Stuttgart – The President of the Max Planck Society, Prof. Dr. Martin Stratmann, has appointed Dr. Katherine J. Kuchenbecker as Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS). This leadership role spans the entire institute, which has sites in Tübingen and Stuttgart. Dr. Kuchenbecker also directs the Haptic Intelligence Department in Stuttgart. Her term as Managing Director runs for a year and a half, starting July 1, 2019.
"The leadership opportunities available to directors greatly attracted me to the Max Planck Society", said Dr. Kuchenbecker, who joined MPI-IS in 2017. "I am delighted to have this opportunity to help guide our young institute's growth as a world-leading center for research on intelligent systems."
The MPI-IS was established in 2011 as a result of the scientific reorientation of the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, which was founded in 1921. Dr. Kuchenbecker is the first woman in the history of the institute to become Managing Director. She succeeds Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schölkopf, who directs the Empirical Inference Department in Tübingen. Professor Schölkopf has now become the institute’s Deputy Managing Director, and both he and Dr. Kuchenbecker will continue to serve as Managing Directors of their respective sites. The institute currently has three other directors leading departments in Stuttgart and one other director in Tübingen.
Katherine J. Kuchenbecker’s research focuses on bridging the digital and physical worlds through the sense of touch. While computers readily present visual and auditory information, they typically neglect the user’s sense of touch, a central human need. Similarly, today’s robots have astute senses of vision and hearing, but they can rarely feel much about the world around them. Dr. Kuchenbecker’s work combines elements of neuroscience, machine learning, engineering, and robotics to uncover the underlying principles of haptic interaction and invent helpful human-computer, human-machine, and human-robot systems that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the sense of touch.
Dr. Katherine J. Kuchenbecker earned her doctorate in Mechanical Engineering in 2006 at Stanford University in Stanford, California, USA. After ten months as a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, she became the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor on July 1, 2013, also starting a secondary appointment in Penn’s Department of Computer and Information Science at that time. She joined the Max Planck Society as a Director at the Stuttgart site of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems on January 1, 2017.