners with a total budget of €7.35m. As the head of the soft robotics and haptics research activities, I made every effort to grow the team and strengthen the international reputation of King’s Centre for Robotics Research (King’s CoRe).

Publications