On November 7, 2023, the University of Cologne New York Office together with the German Consulate New York, the German Research Foundation (DFG) North America, the American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the German Center for Research and Innovation New York (DWIH) hosted a panel discussion on “From Animals to Robots: How Transatlantic Neuroscience Advances Engineering” at the German House in New York City.

The panel featured experts in the areas of neuroscience, robotics, and control who work together within the Communication, Coordination and Control in Neuromechanical Systems (C3NS) network. C3NS is an innovative transatlantic research program, co-funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) together with the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council (MRC). It is part of NSF’s Novel Networks for Neuroscience – NeuroNex – project.

The short welcoming remarks panel featured representatives of the co-hosting organizations: Mariella de Carvalho from the German Consulate General, Dr. Georg Bechtold from the DFG North America, and Dr. Jan Lüdert from the DWIH New York, moderated by Dr. Eva Bosbach from the University of Cologne New York Office.

Prof. Roger Quinn (Case Western Reserve University) introduced the C3NS network, its structure and research areas in his key-note, followed by a short movie about the current projects, and a panel discussion with the network members Prof. Ansgar Büschges from the University of Cologne, Prof. Roger Quinn from Case Western Reserve University, Prof. Victoria Webster-Wood from Carnegie Mellon University, and Dr. Gesa Dinges from West Virginia University. Prof. Hillel Chiel from Case Western Reserve University joined the panel discussion via zoom, adding to the dynamic interaction throughout the evening. Dr. Nina Gray from New York University moderated the panel discussion.



Topics discussed included the flexibility, adaptability, and resilience of animal behavior and what science can learn from the impressive agility and speed with which animals respond to avoid danger and achieve their goals. It was further explored how understanding the way that the body and brain work together to create such adaptive behavior can create new technical solutions including novel, autonomous robots, which some of the researchers are currently working on. Another theme looked at how such innovations can contribute to increasing our society’s resilience when dealing with global challenges.

The panelists also emphasized what makes their collaboration work and what makes it so special: transnationally organized and funded research projects where multiple national funding organizations come together in support of a specific scientific, interdisciplinary endeavor are rare, but increasingly important to tackle the global challenges of our society. The panel illustrated how the interdisciplinary and transnational nature of this specific collaboration improves every individual discipline’s work, as well as how they are training the next generation of researchers to be better equipped for the new questions to come. Future investigators in the network might no longer be neuroscientists working together with engineers and biologists, but rather interdisciplinary researchers trained by a group of neuroscientists, engineers, biologists, and other scientists.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session, where questions from the audience ranged from what the scientists’ favorite animals are to a potential military interest in such research. The evening ended with a networking reception in the German House lobby, where the discussion from the auditorium was continued on a more interactive, personal level.

“Thank you for organizing these two highly exciting events in New York and Washington! The audience was very interested in our work and engaged in the discussion. As a person who is about to enter the job market, these two days were very motivating and educational. On top of being able to present my work and network with colleagues in the field, I gained many insights into the German American cooperation that I would not have received without this opportunity.”

Dr. Gesa F. Dinges, Postdoctoral Researcher, Neuro-Mechanical Intelligence Laboratory, West Virginia University


Video recording New York
[By clicking on the video you will be redirected to the external YouTube page and leave the NRW-USA-Year website]

Event website with speaker and moderator bios:

Photo gallery New York
(Photo Credit Nathalie Schueller)

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