Healthcare Robotics (HeRo) NSERC CREATE Graduate Training

About HeRo
    Hero/CREATE logo

    The NSERC CREATE in Healthcare Robotics (HeRo) is the first robotics-focused graduate training program to cover the entire continuum of care from hospital to home. HeRo advances the frontiers of research by tackling robotic challenges in surgery, assistance and rehabilitation -- three domains where robots are having the biggest impact.

    Trainees will master an interdisciplinary skill set that intersects robotics, medicine, and artificial intelligence (AI), while building the soft skills needed to contribute effectively to industry.

    They will also benefit from the extensive research facilities at the University of Toronto and its partners, as well as from access to clinical populations and the expertise of one of the world's top AI research clusters.

    Program Overview

    Trainees will be registered in a program at one of the participating universities (University of Toronto or University of British Columbia) under the supervision of one of our investigators. The HeRo program is meant as a complement to your regular training. Trainees will complete the following components as part of the HeRo program:


    • Coursework: Introduction to Healthcare Robotics (MIE1080) 
    • Summer training, including a design and build competition
    • Attend annual HeRo workshop (2 days)
    • Attend HeRo seminar series
    • Development of Professional Skills 
    • Opportunity to participate in internships & exchanges

    HeRo News




    Prof. Yu Sun
    Project Director

    Advanced Micro and Nanosystems Laboratory (AMNL)

    Yu Sun is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and the founding Director of the UofT Robotics Institute. He specializes in developing innovative technologies and instruments for manipulating and characterizing cells, molecules, and nanomaterials.


    Prof. Goldie Nejat
    Project Associate Director

    Autonomous Systems and Biomechatronics (ASBLab)

    Goldie Nejat PhD, P.Eng. is the Canada Research Chair in Robots for Society and a Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering. She is also the Founder and Director of the Autonomous Systems and Biomechatronics Laboratory ( Professor Nejat is an Adjunct Scientist at both the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). She is a world renowned expert in the development of intelligent socially assistive robots for applications in health and elderly care, for use in healthcare facilities and private homes.


    Prof. Jessica Burgner-Kahrs

    Prof. Jessica Burgner-Kahrs

    Continuum Robotics Laboratory

    Jessica Burgner-Kahrs is Associate Professor with the Depts. of Mathematical & Computational Sciences, Computer Science, and Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, and Assoc. Director of the Robotics Institute. Her work on continuum robotics addresses applications in minimally-invasive surgery, maintenance and repair.


    Prof. Eric Diller

    Microrobotics Laboratory

    Eric Diller is Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. His work is on micro-scale robotics and bio-inspired novel locomotion systems, and features fabrication and control of micro-scale devices using magnetic fields, micro-scale robotic manipulation, and smart materials.


    Prof. James Drake

    Dr. James Drake is a Professor of Surgery, Division Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children and holds the Harold Hoffman Shoppers Drug Mart Chair. He is a Senior Associate Scientist in the Sickkids Research Institute, leads the Centre of Image Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention (CIGITI) and is co-lead of the Centre of Excellence in Image Guided Care.


    Prof. David Fleet

    David Fleet is a Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He is also Senior Research Scientist at Google Brain. His research interests include aspects of computer vision, machine learning, image processing, and visual neuroscience.


    Prof. Animesh Garg

    People, AI and Robotics (PAIR)

    Animesh Garg is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UofT and a Faculty Member at the Vector Institute and director the People, AI and Robotics (PAIR) group. His research focuses on machine learning algorithms for perception and control in robotics, and is currently working on mobile-manipulation in surgical robotics.




    Dr. Robert Hamilton

    Dr. Robert Hamilton is a Professor of Paediatric Cardiac Electrophysiology and Senior Associate Scientist in Translational Medicine at SickKids and UofT. His expertise is in cardiac pacing, ablation and electrophysiology, with extensive experience in transcatheter electrical mapping of arrhythmia
    substrates and energy delivery for the ablation of discrete electrical pathways as curative therapy for arrhythmias. He has significant experience with robotic systems used in these applications.

    Xinyu Liu

    Prof. Xinyu Liu

    Microfluidics and BioMEMS Lab

    Xinyu Liu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. He is developing integrated micro/nanodevices and systems to target a variety of exciting applications in biology, medicine, and environment. Applications of their recent technologies include point-of-care diagnostics, large-scale gene screening, neural basis of behaviour, high-throughput drug screening, and environmental pollution monitoring.


