‘Humans of Helmholtz AI’ #3: Helmholtz AI @ KIT

Meet the Helmholtz AI local unit for information @ KIT

At Helmholtz AI we aim to push boundaries in terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning, but this still requires some human-powered efforts. Let us introduce the ‘humans’ who make Helmholtz AI possible! 


This month, we spoke with the five humans who currently compose the Helmholtz AI local unit for research field energy at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)



Let’s meet...

Achim Streit, who is the director of the Steinbuch Centre for Computing (SCC) at KIT since mid-2010. As such, he is the overall responsible for the AI consultation activities in the SCC part of the Helmholtz AI local unit @ KIT. He has been involved in major European e-Infrastructures initiatives  such as DEISA, EGEE, EGI, EMI, EUDAT, PRACE, OMII-Europe and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) over the last 15 years. At Helmholtz, he is a member of the Helmholtz Incubator 'Information & Data Science', coordinates the Helmholtz Data Federation (HDF) and is a co-creator of the Helmholtz Information & Data Science Academy (HIDA), among other projects and initiatives. 

Ralf Mikut is a member of the Helmholtz AI steering board. He has been working for about 20 years on various AI projects with applications in engineering and life sciences. In addition to that, he gives lectures at KIT on data analytics in engineering and computational intelligence. His main research interests are forecasting with uncertainties (together with the joint initiative Energy System 2050), development of machine learning open source tools, data analytics of energy time series.

Markus Götz manages the Helmholtz AI consultants team in Karlsruhe, besides acting as local coordinator and outreach officer. Born close to and raised in Berlin, he has been studying  in Potsdam, Karlskrona (Sweden), Jülich, Iceland, and Berlin. A Springer innovation price allowed him to present his bachelor thesis  on compression strategies for Google Wave at Google's annual developer conference Google I/O in 2010. After getting his PhD in 'Scalable Data Analysis in High-Performance Computing' in 2017, he joined  SCC, where he is involved in Helmholtz AI activities, teaching, acquiring funding and, if there is time left, 'getting [his] hands dirty with some prototypes'.

Daniel Coquelin is a Helmholtz AI consultant at KIT, and as such he works on the development of scalable algorithms for AI and ML, assists domain experts with the implantation of workflows within their respective fields. He came to Germany 3 years ago from Annandale, Virginia, USA, to begin work on his Master's degree in Physics. After that, he began work on the HeAT framework as a member of the Helmholtz Analytics Framework (HAF) incubator project in Jülich. Shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown, he moved to KIT to “live in a larger city”, and joined our platform.

Last but not least, Benedikt Heidrich is a research assistant / PhD researcher at Helmholtz AI. He studied computer science in Karlsruhe until December 2019. During his master’s degree, he focused on machine learning and energy informatics. At the moment, his research focuses on the consequences of concept drift on forecasting models in energy systems. Furthermore, he develops deep learning models which are more robust against changes in the input data of the forecasting models.


What’s your take on Helmholtz AI?

Helmholtz AI offers 'a fascinating environment with interesting people and projects', according to Ralf. Achim points out that there is a 'unique team of enthusiastic people from all Helmholtz research fields that are working on a common goal: making applied AI better', to which Daniel adds: 'We are stronger together and can make a larger impact as a team than as individuals. I enjoy the collaborative environment which was envisioned'.

On the other hand, Benedikt values 'the interdisciplinarity between the different units', which turns into a 'good opportunity to connect with data scientists from other Helmholtz Centres'.  Markus highlights the 'strong outreach strategy, akin to North American universities/research centers - and some serious funding!'


What about its future?

They say that with great power (or funding) comes great responsibility, and that is probably why expectations are set high for Helmholtz AI. Markus is keen to 'actually deliver on our promises, and be visible for the results we achieve'. Daniel envisions Helmholtz AI as a 'committed, effective, and collaborative team, sharing knowledge and making an impact through this strategy', an impact which Achim translates as becoming 'the platform for applied AI, at least in Germany, well connected in all Helmholtz research fields and within the German science system, in particular with universities.' 

Future-wise, Benedikt hopes that Helmholtz AI 'enables new research and software projects with other Helmholtz centres, improving the exchange of experience between the different units'. Ralf broadens the scope and aims to 'make AI a routine technology for many energy use cases and research questions'.


What do you do when you are not working towards these future goals?

Achim spends as much time as possible with his family; if there is time left, he flies model airplanes (FAI class F3K, hand-launched gliders - 'so a real sport!', he says). He’s participated in European competitions as well as German Championships for several years. 

Ralf mentions mountains and music, and so does Benedikt; he enjoys hiking in the nearby Palatinate Forest, the Black Forest, and Vosges. Daniel enjoys running, watching movies, and spending time outside with friends on a nice day. 

Travel-wise, Markus shares a tip for those visiting Karlskrona: 'In winter, the Baltic freezes over, so you can go to uni/shopping/meet friends skating over the sea. Make sure to warm yourself up afterwards with either a Glögg or a visit to one of the Sauna boats!'