The ten independent research groups under the Cyber Valley umbrella are distributed, with five groups, mainly among the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) with its two locations in Stuttgart and Tübingen. Three other research groups are located at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen and two at the University of Stuttgart. The research groups at the University of Stuttgart will be staffed in the course of the year.
Cyber Valley Research Groups at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Dr. Sebastian Trimpe has been researching at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems since the end of 2013, first as a scientist, later as a group leader in the Department of Autonomous Motor Dynamics in Tübingen. Since February 1, 2018, he has been head of the first independent research group at the Stuttgart site within the framework of the Cyber Valley Initiative. His group of ten is called "Intelligent Control Systems". Trimpe's work will focus on the question of how machines can learn from data independently, while acting reliably, safely and efficiently. His team and he want to understand the basic principles and develop algorithms that enable intelligent artificial systems to find their way independently in the physical world. In addition to research at the Max Planck Institute, Trimpe is also active in research and teaching at the University of Stuttgart.
Before his time at the Max Planck Institute, Trimpe received his doctorate in 2013 from ETH Zurich in the field of dynamic systems and control engineering under Prof. Raffaello D'Andrea. Prior to that, he obtained a Bachelor's degree in General Engineering (2005), a Diploma in Electrical Engineering (2007) and an MBA in Technology Management (2007) from the TU Hamburg. He spent most of his final year at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Ardian Jusufi assigns his research to both engineering sciences and biology. He calls his research group "Locomotion Biorobotics and Morphological Intelligence. There he manufactures flexible actuators and integrates them with soft sensors made of hyperelastic silicone elastomers (which contain liquid metal). The integration of these sensors enables new abilities in swimming and climbing robots to increase their ability to overcome obstacles. "The biggest difference between biological systems and artificially created technology lies on the one hand in the robustness and on the other in the toughness of components that are predominantly flexible and stretchable in nature," explains Jusufi. In contrast to conventional robots, the locomotor system of animals is able to compensate for several dynamic disturbances in complex terrain. Natural motion robots are also becoming increasingly important for basic research, where they can lead to new discoveries in experimental biology. In this sense, the new group combines comparative motion sciences with experimental robotics and smart materials.
Ardian Jusufi received his doctorate at the University of California in Berkeley, USA, from Prof. Bob Full, where he worked on interdisciplinary motion sciences and bio-inspired robotics at the CiBER Center. After graduating, he went to Cambridge University, UK, for a postdoctoral position at Queens' College. Jusufi then moved to Harvard University, USA, for a second postdoctoral position in Prof. Rob Woods Harvard Microrobotics Lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering. He was then Assistant Professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Since March 1, 2018, Jusufi Cyber Valley has been research group leader at the MPI-IS in Stuttgart.
Dr. Jörg Stückler has been head of the Cyber Valley research group at the Tübingen site of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems since April 1, 2018. His group is called "Embodied Vision". His goal is to develop autonomous intelligent systems that can independently learn and improve their perception and action skills through interaction with the environment. One main focus of his research is learning-based approaches to image and sensor data analysis. Stückler develops methods with which robots can actively gain an understanding of their dynamic environment from sensor data and use it for complex tasks such as object handling or autonomous navigation. In addition to image data, he also uses other sensors such as tactile sensors for the artificial sense of touch when grasping or inertial sensors comparable to the human sense of balance.
After studying computer science at the University of Freiburg, Stückler earned his doctorate at the University of Bonn in the fields of robotics and computer vision. During his doctoral studies, he researched robotic systems such as household robots and developed methods for image-based 3D perception. He began his postdoctoral period in 2014 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), now Chair of Image Processing and Artificial Intelligence. There he investigated methods for visual 3D scene reconstruction, especially methods for visual localization and mapping with visual and inertial sensors. These sensors were also developed for the visual navigation of drones. After one year at TUM, he joined the Computer Vision Group at RWTH Aachen University. There he continued his research on visual scene understanding and 3D reconstruction for intelligent systems and also investigated the use of deep learning techniques in these areas. Last winter semester he was deputy professor at the Chair of Image Processing and Artificial Intelligence at TUM and is now looking forward to the new challenge of leading a Cyber Valley research group.
Dr. Caterina De Bacco started her work as Cyber Valley Research Group Leader at the MPI-IS in Tübingen on July 1, 2018. Her group is called "Interdisciplinary Physics for Inference and Optimization Group". Her research is based on two pillars: First, the development of theoretical models of inference and optimization of interacting systems with methods and ideas from statistical physics. Secondly, De Bacco focuses on application-oriented and interdisciplinary problems that affect cooperation with experts from other disciplines, especially the social sciences.
De Bacco holds a Master's degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of Padua, Italy. She then obtained her doctorate in Statistical Physics from the Université Paris-Sud. She then did postdoctoral research at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, USA. Currently De Bacco is a postdoctoral fellow at the Data Science Institute of Columbia University in New York.
