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The track biorobotics is part of the master's in biomedical engineering

Are you intrigued by biologically-inspired robots? If you would like to improve and enhance the capabilities of these type of robots or the way they are used to benefit the healthcare sector, then Biorobotics of the Master's in Biomedical Engineering is the right specialisation track to pursue. After completing your studies, you can be a(n) (academic) researcher, product developer, advisor, manager or teacher in this field of biomedical engineering. 

What is Biorobotics?

Biorobotics is about the application of robotics and mechatronics in medicine and healthcare. Biorobotics is also a research approach in which you investigate biology and medical problems from a mechatronic point of view.

Key research areas

The TechMed research groups that participate in the biorobotics tracks work in different areas on improving and applying biorobotic technology. We closely collaborate with partners and stakeholders such as clinicians, patients and the industry. This, in order to:

  1. derive use case scenarios and functional requirements,
  2. design, realise and test prototypes,
  3. and to evaluate them in a (pre)clinical setting.

The key research areas with some examples of research questions are:

  • Wearable Robotics

    Wearable robots can be used to either augment, train, or supplement human motor function. Examples of such robots are exo-skeletons, bionic prostheses, exo-suits, and body worn collaborative robots.

    Examples of research questions are:

    • How can we best support balance control of people walking in exoskeletons?
    • How should we control exoskeletons to prevent low back and shoulder injuries in workers
    • Can we decode biological joint torque and stiffness profiles from human bioelectrical signals?
    • Can we use decoded joint force to control robotic exoskeletons as a natural extension of the human body? 
  • Rehabilitation Robotics

    Rehabilitation robots support physical therapist in the treatment of patients that need intensive therapy, such as stroke survivors, individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury, or children with Cerebral Palsy. The advantage of these robots is that it allows for intensive rehabilitation promoting recovery and reduces the physical load of therapists.

    Examples of research questions are:

    • How should we control these robots to optimize the active participation of the patients and improve their recovery?
    • How to design robots that do not constrain normal movements but allow to support movements? 
  • Surgical Robots

    Surgical robots are robots that aid the clinician in performing procedures inside the body of the patient. There are different application areas, such as taking biopts, endoscopy and performing minimally invasive heart surgery. Below you can find some example research questions sorted per sub-topics.   

    • Soft robotics for interventional procedures: How to develop and control soft robotic interventional tools to allow flexibility and minimize tissue damage?
    • Image-guided robotics and interventions: How to include imaging as feedback for controlling interventional robots and consider tissue deformation while targeting a certain location in the body?
    • AI-guided robotics: How to develop AI algorithms in predicting organ motion (respiratory-induced motion and heart motion) during a robotic intervention?
    • Surgery assistive robotics simulator for motion modeling: How to achieve personalized treatment by developing robotic simulators to train clinicians and test robotic systems?
    • Teleoperation and haptic feedback for robotic surgery: How to develop a shared-control system between the control algorithm and the operator using teleoperation and haptic feedback?

This specialisation is integrated in the inspiring and innovative Technical Medical Centre of the University of Twente, which aims to improve healthcare by personalised technology. It is connected to the multi-disciplinary Biorobotics research domain that develops engineering solutions based on robotic technology to improve the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of widespread diseases in society.

Expected future developments

Just like robotics, biorobotics is continuously undergoing changes to better tackle current and future challenges. Examples are microrobotics and soft robots. Click below to find out more about some specific research questions in these fields. 

  • Microrobotics

    Magnetic microrobots are wirelessly-powered, controlled and can be localised via an appropriate imaging system. They are untethered devices capable of performing simple tasks via controlled magnetic fields. Despite these capabilities, microrobots have not yet been translated into in vivo applications to achieve minimally invasive procedures. 

    Examples of research questions are: 

    • How to design self-propelling undulatory systems to achieve controlled actuation based on external stimuli?
    • How should microrobots be fabricated using biodegradable and biocompatible materials?
    • How to design efficient microrobots to overcome the flowing streams of blood?
    • How to localise and control microrobots in environments with similar conditions encountered in vivo?
  • Soft Robots

    Soft robotics is a young and promising field, and offers an exciting, radically different approach to operate safely and reliable in human-inhabited environments. We want to learn from the solutions found in nature to create desirable mechanical properties, embedded sensors and actuators, modelling and control strategies for soft robots.

    Examples of research questions are: 

    • How to design soft robots that are adaptable and safe in interaction with user and environment and sufficiently powerful to perform their desired tasks?
    • How to develop efficient and powerful soft actuators or accurate soft sensors?
    • How to fabricate the nature-like, complex and integrated structure of soft robots?
    • How to control their unconventional structure?
    • To what extent can we extend the application area of soft robotics? 

Structure of this track

The specialisation Biorobotics of Biomedical Engineering starts with courses in rigid body dynamics, control theory, and advanced programming, since these are elementary to (bio)mechatronics. Other courses will deepen your knowledge and skills in your research field of interest and on application of your knowledge/skills in clinical cases, such as (neuro)rehabilitation, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, orthopedy, or heart surgery. In the various courses, theory will be applied in assignments, lab experiments and projects. You will learn and get experienced in how to work independently but also in small groups of fellow students. Below you can read more about the curriculum and what you will learn. 

Career perspective Biorobotics

A training in biorobotics focusses on knowledge and skills that are related to mechatronic design and control of medical robots, human-machine interaction and biomedical science. This means that you will be well-prepared for positions in the development of mechatronic medical devices that directly interact with humans. As a bioroboticist you will work in multidisciplinary teams, where you will be essential to translate the clinical needs and wishes into technical requirements and concepts. You will also play an important role in the (pre)clinical evaluation of medical robots.

You will be able to apply your skills in various early career trajectories, for example in academic research as a Ph.D. candidate, in mechatronics companies or medical device companies as a product developer or manager, in university hospitals or knowledge institutes as a researcher or at (applied) universities as a teacher. Read more about the career opportunities of Biomedical Engineering graduates in general.

How to apply for this specialisation?

If you are interested to apply for our track Biorobotics, you will have to sign up for the Master's in Biomedical Engineering first. Students that obtained or that are about to obtain their diploma outside of the Netherlands can take part in our eligibility check, giving an indication of their chances of being admitted. Find out more about admission here.

Interested in pursuing Biorobotics?
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