Barbara Webb elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh

[23/03/2022] Professor Barbara Webb has been appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Barbara Webb

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy has announced its 2022 intake of Fellows, with 80 names from the arts, business, public service and civil society as well as academia from Scotland and beyond. They will be joining the RSE’s current Fellowship of around 1,700 Fellows, who are recognised as being some of the greatest thinkers, researchers and practitioners working in or with Scotland on 22nd March. 

Webb is interested in understanding how perceptual systems control of behaviour, which she studies by building computational and robotic models. To understand this she studies the behaviour of insects, whose smaller nervous systems are simpler than humans. She believes the behaviours, sensors and small brains of insects should be inspiration for efficient processing algorithms for sensorimotor control. She uses insect inspired robotics as an approach to control system design. 

Webb is interested in how ants, with brains small enough to fit on a pin head, can manage to navigate back to their homes. In 2017 she demonstrated how ants use the position of the sun to walk backwards. The discovery attracted media attention and in an interview Webb said that they "could be taking images and comparing them continuously, but are able to mentally rotate the views to adjust to backward walking". 

Barbara Webb was appointed to a Professor of Biorobotics in 2010. She leads the Insect Robotics group at the School of Informatics, at the University of Edinburgh.

I am really honoured, and look forward supporting the RSE in its mission to make knowledge useful.

Professor Barbara Webb
School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh 

This year’s cohort represents the diversity of expertise within Scotland and the UK, with academics, leaders from business, Scotland’s tech sector, the legal sector and arts and culture industries being inducted to the Fellowship. 

With a more diverse Fellowship, the RSE hopes to make even more of an impact across its policy, research and engagement work which seeks to address the key contemporary issues of the day. 

It is a privilege to be able to welcome our new Fellows, and we are inspired by the breadth of talent and experience in our Fellowship. Every single individual elected this year has shown exceptional levels of expertise and insight in their chosen field, and their input helps RSE effect real and lasting change in Scotland’s society. 

We look forward to working with our diverse Fellowship who provide a crucial link between the world of academic research and practice with government, business and civil society.

Professor Sir John Ball
President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Related links

Barbara's personal page