New biomedical research complex opens IHMC’s next chapter

The new $40 million biomedically-based research complex constructed by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) will be more than a striking addition to the Pensacola skyline.

It will be an accelerant for the pace of discovery that will drive innovations in maximizing the healthspan for everyone from elite military operators and veterans to those with neurodegenerative diseases, musculoskeletal problems, and chronic metabolic conditions.

IHMC's new $40 healthspan, resilience, and performance research complex.

IHMC’s new $40 healthspan, resilience, and performance research complex.

The Healthspan, Resilience and Performance Research Complex is another step in the evolution of the vision that has been the bedrock of IHMC since its founding by Dr. Ken Ford, the Institute’s Chief Executive Officer.

“Pushing the boundaries of science to maximize the performance and resilience of human beings has long been a foundational tenet at IHMC,” Ford says. “In our healthspan, resilience and performance research thrust, the vision has always been to work from the molecular level to the whole human. This facility brings that to life.”

Dr. Morley Stone, Chief Strategic Partnership Officer, notes that the leading-edge research complex gives IHMC’s interdisciplinary team of researchers the ability to truly realize that vision.

“The healthcare system as it is set up now puts people on a trajectory to decline over decades,” Stone says. “We want to lead the science that drives people to extend the period of a person’s life over which they are high functioning and healthy.”

The unique facility puts Pensacola and Northwest Florida at the center of a human and biological sciences economic ecosystem that did not exist before this $40 million research facility came out of the ground. It also serves as a draw for top research talent to the area from all over the world.

“The ability to move from whole human physiology and performance to the molecular level in one facility — there’s nothing else like it in the southeast that I can think of,” Stone said.

The Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex will be an economic and intellectual beacon for the entire Northwest Florida region, says Dr. Marcas Bamman, Senior Research Scientist and Director of Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance research at IHMC.

The science conducted here will be an economic engine, drawing in new funding in federal and industry-sponsored research. Partners in the project have included Space Florida and Triumph Gulf Coast, the nonprofit corporation funded by a legal settlement with British Petroleum following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Funding provided by these agencies helped seed and support the complex.

The Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex stands apart among biomedical science hubs due to the collaborative, cross-discipline spirit that has been a hallmark of IHMC since its beginning. Researchers working in the new research complex are literally an arm’s length reach away from experts in AI, cognitive psychology, computational modeling, data visualization, exoskeletons, engineering and more.

“It’s an accelerant for the speed of discovery,” Stone says.

The three-story, 40,000 square foot facility was built by Brasfield & Gorrie and designed by DAG Architects partnered with Atlanta-headquartered Cooper Carry. The complex is literally designed to fuel the pace of discovery. The first floor is built around human participant testing and intervention, featuring rehabilitation facilities, biomedical sampling tools and performance testing laboratories.

“The first floor focuses on clinical and applied science,” Bamman says. “The third floor contains leading-edge wet laboratories for cellular and molecular science, which enable us to extend and better understand the effects we are having on people on the first floor. We now have the unique capacity – leveraging a range of scientists and technology – to deeply study and improve strategies that enhance healthspan, resilience, and performance for all.”

As the biological sciences have become intertwined with information and computer sciences, IHMC is uniquely positioned to accelerate that trend — and excel while doing it, Stone says.

“Every institution that’s doing this work is struggling with how to generate meaning from that information,” Stone says. “Going back to our legacy, being able to tap into artificial intelligence and machine learning capability that was the foundation of IHMC is an invaluable resource for being able to make meaning out of that information that’s generated.”

A regional economic hub, a draw of international experts

The new Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex is not just a magnet for talent. It is a magnet for dollars that come into the community that do more than recirculate around the community.

“In this case, we’re bringing in millions of dollars of new research money into the economy that our researchers use to buy houses, eat at restaurants, and buy cars. That type of impact is hard to match,” Stone says.

While the population at large ultimately will benefit from what IHMC researchers learn about aging, degenerative and chronic metabolic conditions and what interventions might help ameliorate these, military operators are a specific target audience of the research done at IHMC.

“And frankly,” Stone notes, “it’s just part of the moral obligation that we have to our service members to make sure that not only they leave in the best possible shape they can, but the years after they leave are as productive and high functioning as possible. That’s the moral obligation.”

It’s one that thanks to the Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research Complex, IHMC uniquely is positioned to fulfill.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

Triumph Gulf Coast funding will help bolster research capabilities at Pensacola campus

An investment of $7.8 million from Triumph Gulf Coast will allow IHMC to bolster its research capabilities with a facility designed to handle sensitive federal research in support of Department of Defense and intelligence community customers.

The grant to the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition was approved by Triumph’s board of directors in December 2023. Previous Triumph funding helped seed the $40 million Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance (HRP) research complex now under construction. The story is featured in the latest edition of IHMC’s newsletter, which is available now.

The award includes funding to construct a highly flexible, multilevel secure facility. The addition of secure capabilities will bolster the institute’s ability to meet federal grant and contract security requirements. Dr. Morley Stone, IHMC’s Chief Strategic Partnership Officer, says such a facility allows the Institute “to work at a deeper level with key research sponsors and better address their needs.”

Absent the facility, Stone said, travel is required for discussions with some defense-related research sponsors. “Having those discussions locally, and by having the sponsor interact with our researchers and see our facilities, that often leads to more sponsored work.”

David Bear, chairman of the Triumph Board of Directors, says the secure facility is the type of project the board likes to support. Triumph is the nonprofit corporation funded by a legal settlement with BP following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“IHMC continues to build on the success of its Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance program,” Bear says. The addition of secure facility capabilities expands IHMC’s ability to bring economically impactful research opportunities to the region far beyond the term of this grant, continually improving and diversifying our economy.”

The grant will provide a much-needed secure environment for sensitive federal activities related to requirements stemming from national defense, intelligence, and security sponsors. It also will facilitate collaboration with government agencies, defense contractors, and other research organizations involved in research which demands the greatest protections.