Dr. Falk Lieder joined the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen on July 1, 2018. He calls his Cyber Valley research group "Rationality Enhancement Group". His research focuses on how people think, decide, effectively set goals, be productive, and achieve their goals. To uncover the underlying cognitive mechanisms in these thought processes, he builds computer models and tests them in behavioral experiments. He applies the findings to intelligent systems designed to help people make better decisions - a kind of augmented cognition for more effective goal setting and achievement. With his research, he hopes to create the scientific basis for technologies that can significantly improve human performance and productivity.
Lieder earned his doctorate in May 2018 in Tom Griffith's Computational Cognitive Science Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he worked as a research associate in Klaas Stephan's Translational Neuromodeling Unit, earned a Master's degree in Neural Systems and Computer Science from ETH Zurich, and completed two concurrent Bachelor's degrees in Cognitive Science and Mathematics/Computer Science from the University of Osnabrück.
Cyber Valley Research Groups at the University of Tübingen
Since mid-April 2018, Dr. Mijung Park works in equal parts as a research group leader at the University of Tübingen and at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. At the Max Planck Institute, she conducts research in Professor Bernhard Schölkopf's Department of Empirical Inference. Park calls her group at the university "Privacy-preserving machine learning". She develops algorithms to protect privacy when large data sets come to statistical conclusions on their own. Her goal is to solve challenging statistical problems in the field of machine learning and data protection.
Mijung Park graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 2013. Between 2014 and 2015 she was a postdoctoral fellow at University College London. From 2016 to 2017, she did postdoctoral research at the University of Amsterdam and then moved to Tübingen.
Dr. Gabriele Schweikert came to Tübingen from the University of Edinburgh. She uses machine learning methods to better understand important molecular processes in living cells. She is particularly interested in epigenetic mechanisms: if all cells in a body have the same genetic code, what makes a liver cell a liver cell or the white blood cell what it is? Understanding epigenetic processes is immensely promising for medical applications. For example, malfunctions of the epigenetic mechanisms are increasingly recognised as co-triggers of tumour development, e.g. in leukaemia. By working on the development of machine learning techniques for computer-aided gene identification, Schweikert wants to further advance this science. Schweikert has therefore named its Cyber Valley research group "Computational Epigenomics".
Dr. Fabian Sinz heads the group "Neuronal Intelligence" at the University of Tübingen. There he deals with neuronal circuits in the brain - the building blocks of intelligent systems. A central goal of his AI research is to develop intelligent systems that are as versatile as mammalian brains in terms of learning and performance. To this day, researchers know very little about how calculations in neuronal circuits lead to biological intelligence. His group therefore uses large amounts of neurophysiological and anatomical data to better understand the basics of neuronal intelligence and to reduce the gap between AI research and neuroscience. Sinz is inspired by the idea that a deeper understanding of patterns in cortical circuits can help develop the next generation of intelligent systems.
Fabian Sinz studied bioinformatics and philosophy in Tübingen and worked with Bernhard Schölkopf and Carl Rasmussen at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen and with Vladimir Vapnik and Jason Weston at NEC Research in Princeton. He wrote his doctoral thesis with Matthias Bethge at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. Towards the end of his doctoral thesis, Sinz decided that he wanted to be able to record his own neurophysiological data. He therefore joined Gilles Laurent's group at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt for an internship of several months, where he researched turtles. He did his first postdoc in Jan Benda's laboratory, where he worked on the electrosensory system of weak electric fish. For his second postdoc he moved to the laboratory of Andreas Tolias at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, where he is currently researching the visual system of mice and was recently promoted to Research Assistant Professor.
Cyber Valley Research Groups at the University of Stuttgart
Dr. Tian Qiu started as Cyber Valley research group leader at the University of Stuttgart on July 1, 2019.
His Cyber Valley research group "Biomedical Microsystems" will also focus on creating new devices and microsystems for biomedical applications. The aim is to integrate actuation, sensing, and computation to advance medical procedures. The group locates at the Institute of Physical Chemistry (IPC) at the University of Stuttgart. Qius research aims to develop new devices and microsystems for biomedical applications with the aim of integrating actuation, sensor technology and computation to advance medical procedures. He is interested in developing tools that collect large amounts of data and to learn from the data to understand the underlying principles – hence the term intelligent systems. One research focus involves learning how soft tissue deforms, which is useful for the development of augmented reality systems and future soft robots. The group has ongoing collaborations with medical teams to integrate the technologies with augmented reality systems for minimally-invasive surgery and training. His goal is to establish a multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists and physicians at the University of Stuttgart in order to jointly tackle this technological challenge.
Tian Qiu was previously head of the "Biomedical Microsystems" research team in the "Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems" laboratory of Professor Peer Fischer, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart and Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Physical Chemistry IPC. Among other things, Tian Qiu and his team succeeded in steering nanorobots through the dense tissue of an eyeball for minimally invasive drug delivery, which had never been achieved before.
Dr. Tian Qiu wrote his doctoral thesis in biotechnology and bioengineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Qiu is also an Associate Member of the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems and teaches at the International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems. He won the National Award for Outstanding Self-financed Chinese Students Abroad and the Best Microrobot Design Award at the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics.