Research Activities

At the Institute for Electrical Engineering in Medicine a variety of research topics are investigated. The research on the respective topics is mainly driven by a systems and control perspective and aims at improving both the quality of assisstance and the fundamental understanding of physiological control loops.

The area of physiological closed-loop control research is driven by a systems perspective on the human body. Using tools from modern control oriented modeling, parameter and state estimation as well as system identification, it is the goal to represent core dynamic properties of the human physiological system in frameworks for which modern analysis and control methodologies can be applied. This has to be done without neglecting the inherent complex interactions, in order to aim for safe and robust medical devices and assure reliable new observations in fundamental physiological research questions.

The robust estimation of internal parameters and states of physiological systems is a challenging task. This is due to uncertainties with respect to the precise mechanisms of the underlying physiological processes as well as due to the large number of different signal sources influencing every measurement of a particular physiological quantity. For most quantities there might not even be a direct way of measurement, especially when invasive methods cannot be applied. Any signal processing or control application dealing with physiological systems must hence rely on the use of sophisticated, robust methods for parameter and state estimation. At IME, we develop such methods-among others-by means of message passing on factor graphs.

Autonomous systems play an increasingly important role in the field of robotics. Their technical potential is expanding rapidly, as ever powerful microprocessors, sensor systems, communication networks and energy storage is becoming available. They also have an enormous practical potential. They take over tedious or hazardous tasks, where they work better and more reliably than humans. For example, autonomous vehicles can improve traffic safety, offer individual transportation for blind or elderly people, or simply free the driver's time. Autonomous medical robots can help with monitoring and treating patients.

At IME, our passion is the design of intelligent algorithms for the control of autonomous systems - such as self-learning, predictive, or optimal control. We develop algorithms at the cutting-edge of modern research. However, an important focus point of our work is on providing safety guarantees, an aspect that is particularly relevant for systems like autonomous vehicles or medical robots.

The algorithms that are currently subsumed under the terms “artificial intelligence” and "machine learning" already or will soon pervade large portions of daily life, such as online advertising, political election campaigns, risk assessment in the justice system or self-driving vehicles, to name a few. Even though societal impact in engineering has always abounded, the technology behind "artificial intelligence" holds novel dimensions in responsibility. With the increasing extent by which technological solutions are deployed with the intention to facilitate or take over human-decision making—often with the promise to objectify processes—it is apparent that ethical concerns are more and more recognized and raised. However, for engineers to proactively and constructively engage in the discourse about the ethically-aligned design of technology, a broader educational foundation for technology assessment appears necessary.

At IME, the design of intelligent algorithms for the control of autonomous systems is accompanied by reflections on their societal and ecological impact. The group of the Engineering Ethics lab strives for an engineering profession that wholeheartedly acknowledges the necessity and benefits of inter- and transdisciplinary research and development teams as the way to move forward for the entirety of society in the 21st century.