Jessica Burgner-Kahrs is an Associate Professor with the Departments for Mathematical & Computational Sciences, Computer Science, and Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, the founding Director of the Continuum Robotics Laboratory, and Associate Director of the Robotics Institute at the University of Toronto, Canada. From 2013 to 2019 she was with Leibniz University Hannover, Germany and from 2010 to 2012 with Vanderbilt University, USA. She received her Diploma and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany in 2006 and 2010 respectively.

Her research focus lies on continuum robotics and in particular on their design, modelling, planning and control, as well as human-robot interaction. Her fundamental robotics research is driven by applications in minimally-invasive surgery and maintenance, repair, and operations. In 2015, her research was recognized with the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, the Lower Saxony Science Award in the category Young Researcher, and she was entitled Young Researcher of the Year 2015 in Germany. The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences awarded her the Engineering Science Prize in 2016. She was elected as one of the Top 40 under 40 in the category Science and Society in 2015, 2016, and 2017 by the business magazine Capital. In 2019, Jessica was nominated as Young Global Leader from the World Economic Forum.

Academic Positions

  • present2020
  • present2020

    Associate Chair, Computer Science

    Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada

  • present2019


    Continuum Robotics Laboratory, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada

  • present2019

    Associate Professor

    • Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
    • Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Canada
    • Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, Canada

  • 20192015

    Associate Professor

    Director Laboratory for Continuum Robotics

    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

  • 20152013

    Research Associate

    Director Emmy Noether Research Group CROSS

    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

  • 20122010

    Research Associate

    Medical Engineering and Discovery Lab

    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    Vanderbilt University, USA

  • 20102006

    Research Assistant

    Medical Robotics Group @Institute for Process Control and Robotics

    Department of Informatics
    Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany


  • Dr. 2010

    Doctor of Engineering (~Ph.D.)

    Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Computer Science

  • M.Sc. 2006


    University of Karlsruhe (TH), Computer science

Honors & Awards

  • 03.2019
    Young Global Leader
    Elected as Member of the Young Global Leaders Class of 2019 of the World Economic Forum

    Learn more

  • 10.2018
    IEEE Robotics & Automation Society Distinguished Lecturer
  • 05.2018
    IEEE Senior Member
  • 2015 - 2017
    Young Elite - Top 40 under 40
    Category: Science and Society, Capital (German business magazine)
  • 2017
    Elected Landmark in the Land of Ideas
  • 2016 - 2021
    Elected Member of the Junge Akademie
  • 11.2016
    Engineering Science Prize
    Awarded by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW), Germany for outstanding achievements in the engineering sciences by young engineers and scientists in research or industry. Learn more
  • 2015
    Young Researcher of the Year
    Awarded by Academics Career Portal for Research and Science of ZEIT and the German Association of University Professors and Lecturer (DHV), Germany 

    See the film

  • 11.2015
    Lower Saxony Science Award
    Category II: Young Researchers Awarded by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, Germany

    Awarded by the state of Lower Saxony in Germany in distinction of early career researchers with significant contributions and outstanding performance in research and teaching.

  • 05.2015
    Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize
    Awarded by the German Research Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

    The prize is considered the highest distinction for early career researchers in Germany. Since 1977 the prize is awarded by the German Research Foundation to early career researchers as a distinction for outstanding achievement across all disciplines. It is intended to assist in furthering their scientific careers. The prize is not to be seen simply as a distinction of the thesis alone. Rather, prizewinners have already established an independent scientific career since having gained their doctorates.

    Learn more

  • 2013-2019
    Emmy Noether Research Programme
  • 2012-2013
    Research Fellowship DAAD
    Support Program: Returning German Scientists from Abroad, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)