First RWTH Research Alumni Conference in Japan


RWTH delegation discussed the blurring boundaries between humans and machines with Japanese researchers and alumni.

Christin Wannagat/RWTH Aachen From left: RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg, Nobel Prize awardee Ryoji Noyori, RWTH alumna Dr. Eleonora Fava, and the German ambassador to Japan, Dr. Hans Carl von Werthern, celebrated the foundation of the “RWTH Alumni Association of Japan” in Toyko.

In October 2017, RWTH hosted its first conference for alumni who are currently working and living in Japan. Supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the interdisciplinary conference was concerned with the “Fine Line Between Humans and Machines.”

Recent advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology raise ethical, theoretical and practical issues of profound importance for the future of human civilization. Topics under discussion included, for example, the design and development of interfaces between humans and machines to facilitate communication.

Both in Germany and in Japan, robotics and Industry 4.0 are important areas of research, which can be best addressed in transnational collaborations. “This conference has demonstrated how important it is to discuss trending topics in research with our international partners, including our alumni here in Japan, as part of our knowledge and technology transfer activities,” said RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg. “Our alumni have key positions in academia and in industry. In an interdisciplinary dialogue, important values and topics for potential collaboration can be disseminated and developed, in particular also by underpinning engineering research with ethical considerations.”

RWTH has been developing relationships with Japan since the 1950s; today it has close ties with several university presidents and vice-presidents as well as a Nobel Prize awardee. “As a new platform for the exchange between German and Japanese specialists, we have now established the RWTH Alumni Association of Japan,” said Professor Bernd Markert, the RWTH Delegate for Alumni. The foundation of the association was celebrated in a gala event at the German embassy in Tokyo. Present at the event was Professor Ryoji Noyori, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2001 and who received an honorary doctorate from RWTH in 2005.

The 1st RWTH Researcher Alumni Conference was initiated by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as part of the “Research Alumni” idea competition. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has provided 40,000 euros in funding for the conference.

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