Hasso-Plattner-Institut20 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut20 Jahre HPI

Neurodesign Lecture – Physiological Perspectives on Engineering Design, Creativity and Collaboration (Wintersemester 2019/2020)

Lecturer: Joaquin Santuber

General Information

  • Weekly Hours: 2
  • Credits: 3
  • Graded: yes
  • Enrolment Deadline: 01.10.2019-31.10.2019
  • Teaching Form: Lecture
  • Enrolment Type: Compulsory Elective Module
  • Course Language: English

Programs & Modules

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Kommunikation
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA


This lecture series is a unique teaching event. Internationally recognized experts on topics such as the neuroscience of creativity, design and team collaboration as well as creative engineers in the realm of neuroscience visit the HPI to grant insights into their works and projects. Together we discuss relevant findings, methods and work objectives for creative engineers and design thinkers.

This is the festive kick-off event for neurodesign education at the HPI. In this emerging research field, with a curriculum that evolves in close collaboration of multiple institutes including the Universities of Stanford and Potsdam, we explore topic areas that are pertinent and exciting at the intersection of (i) neuroscience, (ii) engineering and (iii) design thinking - innovation - creativity.

All sessions of this lecture series will be moderated by Dr. Julia von Thienen. In pointed discussions after the talks, where lecturers and audience members will be equally involved, we explore insights and opportunities that seem relevant and promising for professionals in the three domains.     

Along with the Neurodesign Lecture (Mondays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.), a Neurodesign Seminar is offered (Mondays, 3:15 - 4:45 pm) at the HPI. Sometimes, data introduced by guest experts in the lecture can be analysed in more detail in the seminar. Also, theories and findings discussed in the lecture can provide inspiration for design team interventions we develop and test in the seminar, using physiological methods to measure effects. Thus, both courses are related, but they can also be taken independently.

Guest experts in the lecture include:

Prof. Chris Chafe heads the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University. He talks about the sonification of EEG data for seizure detection – an example of creative engineering in neuroscience.

Dr. Caroline Szymanski has been a teacher at the D-School for many years and investigates the neuroscience of team collaboration at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. In her three lectures, she explains the translation of complex design-collaboration-phenomena into dense research scenarios. She discusses programming tasks involved in almost any neuroscientific study, where one common objective is game-design. She gives insights into big neuroscientific data sets that emerge, and complex data analysis tasks that neuroscientists face. She also overviews learnings that have emerged from neuroscientific research on collaboration with practical implications for engineers and creators in other fields.

Dr. Sergio Agnoli heads a neuroscientific-psychological research team at the University of Bologna. He talks about the role of attention in creative work, finding clear and predictive patterns well in line with outcomes of design thinking research. The straightforward relevance of these findings for predictions and interventions in creative engineering & design will be discussed.

Dr. Laura Kaltwasser joins us from the Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt University. In her research, she uses EEG, fMRI and a digital version of the Ultimatum Game to investigate empathy, the role of emotions and self-concepts in human interactions. In the HPI lecture, an example of a recent study with emotional film scenes will be given. The heart rate and skin conductance of two volunteering audience members can be measured, while everybody watches sample movie scenes. Afterwards, the physiological data will be analysed and interpreted jointly in class.  

Dr. Jan Auernhammer is Executive Director of the Leifer Neurodesign Research Program at Stanford University. Drawing from a wealth of examples, he explains the tight interconnection or even inseparability of engineering-design research and neuroscientific-psychological research that looks at (joint) creation. Benefits of a “multi-perspective expertise” are explored, which arises from a collaboration of engineering & design professionals with specialists of neuroscientific and psychological research.


This course will be most pertinent for you when you have a background in at least one of the following domains and interests that cover at least one more domain:

1. (Digital) Engineering

2. Neuroscience and physiological research methods

3. Design thinking - innovation - creativity.

Beyond this general background, you need no particular pre-experiences to participate in class.

To intensify your learnings, you can also participate in the Neurodesign Seminar on Mondays (3:15 - 4:45 p.m. in room A-1.2), but this is not obligatory.