Freudenstein Distinguished Lectures

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is pleased to present the Freudenstein Distinguished Lecture Series.

As a celebration of the scholarship and mentorship ideal of Dr. Ferdinand Freudenstein, this series strives to highlight both prominent mechanical or related engineering topics and the scholar chosen to deliver the lecture. 

Each year, after review and nomination from ME faculty, a scholar is invited to deliver a lecture that is open to all Columbia students, alumni and select institutions.

The 2017 Freudenstein Distinguished Lecture Series: Moshe Shoham Presents Medical Robotics

“Healing through innovation” is the vision of Moshe Shoham, Professor and Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the guest speaker at Columbia University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering 2017 Freudenstein Distinguished Lecture Series. In his presentation, “From Dual Numbers to Medical Robotics: Walking in the Path that Professor Ferdinand Freudenstein Paved Many Years Ago,” Shoham explained the evolution of dual numbers – an old idea that is currently being revived and utilized as a powerful tool that permits compact and simple equations to analyze and synthesize mechanisms and robotics structures.

Throughout his career, Shoham has focused on research in robotics with special focus on the kinematics and dynamics of robots, new robot structures and robots for medical applications.  Shoham said he was honored to deliver the Freudenstein Lecture, established in 2011 to celebrate the distinguished legacy of Professor Ferdinand Freudenstein, the “Father of Modern Kinematics.”

“Professor Freudenstein was one of the first to apply dual numbers to the kinematic analysis of mechanisms and subsequently to mechanism dynamics,” said Shoham. “Dual numbershas since been applied to all kind of mechanisms including robotics.”

Invented in 1870 by mathematician William Clifford, dual numbers “permits the formulation of equations of motion in a compact three-dimensional dual form, rather than six real ones,” said Shoham.  “This follows Russian mathematician Aleksandr Petrovich Kotelnikov’s ‘principle of transference,’ which expands spherical kinematics to spatial by substituting dual numbers for real ones.”

Throughout the twentieth century, dual numbers and its next permutation, hyper-dual numbers, enabled engineers to calculate the rotation and translation of unique kinematic structures, including the multi-body dynamics of robots. “Dual numbers allow the position, velocity, and acceleration of a two cylindrical, four degrees-of-freedom robot to be considered as two dual degrees of freedom,” explained Shoham, who heads the Robotics Laboratory at Technion.“Dual numbers were also applied in the field of medical robotics to optimize their structure for given surgical tasks.”

Shoham is the founder of Mazor Robotics and Microbot Medical, companies that are developing medical technologies based on research explored in the Robotics Laboratory at Technicon that he leads. Mazor Robotics manufactures miniature surgical robots such as the Renaissance® Guidance System, which has been used in tens of thousands of spine and brain surgeries worldwide. Microbot Medical specializes in transformational micro-robots such as the ViRob, an automomous crawling micro-robot that can navigate small spaces within the human body, such as blood vessels, the digestive tract and the respiratory system. 

“The Mazor Renaissance® was designed to enhance the accuracy and stability of the human surgeon’s free hand,” explained Shoham. “For instance, in spinal fusion surgery, the precise placement of screws and other implants is essential to a successful outcome. Spinal fusion with the Renaissance® has proven to be more accurate than freehand procedures, requires less radiation, and can be used in a minimally invasive surgical setting. Today, the Renaissance® has worldwide clinical utilization, including use in deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to treat Parkinson’s disease.”

Glimpsing into the future, “we will soon be able to develop small enough robots that will be able to ‘live’ within the human body to continuously monitoring our health,” Shoham said. “Although no regulatory-approved in-body robots are in commercial use yet, there are numerous universities and research institutions developing in-body systems. I believe that within two to three years regulatory-approved systems will emerge, including the ones we are developing.”

In his closing remarks, Shoham encouraged engineers of the future to enter the exciting and burgeoning field of medical robotics. “Bringing this technology to market may be challenging, but the field of medical robotics is wide open for many further developments and opportunities.”


Moshe Shoham Biography:

Moshe Shoham earned his undergraduate degree from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1978, and served as Aeronautical Engineer in Israel Aircraft Industry before going back to the Technion to complete his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in 1982 and 1986. From 1986 to 1990 Shoham was an Assistant Professor at Columbia University, NY where he headed the Robotics laboratory of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Since 1990 he has been with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he is an endowed chair professor and head of the Robotics Laboratory. Shoham had visiting a position appointment at Stanford University in 1994-1995.

Shoham is a Foreign Member of US National Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is the author of 180 technical papers and 3 books, and he holds 40 patents. His research activity has been funded by grants from commercial companies as well as governmental agencies in Israel, US, French, Italy and the EU.

In 2014, Shoham was elected into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for contributions to robotic technology for image-guided surgery, as well as awarded the Thomas A. Edison Patent Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).


Past Lectures

The Department of Mechanical Engineering presents a Freudenstein Distinguished Lecture: Steven Dubowsky, Director, The MIT Field and Space Robotics Laboratory. Dubowsky's lecture, "Smart Solar Powered Sustainable Clean Water Systems for Small Remote Communities," was given on Friday, March 7, 2014 in Davis Auditorium.


Professor Erdman presented his talk "Influence of Kinematics and and Mechanisms of Improved Health Care" on April 1, 2013 at Columbia University's Engineering School.

Dr. Bernard Roth, Rodney H. Adam Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, delivered the lecture, "The Stanford '' Educating for Creative Confidence and Innovation" on March 30th, 2012 at Columbia Engineering's Davis Auditorium.

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