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Simone Schürle

Simone Schurle is researching in the field of biomedical engineering and is affiliated with The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT as postdoctoral fellow since 2014. She graduated in 2009 from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Industrial Engineering and Management (Dipl. Wi.-Ing.) with specialization in micro/nanosystems. During her studies, she was also researching at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, about automated drug infusion and control and at the University of Kyoto, Japan, in the field of carbon nanotube based nanosensors. She then joined the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) where she focused on magnetic manipulation techniques for biomedical applications. She was awarded with the ETH medal for her doctoral thesis and with fellowships from the SNSF, DAAD and the Society in Science – The Branco Weiss fellowship for her postdoctoral studies. Besides activities in public outreach work and education, she is serving as Global Future Council for the World Economic Forum. She is also co-founder of MagnebotiX, a spin-off from ETHZ.

Macrophage grabbing a bacterium (left, pink) and our artificial prey (right, green). Credit: Simone Schurle

Robotics, by definition, has been a discipline to aid other fields, such as manufacturing and space exploration. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly important in life sciences; a field that has been transformed by the convergence of insights and approaches from distinct scientific and technological disciplines. Robotics can help automate numerous processes — including repetitive tasks used in drug discovery, in vitro fertilization — and in lab bench work, such as analytical testing and preparation of chemical agents.

In our recent paper in Science Robotics, we show how robotics in the life sciences can also enable scientists to study and interrogate biological processes at the microscale in a dynamic and adaptive manner.


Unlike larger robots, microrobots for applications in the body are too small to carry batteries and motors. To address this challenge, we power and control robots made of magnetic materials using external magnetic fields. Developed at ETH Zurich’s  Multi-Scale Robotics Lab (MSRL), the OctoMag is a magnetic manipulation system that uses electromagnetic coils to wirelessly guide microrobots for ophthalmic surgery.