Bond University has bolstered its Interdisciplinary Centre for the Artificial Mind with the appointment of an Australian-German neuroscientist committed to creating virtual environments that will help shape the future of health care.
Dr Oliver Baumann has accepted a dual teaching-research role with the centre, which was founded last year and is dedicated to studying the mind’s development over a lifespan, in interaction with artificial environments.
Having spent the past decade as a research fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute, Dr Baumann said he was excited to join the new centre under the directorship of leading French neuroscientist Professor Irini Giannopulu.
“I want to be here for the start of this journey,” he said.
“To see Bond investing in and showing a commitment to quality research is such an important message for students and the wider community. While the centre has translational aspects, it’s largely about fundamental research into understanding how the brain works.
“It’s a privilege to be part of something new and play a role in shaping its future.”
Dr Baumann, who has had 27 scientific articles published in prestigious international journals, is particularly interested in exploring how human-artificial environment interaction can provide solutions for human health disorders and treatments of neurological diseases.
“The ability to use virtual environments has the potential to revolutionise how we aid recovery for people with neurological conditions,” he said.
“Only a few years ago it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars to use a headset that creates an immersive sense of environment but as such technology becomes increasingly accessible, we can use it to help people who suffer certain conditions.
“Think of someone who has had a stroke – learning and stimulation is so important to shape their recovery and this combination of human and artificial environments could speed up recovery and make use of resources in a way that previously wasn’t possible.
“While a patient may only be able to access treatment for an hour a day at the moment, virtual environments could allow them to continue training on their own to receive greater benefits.
“Research will also allow us to learn more about these disorders, to shape artificial environments that can be used to treat them and to enrich hospital environments to offer enhanced stimulation.
“The potential is limitless and that’s why it’s such an exciting field to work in.”
Dr Baumann has more than 10 years’ experience as a researcher, having initiated, implemented, analysed and reported projects across diverse disciplines in both Australia and overseas.
He has presented at more than 30 national and international meetings and received the 2012 University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award, which recognised “outstanding performance and leadership potential among early- to mid-career researchers”.
As well as the Queensland Brain Institute, Dr Baumann has also worked at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology and the University of Oslo’s Centre for the Study of Human Cognition.
“Research has long been a passion but one of the things I’m really looking forward to at Bond is having a mixed teaching-research role,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with students and the fact Bond has a philosophy of small classes makes it really engaging.”
Born and raised in Germany, Dr Baumann visited Australia several times as a child after his grandmother migrated to the country in 1980.
“It was always at the back of my mind that it would be good to one day work here and I didn’t hesitate to make the move when I got the chance in 2007,” he said. “With my grandmother still living on the Sunshine Coast, she’s also very pleased with the decision I made.”
Professor Giannopulu, who also heads Bond’s School of Psychology, said the appointment of Dr Baumann was another step in establishing the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Artificial Mind as a leader in its field.
“Our plan from day one has been to assemble experts from the world of neuroscience and technology to collaborate at Bond and Oliver is a great addition to the team,” she said. “Between his research capabilities and enthusiasm for teaching, we are delighted to welcome him to the University.”
“The Interdisciplinary Centre for the Artificial Mind has interdisciplinary in its title and at its core, and this exciting approach will help better understand the mind and facilitate the application of this knowledge outside the laboratory,” he said.
Among many projects, Dr Baumann has worked closely with Neuroscience Research Australia to develop a virtual navigation environment to facilitate the early detection of dementia.
He also collaborated with the Department of Robotics and Engineering at QUT regarding the development of an artificial intelligence road-mapping device and has won more than $800,000 in competitive research grants and fellowships.
Dr Baumann graduated with a PhD in Psychology (Magna cum laude) from Germany’s University of Regensburg in 2006, having earlier completed an MSc in Psychology at the University of Oldenburg.
In addition to the UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award, he has received the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award (2012), the Research Australia, Griffith University Discovery Award (2011) and the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Trainee Award (2006).