“The incorporation of secure facilities and secure processing capabilities within our new facility will fortify our research capabilities, increase research opportunities, and establish IHMC as a regional leader in research advancements for Government sponsors requiring these highly specialized assets.”said Ryan Tilley, IHMC’s director of strategic program execution and innovation.

The grant also includes funding for additional equipment related to the HRP research that will be housed at the new complex at the corner of Garden and Alcaniz streets.

“Over the course of our work on this project, and as research technology advances, we have identified the need for additional specialized equipment that will significantly contribute to the quality and depth of our research efforts. We are proud that Triumph sees IHMC as a leader in this effort and we are grateful for their support,” Tilley said.

The HRP complex will be a one-of-kind facility for healthspan, resilience, and performance research that also bolsters the regional economy through new funding in federal and industry-sponsored research. The complex will become a hub for collaboration with regional institutions and organizations that share an interest in healthspan and performance.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

 

IHMC Robert Griffin represents the America on IEEE Technical Committee

Dr. Robert Griffin has been named co-chairman of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Technical Committee on Humanoid Robots, representing the Americas.

Robert Griffin

IHMC Research Scientist Dr. Robert Griffin

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the premier professional organization in the field. Griffin’s selection to co-chair the technical committee reflects the high regard for his work and for IHMC’s leadership in the field of humanoid robotics.

“IHMC has been a pioneer in the field of humanoid robotics. Robert’s selection to the IEEE RAS Technical Committee is a much-deserved accolade for him and for the team at IHMC,” said Dr. Ken Ford, IHMC’s founder and chief executive officer.

The Society’s Technical Committee, among other things, leads the annual Conference on Humanoid Robots, the leading international event of the humanoid robotics community. Last year, the conference was hosted in Austin, Texas. Previous locations have included Okinawa, Japan, and Munich, Germany.

The IEEE-RAS includes the flagship conferences of the robotics field, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) and International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), each of which see more than 5,000 attendees annually.

The robotics team at IHMC has often been lauded at the conference for their work. In 2016, 2019, and 2022, the team won Best Paper accolades at the conference. The most recent winning paper “A Fast, Autonomous Bipedal Walking Behavior Over Rapid Regions,” focused on a newly constructed behavior control system for smooth walking over rough, unbalanced terrain.

“To be appointed as a co-chair to represent the Americas is a great honor. I am excited to work alongside the other co-chairs, whose work and impact on the field of humanoid robots cannot be overstated,” Griffin said. “To be counted among their ranks is an incredible recognition that I am deeply humbled by.”

“This recognition is only possible because of the incredible team at IHMC, whose tireless effort and talents cannot be understated. It’s an exciting time to be working on humanoid robots, and I look forward to seeing what the future in this field brings,” Griffin said.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

STEM-Talk: Alessio Fasano on the roots of, treatments for celiac disease

Dr. Alessio Fasano, who is considered the world’s leading expert in celiac disease and gluten-related disorders, returns for his second appearance on STEM-Talk. The interview is available now where you listen to podcasts.

Dr. Alessio Fasano makes his second appearance on STEM-Talk.

As he tells co-hosts Dr. Ken Ford and Dr. Marcas Bamman, he went to medical school with the idea of changing the world. And pediatrics, for him, was a love-at-first-sight way to accomplish this lofty goal.

“I realized from the very beginning in medical school that dealing with kids was going to be more fun and interesting,” Fasano says.

When it came time to choose a mentor, he chose someone who had come back from the University of Chicago, where he’d studied diarrheal diseases.

“I thought that was unglamorous. I wanted to save the world and study cancer or HIV. He educated me. He said that every year 5 million kids would die of diarrheal disease, so if I wanted to do something impactful, I should focus on that.”

Ever since, Fasano has been doing work that could have a profound impact of the health and well-being of people. He is director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition to celiac disease and gluten-related disorders, his research is also focused on the microbiome, intestinal permeability and autoimmune disorders, which he discussed in his first interview on STEM-Talk, episode 20.

Since Alessio’s first appearance on STEM-Talk in 2016, he has published two books, “Gluten Freedom” and “Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health,” which we discuss in today’s interview.

Also in this episode we talk about:

  • Fasano’s new project to bring together an international consortium of researchers and scientists for a long-term study that will follow infants who are genetically at risk of developing celiac disease.
  • His early career working on cholera, where he discovered the zonula occuldens toxin, the bacteria that causes cholera.
  • How the discovery of zonulin, which is the molecule that modulates gut permeability in humans, led Fasano to investigate celiac disease, which is triggered by gluten.
  • Why the medical community, historically, has not taken celiac disease seriously. Although just 2 million Americans have celiac disease, an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity.
  • The progress being made to develop pharmacological interventions for celiac and much more.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

IHMC hosts the IGNITE event for the NATO Innovation Continuum

Recently, IHMC hosted an international group of experts tasked with innovation and experimentation in the capabilities for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO coonference

In May 2024, IHMC hosted the IGNITE event for the NATO Innovation Continuum.

In February 2024, NATO’s Allied Command Transformation launched the Innovation Continuum 2024 series with an event in La Spezia, Italy. From that first event, named Spark, came an initial list of operational scenarios and possible technical solutions to be explored further.

The Ignite event was the second event in the series. Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director Dr. Niranjan Suri was the host of the Ignite event. Throughout his career, Suri’s research has focused on networking, communications, distributed systems, information management, interoperability, the Internet of Things, and the application of machine learning to all of these domains.

“It was a pleasure to host NATO Allied Command Transformation, NATO Communications and Information Agency, NATO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation, many national representatives, as well as many prominent companies, including IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services, here in Pensacola,” Suri said. “We spent four days planning for the experimentation that will take place in the fall.”

Since 2014, Suri has co-chaired a NATO coalition of experts and thought leaders looking at military domains with an eye toward how civilian IoT data could be made available to warfighters on humanitarian or military missions.