    Prof. Sheila McIlraith

    Sheila McIlraith is a Professor in Computer Science. She has 10
    years of industrial R&D experience developing AI applications. McIlraith is an expert in AI knowledge representation and reasoning with a focus on cognitive robotics and automated planning. Her work focuses on AI sequential decision making broadly construed, through the lens of human-compatible AI.


    Prof. James K Mills

    Nonlinear Systems Control Laboratory

    James Mills is a UofT Professor in MIE. He is an expert in robot control and micro-scale biological task control and automation. His work has included the development of vision-based control techniques for the automation of various single cell surgery procedures, including cell insertion and cell organelle biopsy.


    Prof. Alex Mihailidis

    Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab

    Alex Mihailidis is a Senior Scientist at TRI-UHN and a Professor at IBBME
    and in the Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy Department at UofT, and is the Scientific Director and CEO of the AGE-WELL NCE. He is a recognized expert in pervasive computing and intelligent systems in health. His research focuses on developing intelligent home systems for elder care and wellness and rehabilitation technologies, including robotics in stroke rehabilitation.


    Prof. Machiel Van der Loos

    Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab

    Machiel Van der Loos is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UBC. He directs the CARIS Lab to explore industrial and personal aspects of human-robot interaction, and the RREACH Lab to focus on physical therapy for hemiplegia and on physiological measurements during sleep.


    Prof. Rosalie Wang

    Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab (IATSL)

    Rosalie Wang is Assistant Professor of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at UofT. She is an Affiliate Scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and a member of their AI and Robotics in Rehabilitation team. She focuses on developing and implementing technology to enable daily activity of seniors and post-stroke rehabilitation.


    Prof. José Zariffa

    Adaptive Neurorehabilitation Systems Lab

    José Zariffa is a Senior Scientist at TRI-UHN and an Associate Professor in BME at UofT. His expertise is in rehabilitation robotics, automated assessments of function, computer vision, and neuroprosthetic systems. He conducted the first clinical trial of an upper limb rehabilitation robot in
    the spinal cord injury population.

    Robert DiRaddo

    Dr. Robert DiRaddo

    Dr. Robert DiRaddo is the Director General of the NRC’s Medical Device Research Centre. He is a research pioneer in industrial process modelling and interactive medical VR. Prior to taking on the DG role, his focus was on digital health care. Dr. DiRaddo joined the NRC in 1991. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering from McGill University. He serves as an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of British Columbia and the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. He has worked on hundreds of collaborative research projects with industry and academia and has coauthored upwards of 200 scientific manuscripts.

    Program Committee

    • Alex Mihailidis (chair)
    • Yu Sun (program director)
    • Robert DiRaddo (NRC Digital Health/Medical Devices)
    • Guanqiao Shan (Trainee, Student Advisor)

    Student Fellows

    2019/2020 Cohort

    Alam, Muhammad Raisul
    Dousty, Mehdy
    Fung, Angus
    Thavaratnam, Kabriya
    Khalili, Mahsa
    Kim, Jongwoo
    Li, Zhaoxin
    Mohamed, Sharaf

    Rao, Priyanka
    Shan, Guanqiao
    Shvo, Maayan
    Wang, Xian
    Yao, Bo Wen
    Zhang, Zhuoran
    Zhu, Min

    2020/2021 Cohort

    Alam, Muhammad Raisul
    Bao, Zhuo Fan
    Dai, Changsheng
    Dousty, Mehdy
    Fung, Angus
    Gauthier, Lyle
    Gong, Zheyuan
    Khalili, Mahsa
    Li, Andrew
    Li, Jianfeng
    Luu, Cidnee
    Mayer, Haley
    Pham-Hung, Michael

    Rao, Priyanka
    Shvo, Maayan
    Song, Ze
    Tang, Wentian
    Tsai, Meng-Fen
    Turpin, Dylan
    Ulemek, Jelena
    Wang, Tiancong
    Xu, Pengfei
    Xu, Zhaoyi
    Yao, Bo Wen
    Zhang, Zhuoran
    Zou, Zhiling

    To stay connected to other student fellows, HeRo trainees are encouraged to join the #hero-create channel on the UofT Robotics Institute Student Slack. Please contact Program Manager Kimberly Colburn if you are a HeRo trainee and want to join.

    Training Opportunities


    Hero trainees must participate in MIE1080 (students who have finished their coursework may audit the course).

    MIE1080: Introduction to Healthcare Robotics

    This course will provide students with practical knowledge on healthcare robotics including surgical, assistive, and rehabilitation robots through a series of guest lectures and trainee presentations. Students will learn both fundamentals and state-of-the-art advances in healthcare robotics while touching on design, co-collaboration, patents and ethical issues.

