Bionics MSc (from WS 19/20)
What is Bionics
The natural world as a source of engineering inspiration – that’s the core idea behind the field of bionics, a combination of the terms “biology” and “technics”, which means engineering in this context. In English, the approach of combining biology and engineering is often called biomimetics. The basic principle of biomimetics is learning from nature. The goal is to understand the principles and systems behind nature’s constructions and then to transfer them to technological systems and devices.
The process can start with a biological observation and lead to a new devices, as in the left hand side of the figure below, where the aerodynamics of the falling maple seed "helicopter" led one of our teams to the development of a new, silent, low speed wind turbine, or it can start with a technological requirement like the control of an autonomous car when it's being overtaken by a large truck that led our biomimeticists to draw inspiration the flow feeling lateral line system of fish to develop a new flow sensing system which can detect the bow-wave of the approaching truck so that the car can be ready to react.
Bionics isn't limited to fluid dynamics. One major application of biomimetics is the field of biomaterials. Spider silk, for example, is both light and flexible and three times stronger than steel. Such material properties are of interest for various technical fibers. In robotics, animal models such as geckos are used as inspiration for the development of climbing robots. Another application is the development of water-repellent, self-cleaning materials, which were inspired by the surface structure of the lotus leaf.
The field of Bionics/Biomimetics is as varied as Nature herself. At HSRW our focus is on two of the largest of the subfields of Biomimetics, namely Bioinspired Robotics and Biomaterials Science. We offer two separate specilaisations in our MSc degree with some common content. Thematically they look like this:
The two specialisations are very different. The focus of the MSc Bionics - Robotics specialisation is on biomimetic intelligence and autonomy in robotic systems and systems of robots, while that of the MSc Bionics - Materials specialisation is on the development of smart materials, lightweight structures and functionalised surfaces. Because of the specialisation in each of the fields and the very different prerequisites each expects, students need to choose one or the other at the time of application. It is not possible to switch between them without essentially starting over.
Students who chose the focus on Robotics study a degree programme that focusses primarily on the control and programming of bioinspired robots and robotic systems. A secondary focus is the design and building of biomimetic robots and systems.
The programme is designed in blocks. The core block includes experimental and mathematical skills, an introduction to general management and an introduction to the central tenets of bionics. The robotics block focusses on computer programming, mathematical analysis, the physics of robots and the control of autonomous robotic behaviour. The final block provides students with an opportunity to pursue curiosity or application in biomimetic engineering or science in an independent research project and thesis.
Students who chose the focus on Materials study a degree programme that focusses on the design and production of novel materials, with a particular emphasis on the chemistry of biological and biomimetic materials. A secondary focus is on the biomimetic application of materials in engineering design.
The programme is designed in blocks. The core block includes experimental and mathematical skills, an introduction to general management and an introduction to the tenets of bionics. The materials block focusses on the chemistry of plastics and composites, materials selection, smart materials and lightweight systems. The final block provides students with an opportunity to pursue curiosity or application in biomimetic engineering or science in an independent research project and thesis.
Graduates of the Master Bionics study programme have the ability to identify, to analyze, and to find solutions for scientific and technical tasks. Through the acquisition of key qualifications the graduates are well prepared to work in teams and projects, and to communicate results and knowledge.
The prerequisites (also called Learning Agreement subjects) prepare students from a variety of backgrounds for further studies in bionics. Their scope depends on the academic credit content of the applicant's bachelor degree. Most students will have completed 6 semesters of post-grade 13 education, which is equivalent to 180 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credit points. Some students will have completed 210 ECTS points. The determination of the equivalence is done by UniAssist following guidelines issued by the German government (Kultusministerkonferenz). Students who are deemed to have 180 ECTS points must complete the prerequisite courses before they will be eligible to register for the core courses. For students arriving with 210 ECTS points, these courses are optional, but highly recommended.
The prerequisites for each of the specialisations are described in the links to the right.
The individual courses which make up the blocks shown in the figure above are listed in tabular form at the end of the Examination Regulations. The content of each of the courses is described in the module handbooks.
The formal entry requirements for the master course of study “Bionics” are as follows:
- Bachelor degree in a field relevant to the chosen specialisation (as described in the Admissions Regulations)
- CGPA (min) in the Bachelor's degree: 2.5 (calculated using the "Modified Bavarian Formula")
- English level C1
- Applicants with qualifications obtained outside of the European Higher Education Area must additionally submit documentation of a valid standardised qualification examination. Details of the tests and achievement levels required are provided in the Admissions Regulations (link top right).
Project & Thesis
There is much flexibility built into the ARP and thesis component. The concept is that the student can use these large practical projects to explore areas of individual interest. Sometimes these lead to a career in research and development, and for others they are simply a scientific exploration of curiosity. The ARP and thesis can be done in a university lab or as part of a university team, of which there are several - see the ENSPIRE website for more details on the projects that are currently available or underway. Opportunities exist also to do the ARP and/or thesis in a lab at one of our collaborating international partner universities. Some students opt to do their ARP and/or thesis in a company - this is not easy, but with some good luck, can be a nice introduction to the German working world.
Experts in bionics/biomimetics work in a highly interdisciplinary field which requires expertise in both engineering and biology. What‘s more, interest in potential uses for bio-inspired materials and machinery continues to grow in many sectors and industries, creating a growing demand for specialists in these fields.
Potential areas of employment for graduates are:
- Robotics companies
- Automotive / aerospace industries, particularly in the areas of autonomy and lightweight structures.
- Industries and research institutions focusing on micro-/nanotechnology
- Biomaterials industry
- Energy technology
- Engineering consulting
- Research institutions
- Service providers and experts specialising in biomimetics
Successful completion of the MSc in Bionics (either specialisation) also qualifies the graduate for admission to doctoral studies, either at HSRW or elsewhere. All HSRW doctorates are done in collaboration with at least one other university. Current and recent collaborations in Bionics include and have included:
- Universitá di Salento (Italy)
- Sorbonne Université (France)
- Universität Münster (Germany)
- University of Groningen (Netherlands)
- Radboud University (Netherlands)
- Universität Duisburg-Essen (Germany)
This programme is accredited by the ASIIN until 2026.