The Innovation Continuum is a strategic initiative by Allied Command Transformation to use experimentation and demonstration of cutting-edge science and technology solutions to drive innovation and enhance warfare development through collaboration among NATO enterprise bodies and nations. The events are named Spark, Ignite, Glow, and Shine.

Ignite brought together military professionals, industry leaders, academia representatives, and subject matter experts in the fields of emerging and disruptive technologies. It included deep discussions and practical exercises aimed at operationalizing concepts developed during Spark.

As the Continuum unfolds, Ignite will serves as a catalyst for translating innovative ideas into concrete solutions for NATO to harness the power of technology to safeguard its collective security.

“Activities such as the Innovation Continuum are essential to rapidly take new and emerging technologies, consider how we might use them in the context of NATO, and evaluate these concepts in experiments,” Suri said.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

IHMC researcher using cognitive science, novel language understanding methods to harness AI’s power

Dr. Ian Perera started his research career by exploring the question of whether computers could become more intelligent and helpful assistants by learning the way children do.

If the IHMC Research Scientist can make it work, the implications could be wide-ranging and substantial.

Since joining IHMC in 2013, Perera has worked on numerous military and government projects using novel language understanding methods and cognitive science on problems from de-escalating heated social media conversations to improving trust between human and AI team members and more. His work is featured in the latest edition of the IHMC newsletter, available now.

Research Scientist Dr. Ian Perera

Research Scientist Dr. Ian Perera’s work at IHMC’s Ocala campus includes artificial intelligence, cognitive science and more.

The popular culture’s focus on headlines claiming AI can perform complicated tasks and will soon replace our workforce misses something critical, Perera says.

“This technology is uncritically learning associations between words and concepts, and mimicking behaviors of people online that isn’t always grounded in reality,” Perera says.

While there is some similarity to the powerful associative learning connections that children use when they encounter something new, imbuing AI with a more critical and exploratory approach could lead to a powerful capability with a transformative influence on human decision-making.

It could benefit warfighters in the heat of battle, cool the overheated world of social media commentary, and even improve the long-term health and well-being of military personnel.

While artificial intelligence has a fever-grip on the public imagination, Perera has delved into the true possibilities and limitations of this discipline. And here’s a hint: It’s not about supplanting human intellect.

“The goal is to take our knowledge about how we learn things and use it to inform our models so that they get a better understanding more quickly,” Perera said. “We are looking at strategies to augment associative learning that could be translated to artificial intelligence.”

Typical AI training involves a massive data dump into the system to “teach it,” but that creates an AI that is only as trustworthy as the data it has been fed. Perera has worked to find ways to use language to teach machine learning systems and minimize flaws such as implicit bias.

Having trust in an AI-teammate’s decision is critical to the successful integration of the technology into human decision-making, especially for military operators and others who could rely upon such data to make life-or-death decisions.

“What we were looking at is, can we make sure that an explanation is encoded into the system so that when it makes a decision, you can see if it seems like a logical consequence of what the system is deciding,” Perera says.

Perera’s current work includes a project for the U.S. Navy where AI is responsible not only for finding irregularities or unexpected events, but also for providing the user with multiple possible explanations given the context. For example, multiple ships may be stationary nearby because they are waiting out a storm, or aspects of their behavior may point to illicit activity.

The applications are wider ranging than warfighting, however.

One such project, Civil Sanctuary, had the goal of engaging in social media communities with automated dialogue agents to help with content moderation.

And if there is any place where there is room for improvement, it is the world of online discourse.

Civil Sanctuary aimed to spot language that would indicate when people in an online forum are crossing the line from disagreeing to becoming toxic.

“We wanted to see if we could say something about the emotions being conveyed or the moral foundation” of the comments, Perera said.

Keeping a human in the loop of content moderation is ideal, but the volume of content to moderate makes it nearly impossible for humans to keep up. AI could be helpful in this, especially if it can sense the tone and emotional meaning beneath the words.

Perera’s modeling took several things into account to try to gauge when a moderator gets involved in the interplay among commentors. He also worked on modeling how the community responds to certain emotions.

“We can pick up on it before the human would and before it can do more damage, and say to the human in the loop, ‘Hey, this may be something you want to look at,’” he said.

Countering implicit bias

In AI research, human judgement is seen as the “ground truth”or the “correct” answer. However, we know that everyone has implicit biases that affect how they take in and respond to information. Even if a belief is grounded in fact or good intentions, the nature of the expression of that belief can shut down constructive discourse.

Yet there may be a way forward, aided by AI.

“Sometimes, if you’re aware of the bias, then you can start to see what you might want to change about that,” Perera said.

Towards this end, Perera and his team developed an “echo-chamber burster” — a method to analyze language and suggest refinements that would make a user’s comment on social media more constructive, even de-escalating potentially toxic or insulting discourse.

“We wanted to see if we could change how a comment is phrased to come to some common ground and reduce the toxicity,” Perera said. “Can we make the sentiment less angry and generate language that people can just engage with that’s not highly emotionally charged.”

The work coming out of this project presents a new vision of the potential for generative AI – one that creates new opportunities for bridging ideological differences by reframing communication in terms of the beliefs and ideals of the person or group across that divide.

Studying trust calibration

Another of Perera’s efforts looked at a co-training methodology to calibrate trust building in human-machine teams. At its core, this method sees the human and the AI agent train together, each learning as they go along.

That has included building a user interface that allows the human and machine partners in a team to navigate tasks and avoid obstacles together.

This co-training model gives the human and the AI team members each more feedback about their performance than a traditional model.

“We see (it) as being open with your strengths and weaknesses,” Perera says.

The findings so far suggest that team performance improves with such an approach.

“It makes the AI aware of its limitations and then encourages the human user to consider where AI can be applied most effectively,” he said. “In fact, we found that in this task, having an AI that was open about its capabilities and suggested delegations created a more effectively performing team than simply improving the AI’s accuracy by 20 percent.

“When we talk about improving systems that are used by people in decision making, this result shows us we should be focusing more on the human element, rather than chasing percentage points of accuracy.”