    Summer Training

    HeRo trainees must participate in summer training, which includes tutorials on core breadth topics and professional skills development. It will culminate in a design and build competition to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between trainees.

    Hero summer institute and design dash

    HeRo Summer Institute and Design Dash

    Be at the forefront of healthcare robotics innovation!

    The HeRo Summer Institute challenges emerging researchers to push the boundaries of healthcare robotics research for surgical, assistive, and rehabilitative use. Building on ideas introduced in MIE1080, trainees will work in teams and directly with stakeholders to co-create innovative technologies that will address end user needs.

    A project-based, experiential learning opportunity, the HeRo Summer Institute places trainees from different disciplines together and guides them through the solution development process from problem identification to product design and will culminate in a pitch competition.

    Attendees will build and demonstrate stakeholder engagement, iterative design, and interdisciplinary working skills and be introduced to key implementation challenges such as commercialization.

    More information to be announced.

    HeRo Summer School: ICRA 2021

    HeRo trainees will have the option to virtually attend the 2021 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2021) that will take place from May 30 to June 5, 2021, including workshops and training sessions.

    More information to be announced.


    Workshops will touch on the three pillars of HeRo: rehabilitative, assistive and surgical. They will create conversation and showcase examples of healthcare robotics in various settings - their value, operations, and challenges - from researchers, professionals, and HeRo trainees.

    2021 HeRo Summit: A Virtual Workshop on Healthcare Robotics

    The HeRo Summit will provide a broad-based 2 day overview of the scope of Canadian healthcare robotics with panels (including researchers, end-users, and industry representatives), trainee presentations, keynote speeches on each of the three pillars, networking opportunities, and a faculty AMA.

    February 8 & 19, 2021: Click for more info.

    Professional Development

    HeRo trainees must engage in professional development. This will be tailored to the trainee's individual needs. 

    HeRo trainees should contact Program Manager Kimberly Colburn for questions about your professional development options.

    Examples include:

    • MyGDP, an online professional skills development program with numerous course offerings through the School of Graduate Studies Centre for Graduate Professional Development (CGPD).
    • Attending the Absolutely Interdisciplinary 2021 Conference and submitting a reflection on the topic you found most resonant. This year, Absolutely Interdisciplinary sets out to foster the interdisciplinary conversations needed to map the connections between human and AI normativity. Participants will contribute to and learn about emerging areas of research and new questions to explore.
    • Entrepreneurship 101, a five-week, on-demand online course that offers mentorship from experts, and all the tools you need to launch your startup from MaRS.
    • Professional skills courses offered through Mitacs (must be currently registered graduate student or post-doc at a Canadian university).


    Seminar Series

    HeRo trainees are expected to attend HeRo Seminars.

    HeRo-related seminars occur regularly as part of the Robotics Institute seminar series. They are always titled with "HeRo."


    To be informed of upcoming seminars, you can:

    Subscribe to the Robotics Institute event calendar on Google



    Subscribe to the Robotics Institute mailing list (be sure to sign up with your UofT email to receive seminar notifications)

    Past Workshops

    Workshop on Micro-Nanorobotics @ the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2020)

    Almost 400 people registered for the workshop on Applications in Micro-Nano Robotics, co-organized by UofT’s Prof. Eric Diller and colleagues Fumihito Arai (Nagoya University), Aude Bolopion (CNRS), and Cédric Clévy (Université Bourgogne). This full day workshop featured both recognized research teams and highly promising start-ups, to present an overview of the application domains of micro/nano robotics, and the challenges of bringing current systems to industry.

    UofT Robotics at ICRA 2020

    Robotics Institute Fall 2019 Student Workshop

    Friday September 6, 9am-5pm

    This full day event was the first large scale gathering of robotics faculty and students at UofT, and featured talks from faculty and students from across our three research pillars, including Healthcare Robotics:

    • Prof. Eric Diller: "Soft microrobots for medicine"
    • Prof. Adam Waspe: "MRI-guided Robotics for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound"
    • Prof. Jessica Burgner-Kahrs: "Continuum & Soft Robotics"
    • Prof. Lueder Kahrs: "Computer Vision for Laser Ablation Control"
    • Reinhard Grassmann: "Kinematics for Continuum Robotics"
    • Cameron Forbrigger: "Miniature Magnetic Tools for Neurosurgical Applications"
    • Sven Lilge: "Parallel Continuum Robots"
    Eric Diller

    © 2020 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering