hawHelge A Wurdemann, Dipl.-Ing., PhD
Associate Professor of Robotics
Co-General Chair of ICRA 2023
UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering
email: h.wurdemann@ucl.ac.uk


I am a roboticist and Associate Professor of Robotics. The research interests of my Soft Haptics and Robotics Lab include the design and application of bio-inspired, soft and stiffness-controllable medical and haptic devices and robotic art. Meet the Team!

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Short bio: In 2008, I was awarded Dipl-Ing in Electrical Engineering from the Leibniz University of Hanover. During my two student research projects, which received First Class marks, I published two peer-reviewed conference contributions and spent two semesters abroad, at Auckland University of Technology and at Loughborough University. Following my PhD award in Robotics from King’s College London, I 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. I mastered the complex professional relationship between scientists and clinicians – skills that are key to successful technology transfer and the development of useable and scalable solutions with clinical relevance, but have also proven to be an asset in my subsequent academic role. I grew my independent research thinking strongly contributing solutions for designing, modelling and controlling soft, stiffness-controllable manipulators. Implementing my design for the final miniaturised robot was crucial to successfully test the world’s first soft robotic manipulator for minimally invasive surgery inside human cadavers. 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).

At UCL, I am one of the core roboticists at UCL  Robotics developing innovative robotic hardware demonstrated by my contributions to world leading premium robotic conferences and journals. I lead my Soft Haptics & Robotics Lab (http://softhaptics.website) – a multi-disciplinary team of currently 11 researchers. I have now supervised 15 PhD students of who 4 have successfully graduated and are well established within their field of research at world-leading universities, e.g., UCL, Imperial College London and The University of Tokyo.

Research summary: My research interest focuses on the hardware design and application of soft material robotic systems that have the ability to change their shape and stiffness on demand bridging the gap between traditional rigid and entirely soft robots. I create and embed innovative stiffness-controllable mechanisms as well as combine advanced Artificial Intelligence with control strategies in robotic prototypes emerging from my lab. 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. My research is application-driven and informed by close collaboration with experts from, e.g., transport engineering, medicine 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. 

Research highlights: I have (co-) authored over 100 papers published in high-impact journals leading the field of robotics and peer-reviewed full-length conference papers presented at premium robotics conferences (see Google scholar). I have been invited to deliver 35 invited (keynote) talks, notably, at the launch of the soft robotics programme by the German Research Foundation, the International Congress of the Society for Medical Innovation and Technology (SMIT), the Digital Catapult, at many highly-ranked university (e.g., ETH, Switzerland, Imperial College London, UK). I have been (co-)organiser of 20 conferences, workshops and symposia (e.g., workshops at ICRA, IROS, and the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics) in the field of robotics, notably, I will be the Co-General Chair of the 2023 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) – the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s premium robotics conference expecting more than 4,500 roboticists from around the world.