Ongoing work that Perera is part of includes looking at virtual reality tools that may help identify the impacts of mild and sub concussive traumatic brain injury before the condition might be clinically diagnosed. These are instances in which symptoms are difficult for even humans to identify but can have long-term consequences.

“When I think about the potential of AI, I’m not as focused on how we can do tasks as well as humans. I instead look at opportunities for AI to tell us something about ourselves or the world that we might miss as humans,” Perera says. “To do that, we need to turn a critical eye to ourselves and teach AI to do the same for its judgement.”

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

STEM-Talk: Nick Norwitz on a keotogenic diet as metabolic medicine

It may have been a given that Nick Norwitz would become a doctor – he is the child of physicians.

“It was in some ways the default path,” Norwitz says. “Everything I’ve done in science and medicine has just been an absolute pleasure.”

In the latest episode of STEM-Talk, available now where you listen to podcasts, Norwitz shares how what may have seemed to be an inevitable journey has evolved — and how it led him into research aimed at unlocking the potential of a ketogenic diet to improve metabolic health, mental health, and more.

It is a search that he began in part when his own injuries from running led him ultimately to more serious consideration of metabolic health.

Norwitz is an Oxford Ph.D., and a Harvard Medical School student who has drawn a following in part from his work with “lean mass hyper responders,” people who have high LDL cholesterol levels while on a ketogenic diet who are otherwise metabolically healthy.

The conversation includes:

  • The impact that his own medical journey as a young man had on his path and on his belief that we must incorporate metabolic health in our healthcare system.
  • Nick’s “Oreos vs. Statins” study which showed that for Lean Mass Hyper Responders, the introduction of a carb — in this case Oreo cookies — reduced LDL cholesterol far more effectively than statin therapy. His point was not to advocate Oreo cookies to manage cholesterol but rather to draw attention to the heterogeneity in responses.
  • Nick’s paper on the Lipid Energy Model, which proposes a mechanistic explanation for the lean mass hyper responder phenotype.

And much more.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry, and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

 

Robotics Open House inspired students to imagine themselves in STEM fields

As a middle school teacher, Jen Reichwage believes that when it comes to the possibility of a career in science, for her students, seeing is believing.

“Students must be exposed to STEM-related professions,” she said. “If students cannot see what it means to be in (Science Technology Engineering and Math), they will likely not see themselves in a STEM field and not pursue one.”

Senior Research Associate Larry Bunch and students

Senior Research Associate Larry Bunch and students at 2024 Open House. Photo Credit IHMC

That is why Reichwage led a field trip of her students to the April Open House at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). The event drew hundreds of people, including Reichwage’s students from Creative Learning Academy, as staff welcomed families, students, and the public for tours, walk-throughs, and inspiration on the Pensacola campus on South Alcaniz Street.

The family-friendly event encourages scientific discovery through hands-on activities, challenges, and demonstrations while providing the opportunity to learn. Visitors met IHMC researchers and saw first-hand their work in drones, robotics, virtual reality experiences, human performance research projects, data visualization, and more. The story is featured in the latest edition of the IHMC newsletter, available now.

Debbie Garland was another teacher who led a field trip to Open House, which coincides with National Robotics Week. Garland’s students are fourth-graders at Sacred Heart Cathedral School.

Her students learn about simple machines and coding in fourth grade, so open house offered a great hands-on learning opportunity for them to explore in a creative way. This was the fifth year that Garland brought her students to IHMC. She keeps bringing them back because it offers a unique hands-on learning experience that’s not found anywhere else.

“I feel that the students have a better idea about what sort of job opportunities might be available to those students that love science, robotics, and coding,” she said.

Rechwage said the biggest takeaway for her students was the chance to interact with researchers.

On April 11, 2024, IHMC hosted the annual Open House in conjunction with National Robotics Week. Photo Credit IHMC © All Rights Reserved

“Students were able to see different aspects of research that utilize technology in creative and innovative ways. They were able to test some of them and interact with others,” Reichwage said.

The Levin Center for IHMC Research — which houses the robotics lab — was one of the main draws of the event, but all of IHMC’s research disciplines were represented at Open House. Dozens of researchers in roboticists, engineering, cognitive science, and human performance, shared their work — and their love of their careers in science-related fields.

“The IHMC is a shining star for the Pensacola community and students were captivated by speaking to faculty and interacting with the exhibits,” Reichwage said.

National Robotics Week was established by Congress in 2010 and aims to bring together students, educators, and influencers who share a passion for robots and technology.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry, and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

Intelligent cognitive assistant leveraging NLP to support those with dementia

Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition are combining technology and healthcare to develop an application that uses natural language processing (NLP) to help dementia patients in real time with vocabulary recall.

Dr. Archna Bhatia

Dr. Archna Bhatia

Dr. Archna Bhatia, leading the project team, is focused on harnessing NLP to help seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias retrieve words in the course of daily life. The effort is being supported by funding from the Massachusetts AI and Technology Center, a member of the a2Collective, which represents the Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaboratories for Aging Research (AITC). The AITC program is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The project’s goal is to develop an assistant that learns from the user and builds a personalized database utilizing natural language processing that can help users in real time by retrieving difficult words, and ultimately could identify the areas of memory where a person is having more difficulty. It could then provide feedback to strengthen the connections in areas where they are weaker.

The IHMC team working on the app development includes Dr. Bhatia, Dr. Peter Pirolli, Roger Carff and William de Beaumont, and collaborates with esteemed colleagues, Dr. George Sperling  from University of California Irvine (UCI), and Dr. Misha Pavel from Northeastern University, alongside a research assistant, Lingyu Gan, from UCI. The app is now in development.

It will identify users’ associative networks, the intricate web of connections woven between the words in each person’s memory, based on the way that person uses them. It then will tailor the feedback it offers “because each individual connects words differently based on their own knowledge and past experiences,” Bhatia said.

