Plenary talks

The conference programme will include six plenary lectures from leading international researchers in biomimetic and biohybrid systems.

Plenary lectures recordings @ ConvergentScience Network video channel [coming soon!]

Ricard Sole Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
Creating synthetic living machines and computers

Ricard Solé, a physicist and biologist, is ICREA research professor at the Pompeu Fabra University where he heads the Complex Systems Laboratory. He is also a visiting fellow at the Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico) and at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the University of California (San Francisco). He is on the editorial advisory boards of several international journals. He has degrees in Physics and Biology from the University of Barcelona and obtained a PhD in Physics from the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC). He has been awarded grants from the James McDonnell Foundation, the Botín Foundation and an ERC Advanced Grant. He also received the 2004 City of Barcelona Prize for his research work. One of his main research interests is to understand the origins of complexity and its destruction in biological and artificial systems, with the aim of discovering how complex systems develop qualities such as multicellularlarity, the capacity for computation, robustness and the ability to evolve. In order to achieve this, his laboratory engages in both theoretical and experimental research, which includes an ambitious programme of synthetic biology.


Andrew Schwartz  University of Minnesota, Pittsburgh, USA
Neural control of prosthetics

Dr. Andrew Schwartz is a Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Schwartz received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1984 with a thesis entitled “Activity in the Deep Cerebellar Nuclei During Normal and Perturbed Locomotion.” He then went on to a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he was instrumental in developing the basis for three-dimensional trajectory representation in the motor cortex. In 1988, Dr. Schwartz began his independent research career at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.  There, he developed a paradigm to explore the continuous cortical signals generated throughout volitional arm movements.  Schwartz moved from the Barrow Neurological Institute to the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego in 1995 and then to the University of Pittsburgh in 2002.  In addition to the prosthetics work, he has continued to utilize the neural trajectory representation to better understand the transformation from intended to actual movement using motor illusions in a virtual reality environment.


Sarah Bergbreiter  University of Maryland, USA

Sarah Bergbreiter joined the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Institute for Systems Research. She received her B.S.E. degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1999. After a short introduction to the challenges of sensor networks at a small startup company, she received the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004 and 2007 with a focus on microrobotics. She received the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2008, the NSF CAREER Award in 2011, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2013 for her research on engineering robotic systems down to sub-millimeter size scales. She has also received the Best Conference Paper Award at IEEE ICRA 2010 on her work incorporating new materials into microrobotics and the NTF Award at IEEE IROS 2011 for early demonstrations of jumping microrobots.


Darwin Caldwell Italian Institute of Technology, Genova, Italy
Legged Locomotion

Darwin Caldwell received his B.Sc. and Ph.D in Robotics from the University of Hull in 1986 and 1990 respectively. In 1994 he received an M.Sc in Management from the University of Salford. From 1989 to 2006 he was at the University of Salford as a Lecturer (1989-96), S. Lecturer (1996-97), Reader (1997-99) and finally Professor of Advanced Robotics in the Centre for Robotics and Automation (1999-2006). He is a visiting/honorary Professor at The University of Manchester, The University of Sheffield, Kings’ College, London, The University of Bangor and Tianjin University, China. His research interests include innovative actuators and sensors, humanoid robotics and locomotion (iCub, cCub and COMAN), quadrapedal robots and locomotion (HyQ), haptic feedback, force augmentation exoskeletons, dexterous manipulators, biomimetic systems, rehabilitation and surgical robotics, telepresence and teleoperation. Dr Caldwell is the author or co-author of almost 350 academic papers, 15 patents and has received awards and nominations from several international journals and conference including; IMechE Publications Best Paper Award 2009, Industrial Robot Journal Award (2010), ICRA (2007), IROS (2009), ICAR (2004), Humanoids (2009), IFAC IAV (1994), MMVR (2011), ACHI (2010), IEEE CASE (2010), IEEE ICIA (2011) and Virtual Concepts (2005).


Minoru Asada Osaka University, Japan
Cognitive and Affective Developmental Robotics

Minoru Asada  received is Ph.D. degrees in control engineering from Osaka University, Japan, in 1982. He was a visiting researcher of the Center for Automation Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD (1986-1987). He became a Professor of Osaka University (mechanical engineering) in 1995, and has been a Professor of the department of Adaptive Machine Systems at the same university since 1997.  He is one of the founders of RoboCup (president from 2002 - 2008), and his team got the championship in the humanoid league (adult size) and the best humanoid award (Louis Vuitton Cup) in 2013. His group has been advocating "Cognitive Developmental Robotics" which aims at understanding the process of human's cognitive development by synthetic and constructive approaches such as computer simulations and real robot experiments. Its core idea is "physical embodiment" and "social interaction" that enable information structuring through interactions with the environment including other agents, and "cognitive development" connects them seamlessly. Their activities are shown in the JST ERATO Asada Synergistic Intelligence Project (2005-2012) for which he was a research director (, and currently JSPS Grand-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research (2012 - 2016) entitled "Constructive Developmental Science Based on Understanding the Process from Neuro-Dynamics to Social Interaction"


Mandyam Srinivasan Queensland Brain Institute, Australia
Insect-inspired cognition and vision

Srinivasan's research focuses on the principles of visual processing, perception and cognition in simple natural systems, and on the application of these principles to machine vision and robotics. He holds an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Bangalore University,a Master's degree in Electronics from the Indian Institute of Science, a Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from Yale University, a D.Sc. in Neuroethology from the Australian National University, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Zurich. Srinivasan is presently Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the Queensland Brain Institute and the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering of the University of Queensland. Among his awards are Fellowships of the Australian Academy of Science, of the Royal Society of London, and of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the 2006 Australia Prime Minister’s Science Prize, the 2008 U.K. Rank Prize for Optoelectronics, the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award of the Indian Institute of Science, and the Membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2012.