By way of example, Bhatia notes that in the brain, the names of all of a person’s neighbors are built in one associative network. The list of all of your medications, instructions from your healthcare providers are built in another. There could be, and there would be connections in between these different sub regions as well, but all of those connections are highly individualized.

Even in the typical pattern of aging, “these connections become weaker and that’s when we start to forget,” Bhatia said. Fatigue, distraction, among other things also play a role in weakening these connections and negatively impact the processing capabilities of these systems.

However, when neurodegenerative disorders and dementias are present, these disorders add yet another layer of disruption to the capacity of these systems to recall the words and phrases we may need to communicate.

This application, it is hoped, will keep collecting data from users as they input it. For example, whenever a user remembers something, they could note it with the assistant at a time when that memory and connection are strong and at the forefront.

Each time the user asks the assistant about something, behind the scenes, the assistant is learning about the associative networks that user relies upon. Ultimately, it could spot patterns in the queries from the user. For example, if a person is increasingly asking questions about medications, or about the names of people, the assistant could send that user games, puzzles or other stimulations to strengthen the connections that are weakening.

A longer-term goal Bhatia said, is that the database built across all of the app’s users could provide insights into what regions of the associative networks are impacted more often as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Such an insight could help support targeted therapies and further research into these areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that in 2020, nearly 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. That figure is estimated to reach 14 million people by 2060. The prevalence of dementia-related disorders is a growing challenge for those diagnosed with it and their friends and family member who care for them.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry, and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

STEM-Talk: Dr. Vyvyane Loh on atherosclerotic heart disease

Atherosclerotic heart disease (ASCVD) affects some 26 million people in the U.S., and annually leads 2 million hospitalizations and more than 400,000 deaths.

Dr. Vyvyane Loh STEM-Talk

In this episode of STEM-Talk, Dr. Vyvyane Loh returns for her second appearance for a conversation about this disease. The episode is available now wherever you listen to podcasts.

Loh is a board-certified physician in obesity and internal medicine who spoke with us last time about her Boston-based preventative-care practice that specializes in weight management and the treatment of chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia.

In Episode 166, Vyvyane and host Dr. Ken Ford talk about ASCVD and the gap between clinical treatment and the advances in biological science research about risk factors, including updates to the anatomical aspects of the disease model itself.

“We’re focused on cholesterol because that’s what statins target,” Loh says. “The idea has been… this is the main way to prevent atherosclerotic disease. We’ve seen that hasn’t really been that effective.”

The substantial variability in individual response to statin therapy is just one component of this discussion. Loh notes that more attention should be paid to glycocalyces, a border that line every cell, including those of blood vessels.

“Like moss covering the rocks in a stream. It can act as a protective layer in your cells.,” she says. “It acts as a communication bridge between inside and outside of a cell.”

Loh says the focus should be on talking to patients about reducing the substances that can damage glycocalyces.

“We should be looking at atherosclerotic heart disease as an inflammatory process rather than just focusing on cholesterol,” she says.

The full conversation is fascinating and includes:

  • Loh’s pet peeve that the current knowledge base informing clinical practice is far behind the advances in biological science.
  • Where Loh believes the conversation about preventing ASCVD should be focused. “I think the behavioral and environmental components of risks of heart disease have been under emphasized.”
  • What you should think of when you hear the word “metabolism”: “You should immediately be thinking about your immune system because they are intricately linked. We use metabolic pathways to turn on immune pathways.”
  • What she has learned about herself through her passion for competitive dance.

 

STEM-Talk: Dr. John Edwards on ketamine treatment for depression and suicide prevention

Dr. Johnathan Edwards, an anesthesiologist, joins STEM-Talk for a frank conversation about the problem that suicide presents in American life, and the role ketamine could have in countering that.

Dr. John Edwards appears on Episode 165 to discuss ketamine as a therapeutic treatment for depression and suicide prevention.

Episode 165, featuring Edwards, is available now on IHMC’s website and other podcast platforms.

Ketamine was developed in 1960s in the search for an anesthetic that did not cause post-operative delirium. It became the most used anesthetic in the world. In the 1990s, researchers found that in low doses it had a huge effect on eating-disorder patients. It was tried in treatment-resistant depression patients, then in the prevention of suicidal ideation.

While ketamine has been found to be safe in therapeutic settings, a dark side of it is the way it has become adopted as a drug of abuse.

Our conversation with Edwards also covers the benefits that psychedelics — including ketamine and MDMA — show in treatment of depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.

“MDMA could be the drug of choice for treatment of PTSD,” given its effectiveness in relieving the symptoms of PTSD, Edwards said.  Ketamine is similarly effective in relieving the depression.

The conversation also includes:

  • The potential adverse effects of ketamine, especially in light of the October 2023 death of “Friends” actor Matthew Perry, who had used ketamine as apart of treatment for depression and addiction.
  • How ketamine and traditional psychotherapy should be paired together.
  • The role of isolation in the prevalence of drug overdoses and overdose deaths.
  • Groups for whom ketamine should not be used.
  • The role that MDMA could have in the treatment of PTSD, particularly in veterans. “At least we’ve gotten over the fact that there is PTSD,” Edwards said. “Even after as much study has been done, I still feel like we haven’t arrived at a place where we are going to see legislation to support veterans in the way they need to be supported.”

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

Register now for IHMC Summer Robotics Camp 2024 sessions

It’s time to register for IHMC Summer Robotics Camp.

For the student who loves robots and programming — and the student who is curious about it but has never gotten the chance to develop STEM skills in these fields — Robotics Camp is one of IHMC’s signature community outreach efforts.

Registration opens March 1 for Pensacola sessions in June 2024. Camp is in two sessions: June 17-20 for rising eighth graders; and June 24-27 for rising ninth and 10th graders. Visit https://www.ihmc.us/life/robotics-camp/ to register.

Summer Robotics Camp teamwork

Teamwork is an important skill at IHMC Summer Robotics Camp.

“Students don’t need prior experience in programming or prior knowledge about robots to enjoy this camp,” said Dr. Ursula Schwuttke, director of educational outreach for IHMC’s Pensacola and Ocala campuses. “Students who are interested in STEM fields in general will enjoy themselves. There’s no better way to introduce these concepts to your child — while also providing them with a fun summer experience that will increase their self-confidence in STEM.”

In 2023, 66 middle- and high-schoolers participated in these hands-on experiences, designing their own LEGO robots, learning the basics of coding, and increasing their problem-solving skills.

“Camp allows us to reach the next generation of scientists, helping them to discover what their future might look like,” Schwuttke said.

Ocala camp dates are July 8-11 for rising eighth graders, and July 15-18 for rising ninth and 10th graders. Registration for those sessions opens March 11. There is financial assistance, based on need, available for those who qualify.

While assembling and programming the robots is of course fun, Schwuttke says another highlight of camp is the chance to meet and mingle with researchers on the IHMC team and to see the IHMC robotics lab.

“Opportunity is vitally important for kids,” says Schwuttke. “Without the opportunity to discover an interest coding or robotics, they can’t know that it’s something they might want to pursue.”

Robotics Camp is sponsored in Pensacola by Cox and in Ocala by Lockheed Martin, Cox, Career Source Citrus  /Levy / Marion, and the Ocala Mac User’s Group.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

 

 

Peek behind the curtain at IHMC’s April 2024 Open House

For Dr. Robert Griffin, the question isn’t why he came to Pensacola to work in the robotics lab at Florida IHMC.

It’s why he stays.

“I stayed because we have a phenomenal team, and we try and remove the formality from work to allow us to focus on the things to be done, and how to enjoy that process,” he said. “We also place a high value on intellectual freedom that we enjoy here. Basically, if we can convince someone to fund it, we can pursue it. That’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Dr. Robert Griffin, IHMC Research Scientist

On April 11, 2024, Griffin will be among dozens of researchers, roboticists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and human performance experts who will share what they love about IHMC during Open House for National Robotics Week.

From 3 to 7 p.m., Institute for Human and Machine Cognition staff will welcome families, students, and the public for tours, walk-throughs, and inspiration on the Pensacola campus on South Alcaniz Street. The final tour begins at 6:30 p.m.

The family-friendly event encourages scientific discovery through hands-on activities, challenges, and demonstrations while providing the opportunity to learn. Visitors will meet IHMC researchers and see first-hand their work in drones, robotics, virtual reality experiences, human performance research projects, data visualization, and more.

In 2017, when Griffin was graduating with a Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, he had two choices for pursuing his work researching mobility control for humanoid robots and exoskeletons: Pensacola or Boston.

There is no question he has made the most of his choice.

“We have one of the best facilities for legged robots in the world and have been very fortunate to be able to pursue that,” he said. “We are a major part of the community here, and we can tell that Pensacola loves us and has been good to us.”

Open House is a way for the IHMC team to return that love.

National Robotics Week was established by Congress in 2010 and aims to bring together students, educators, and influencers who share a passion for robots and technology.

While the robotics lab at the Levin Center for IHMC Research is an open-house highlight, the event also features the Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance (HRP) team.

Dr. Marcas Bamman, the senior research scientist who leads the HRP team, was director of a world-leading research center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2020, he joined IHMC to help build an exciting and innovative research program spanning numerous disciplines including physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, rehabilitation, psychology, environmental stress, and regenerative medicine.

Dr. Marcas Bamman, Senior Research Scientist.

“I was drawn here by IHMC’s vision to establish a capstone research program focused on advancing knowledge in human healthspan, resilience and performance in a truly interdisciplinary manner,” said Bamman. “We are bringing together everything from clinical and applied research to rehabilitation to molecular and biological analysis. Our research leverages knowledge gained from the level of a molecule to the performance of a whole human.”

Later this year, the HRP team will move into a nearly completed $40 million research complex that will exponentially expand research capacity and have a tremendous impact on Northwest Florida’s regional economy.

“IHMC fosters a unique environment in which scientists can walk across the hall and tap into the expertise of leaders in AI, computer science, robotics and the many subdisciplines of HRP. Our best days in science are those in which we learn from one another, and our goal at IHMC is to learn without limits,” Bamman says.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

STEM-Talk: Dr. Michael Leon on the power of olfaction enrichment to ameliorate dementia symptoms

What if the path to delaying the onset of dementia symptoms begins at the nose?

It is a doorway that the research of Dr. Michael Leon opened with a 2023 study on the power of olfaction enrichment to influence memory function and brain health. The findings attracted wide interest by finding that stimulation of our sense of smell with essential oils had a profound impact on memory, cognition, and language recall.

Our conversation with Leon on STEM-Talk Episode 164 is available now on the STEM-Talk webpage as well as popular podcast platforms.

Olfaction can be considered a kind of “canary in the coal mine” for serious consequences.

“Olfactory loss accompanies virtually all neurological and psychiatric disorders,” Leon says. “I’ve counted about 70 of them. It also is associated with all of the things that will eventually kill you. Heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, lung disease, liver disease – all the things that will eventually kill you — all are associated with olfactory loss. It may be that loss of olfaction puts your brain and body at elevated risk for expressing these.”

Leon’s long research career has focused on the influence of environmental enrichment on neurological function, disease, and disorders. He has studied the benefits of sensory-motor stimulation for children with autism spectrum disorder, for the treatment of anorexia and for those with dementia and neurological conditions.

He is a professor emeritus in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California Irvine, where his Leon Lab has focused on studying the benefits of increased sensory-motor activity in children with autism spectrum disorder.

Our conversation includes:

  • The beginnings of Leon’s interest in science, when he traded in his summer job as a lifeguard at Rockaway Beach for a summer job indoors at Brooklyn College cleaning out rat cages.
  • His early work in endocrinology, and his path into studying the way environmental stimulation influenced outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder.
  • The 2023 paper showing a powerful link between the olfactory stimulation older people received from essential oils overnight and their brain function.
  • The applications this olfaction stimulation study could have across other disciplines.
  • The influence these findings could have on a larger study population, mild traumatic brain injury patients, as well as children with a high level of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), and other groups.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

 

IHMC hosts Dynamic Walking Conference in May 2024 drawing robotics experts from across the world

In late May, IHMC will host the 20th annual Dynamic Walking Conference, a premier gathering of engineers and roboticists working in the realm of robotics.

The conference, set for May 27-30 at Pensacola Beach, includes experts and researchers in biomechanics, human and animal locomotion, prosthetics and orthotics, robot design and control, wearable robotics, and exoskeletons. It is one of several gatherings of subject-matter experts IHMC is part of each year.

It has been six years since IHMC previously hosted the conference, which rotates between the United States and Europe. The 2023 conference was hosted in Munich by DLR, the German Space Agency.

Dr. Robert Griffin, the IHMC research scientist who leads the robotics team, looks forward to the opportunity to showcase his team and their work. The conference typically attracts some 200 researchers from around the world, Griffin said.

Testing Nadia's new arms

Advances the IHMC robotics team is making in Nadia’s new arms are likely to be discussed at upcoming Dynamic Walking conference 2024. Credit: IHMC staff.

Work that Griffin’s team has completed recently on the humanoid robot Nadia is likely to be a topic of discussion, as well as IHMC’s work on exoskeletons with Eva. Throughout late 2023 and early 2024, the team has been testing new designs for Nadia’s arms, as well as changes in the mixed-reality teleoperation assistance environment that controllers use to direct the robot.

In December, the team presented at the 2023 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society’s 22nd International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Austin, Texas.

“The opportunity to present and exchange ideas at conferences like Dynamic Walking is a highlight of every year for our team and a unique opportunity for collaboration,” Griffin said. “We are excited to hear about the many other research areas that are essential to the performance of legged systems.”

During the conference, IHMC’s team will present highlights from its work on locomotion in humanoid robots, a burgeoning research area on reinforcement learning on quadrupeds, as well as work with both assistive and augmentative exoskeletons.

The conference will include plenaries, keynotes, small-group discussions, and social and after-hours networking opportunities. Its audience will include startup founders and workers, academic and research institute principal investigators, graduate and undergraduate researchers, and industry research and development teams.

Conference and program assistance is coming from the Georgia Tech PoWeR lab under Dr. Greg Sawicki, who is also an IHMC Senior Research Scientist, and the Florida State Optimal Robotics Lab, RTHM Lab, and CISCOR Lab, under Christian Hubicki, Taylor Higgins, and Jonathan Clark.

While the intellectual exchanges are clearly a highlight of the conference, there are other benefits. Griffin notes past conferences were enlivened by hiking and rock climbing in Madison, Wisc., and country tours in Munich that included visits to castles.

In 2018, the last time IHMC hosted, extracurriculars included sailing, playing kickball in Pensacola Blue Wahoos stadium, and Evening Lecture at the historic Saenger Theatre. This time around, the IHMC team once again looks forward to having the chance to share what Pensacola has to offer visitors.

“We are thrilled to host our colleagues, collaborators, contributors, and like-minded experts in their fields and look forward to showing them all that our community has to offer,” Griffin said. “We think a good time will be had by all.”

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

Dr. Tom Jones Evening Lecture on March 14 includes book signing by Bodacious Bookstore

It’s been some 12 years since the Space Shuttles retired, but the lessons America learned from its signature space program still reverberate.

What we know how to do well today in space, we learned on the shuttle. Those lessons are the foundation of work on the International Space Station and plans to return to the Moon.

Nobody knows that better than Dr. Tom Jones. Jones spent 53 days living and working in space. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he is an author, pilot, and speaker whose career includes 11 years at NASA.

Dr. Tom Jones will give an Evening Lecture and book signing on March 15.

Dr. Tom Jones will give an Evening Lecture and book signing on March 15, 2024.

He flew on four Space Shuttle missions and led three spacewalks to install the centerpiece of the International Space Station. On March 14, 2024, he will share “Space Shuttle Stories,” an IHMC Evening Lecture inspired by his book of the same title.

The lecture begins at 6 p.m., but locally owned Bodacious Bookstore will host an onsite book signing with Jones from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at IHMC. 40 S. Alcaniz St. Jones will be available to sign his new book “Space Shuttle Stories” from 4-5:30pm at IHMC, 40 South Alcaniz Street.

“We are so pleased to partner with Bodacious Bookstore to host a book signing for this Evening Lecture,” said Michelle Bowers, Senior Event Specialist at IHMC. “The subtitle of Tom’s book is ‘Capturing the Human Element of America’s Iconic Spaceship.’ Tom is an IHMC colleague and we can’t wait for the opportunity to share his ’Space Shuttle Stories’ with the community.”

Mentioning this story will earn you 10 percent off the purchase of Jones’ book the night of the event, according to store manager Melissa Smith.

In collecting the stories of more than 135 astronauts who flew the shuttle, Jones heard how the orbiter crews and the launch and Mission Control teams coped with and overcame the inevitable, unexpected, and sometimes frightening challenges that threatened their missions.

“Brain surgery” on Hubble by space-suited astronauts. The most improbable satellite rescues in space history. How the shuttles helped us win the Cold War.

Those are just some of the stories you’ll hear. Reserve your spot today.

Jones piloted B-52D strategic bombers, earned a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, studied asteroids and robotic exploration missions for NASA, and engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA.

He is the author of seven books.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

STEM-Talk: Mark Mattson on the brain’s most important neurotransmitter

The Godfather of Intermittent Fasting is back on STEM-Talk.

Dr. Mark Mattson STEM-Talk

Dr. Mark Mattson is back for a third appearance on STEM-Talk. His first two interviews focused on the many ways that fasting optimizes healthspan and lifespan.

This time we shift gears to talk about Mattson’s work on glutamate following the publication of his new book, “Sculptor and Destroyer: Tales of Glutamate – The Brain’s Most Important Neurotransmitter.” The episode is available now on our website and wherever you listen to podcasts.

More than 90 percent of the neurons in the brain deploy the little-known molecule glutamate as their neurotransmitter. Glutamate also controls the structure and function of the brain’s neuronal networks and mediates many of our human capabilities, such as learning and memory, creativity and imagination.

But there’s also a dark side to glutamate.

Mattson shares how subtle aberrancies in the activity of neurons can deploy glutamate in such a way that it can cause disorders such as autism and schizophrenia and epilepsy as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and ALS.

You won’t want to miss this conversation with includes:

  • Why Mattson feels his research on glutamate is his most important, given his substantial contributions in other areas such as intermittent fasting.
  • His motivation to understand how the pieces of the ‘brain puzzle’ fit together and how that desire has fueled his broad scope of research.
  • Why historically, researchers largely ignored the possibility that glutamate was a neurotransmitter and how a Japanese professor during World War II demonstrated that glutamate could excite neurons.
  • And much, much more.

After receiving his doctorate from the University of Iowa, Mark did his postdoc research at Colorado State University and then took position at the University of Kentucky to establish his own lab and independent research program. In 2000, the National Institute of Aging recruited Mark to head its neuroscience laboratory. He spent almost 20 years there and today and is on the neuroscience faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Review Mark’s previous STEM-Talks here in Episode 7, and here in Episode 133.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

 

 

 

IHMC Newsletter highlights human-machine teaming research and more

The latest edition of IHMC’s newsletter is now available, highlighting the work of our incredibly talented team.

Dr. Matt Johnson and his team at work.

Dr. Matt Johnson’s research has included training drones to assist first responders and others in dangerous scenarios. Credit: IHMC staff.

Among the features in this issue is the work of Senior Research Scientist Dr. Matt Johnson, one of IHMC’s leaders in the human-machine teaming, working on technologies that can be applied in domains including disaster response, space applications, aviation, and military operations.

Johnson’s research into making human-machine teams more flexible, resilient, and effective also falls under this umbrella. Projects such as those Johnson is currently leading include using virtually reality, simulations and other tools to build training platforms to improve collaboration between humans and their machine partners.

“AI comes in a lot of flavors,” Johnson says. “It’s very broad, and IHMC’s been involved from the beginning with the different approaches.”

The newsletter, available here, also features:

  • Research on how the Internet of Things could be applied to benefit military operators, disaster response and the like.
  • An IHMC-designed haptic sensor in flight gloves that could make it easier for flight crew to operate safely in extreme environments.
  • Our partnership with the American Magic yacht racing team.
  • An update on construction of the $40 million Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance research complex, due to be completed later this year.
  • Recaps of Science Saturdays, Robots Camp and other community outreach efforts.
  • And much more.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

STEM-Talk: Marc Hamilton on the metabolic power behind the soleus push-up

Dr. Marc Hamilton has published pioneering work on the soleus push-up, a potent physiological method with the ability to elevate metabolism for hours, even while sitting.

Marc Hamilton on STEM-Talk

Hamilton is well-known for a string of papers beginning in early 2000’s that found excessive sitting should be viewed as a serious health hazard.

In Episode 161 of STEM-Talk, available now on all podcast platforms, Hamilton shares his scientific evolution during a conversation with IHMC’s founder Dr. Ken Ford and Dr. Marcas Bamman, IHMC’s Director of Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance Research. Hamilton is a a professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston.

Today’s interview is wide-ranging and covers:

  • The inspiration his childhood history of hunting and studying animal biology had for his affinity for the real-world scientific problems he works on today.
  • His work beginning in the early 2000s about how long periods of inactivity impact lipoprotein lipase regulation.
  • How he came to the conclusion that excessive sitting should be considered a serious health hazard.
  • How the study of the soleus muscle and its function evolved.
  • What proper activation of the soleus muscle looks like and what it’s impacts can be.
  • What’s next for Hamilton and his team.

Learn more about the soleus push-up, the science behind it, Hamilton and his lab.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.

Science Saturdays welcome students with new sessions in 2024

Science Saturdays are back and ready to turn on new scientific minds in 2024.

These 90-minute educational enrichment sessions are a cornerstone piece of community outreach at Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). Topics in 2024 will include balloon cars, secret codes, genetics, the science of design, and more. The sessions are free to the families who attend, thanks to the support of community partners.

Science Saturdays is entering its 16th year, and in the 2022-2023 school, more than 300 students attended the series, said Dr. Ursula Schwuttke, director of educational outreach for IHMC.

“Science Saturdays is one of the original community outreach efforts IHMC undertook,” Schwuttke said. “Our commitment to helping build future scientists, engineers and critical thinkers is integral to who we are as an organization. We have a great lineup of sessions coming to round out the 2023-2024 school year and we can’t wait to get to work.”

Sponsors for the 2023-2024 series in Pensacola include NextEra Energy Foundation/Florida Power & Light, Florida Blue Foundation, the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office (with Law Enforcement Trust Fund monies), and Cox.

Ocala supporters also include Lockheed Martin, Florida Blue Foundation, Cox, Ron and Phyllis Ewers, Eleanor and Gary Simons, and Ocala Electric Utility.

SCIENCE SATURDAY SPRING SCHEDULE

Use this link to stay up to date on dates and topics for these sessions. And share the link with friends with children in grades 3-6 https://www.ihmc.us/life/science_saturdays/

Pensacola Sessions

Jan. 20: Dr. Gwen Bryan, Balloon Cars.

Feb. 24: Dr. Jeff Phillips, Secret Codes.

March 23: Dr. Marcas Bamman, What Genes Are You Wearing?

April 27: Teresa Dos Santos and Blu Salmon, Science of Design.

Ocala Sessions

Jan. 6: Scott Weeks, Florida Engineering Society, Bridges.

Feb. 10: Dr. Archna Bhatia, More Computer Game Design.

March 9: Dr. Peter Polack, Ocala Eye, Vision and Optical Illusions.

April 6: TBA.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry, and academia to conduct ground-breaking science and develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.