Meet the SoBA Lab
Emily completed a BA at Pomona College (USA), an MSc at the University of Otago (NZ), and a PhD at Dartmouth College (USA). She hails from the small town of Chagrin Falls in the great state of Ohio. Through her work in the SoBA lab, she addresses how experience shapes perception and is especially interested in how we learn new physical skills by watching others, how action expertise is manifest in the brain, the neural foundations of art appreciation, and how learning shapes our social encounters with artificial agents. When not in the lab, Emily can be found exploring the great outdoors with her two young sons, or trying to learn Swiss German. Emily has previously held faculty positions at Radboud University Nijmegen/Donders Institute in the Netherlands, Bangor University in Wales, University of Glasgow in Scotland, and Macquarie University and the MARCS Institute at Westerny Sydney University in Australia.
Emily S. Cross
Richard completed his BSc and PhD at the University of Birmingham (UK). Originally from Leeds, West Yorkshire, he grew up with a keen interest in sport, which led him to study Sport and Exercise Sciences as an undergraduate. During his PhD, Richard became interested in the human brain and how we make sense of other people, and has since been performing research in Social and Cognitive Neuroscience. Richard is currently a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University. When he's not reading brains, he can be found paying homage to David Bowie and running marathons.
Amol originally from Pune, India completed his PhD in Human-robot interaction from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK. He moved to the University of Glasgow as a postdoctoral research associate in 2016. His expertise is in social signal processing, non-verbal behaviour generation, User-Centred design, and machine learning. He has built robust robotic systems, deployed and evaluated social robots for 4 European Union projects in real-world environments such as workplaces (long-term interaction), schools, and public spaces. Amol has pioneered human-robot interaction research in developing countries. His research has received global media coverage such as, the BBC, The Telegraph, IEEE Spectrum, and numerous media articles. He joins SoBA Lab as a programmer and a researcher. In his spare time Amol enjoys playing sports, photography and hiking.
Originally from Romania, Ionela completed a BA in History-Art History at Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca, Romania) and a MA in Art Image Studies at Bucharest University (Romania). Interested in exploring the aesthetic experience beyond the realm of humanities she completed her BSc in Psychology and MSc in Psychological Research at Bangor University, followed by an ESRC-funded PhD at Bangor University under the supervision of Dr Richard Ramsey. Her PhD focused on exploring the cognitive and neural control mechanisms involved in aesthetic appreciation of visual art. In July 2022, she began a postdoctoral fellowship In her free time, Ionela enjoys travelling, reading and visiting museums.
Nathan (Nate) Caruana
Nate grew up in the outer rural suburbs of Sydney where his first pet was a retired dairy cow. He completed a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) and a PhD in Human Cognition and Brain Sciences at Macquarie University. Nate’s research seeks to develop research methods that allow us to study the neurocognitive mechanisms of non-verbal social information processing and interaction. To do this he has been using interactive eye- and motion-tracking, immersive virtual reality, psychophysics and neuroimaging techniques to capture the dynamic and reciprocal aspects of social interaction whilst balancing the need for experimental control and objective measurement. Nate is also passionate about understanding neurodiverse social interactions, and exploring how we can use artificial agents and other technologies to make social interactions more inclusive and enjoyable for everyone. Part of Nate’s past research has explored how beliefs and expectations influence how we interact with artificial agents (virtual avatars) and he is excited to explore this further with social robots! You’ll find Nate most Saturdays in the back yard wearing his Akubra hat and belting out classic 80’s hits while gardening and acting busy. He also loves rural towns and antique shops, whisky, cheesecake, Sunday roasts and making his daughter laugh – usually by singing.
Eliane completed her MSc and PhD at Ghent University (Belgium), and has completed an FWO postdoctoral fellowship at UNSW (Sydney). Some years ago, she started wondering about why humans aggregate in networks of likeminded people – and can be hostile against not likeminded ones. This phenomenon has long been described in sociology and anthropology, but why wasn’t there a theory about the brain that can explain this? The ‘relational mentalizing’ framework she developed focusses on how the brain solves conflict between own and others' understanding of the world. Her thinking investigates the neurocognitive bases of disagreement, how we respond to disagreement, and whether we may discriminate against others because of it. Outside of work you can find her running, hiking, or reading non-fiction books.
Ryssa, originally from Canada, completed her PhD through IDEALAB (International Doctorate for Experimental Approaches to Language And Brain). Her research explored listeners’ abilities to recognise emotions in degraded speech and how differing abilities influence cortical activity using fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy). As a post-doc working with Prof Emily Cross, Ryssa will apply fNIRS to questions relating to social cognition and human interactions with social robots. Ryssa is also an avid reader, swimmer, baker, and when climate allows, figure skater.
Originally from Italy, Andrea's primary affiliation is within the Aglioti Lab at Sapienza University of Rome, but we are delighted to welcome him back to the SoBA Lab in Sydney for the outgoing phase of his Marie Curie Global Fellowship. Andrea's research interests concern multisensory neural representations of the body and complex action (e.g., dance), with further interests in neuroaesthetics, attention-related processes, and social cognition. Andrea uses EEG as the primary technique, combining it with kinematic analysis of movement and fMRI. Andrea's education as a contemporary dancer has informed his research on the human brain, merging dance and neuroscience. Andrea was recently awarded a Bial Foundation Research Grant (as Principal Investigator) and a Marie Curie Global Fellowship to continue his work collaborating with the Macquarie University of Sydney (SoBA Lab).
Ayeh has always been fascinated by the way people are able to socially interact and communicate in a rather effortless manner. It was not the use of words that caught her interest the most, but rather our ability to share and understand one another even without using words. The social difficulties associated with certain neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, had her perplexed. She was constantly frustrated by the lack of answers to her questions. This led to a keen interest in how our brains typically develop, allowing us to function as social beings within society. Ayeh has only recently started pursuing her interests in the field of cognitive science after moving to Sydney from Dubai, where she was born and raised. She completed her MRes degree at Macquarie University In 2019 and is thrilled to be pursuing her interests further by taking up a PhD under the supervision of Professor Emily Cross. For her PhD, she plans to further understand the role of action kinematics in the prediction of others’ internal mental states - such as intentions - by both neurotypicals and autistics. She is also interested in investigating this phenomenon in social robotics to help understand whether we attribute and predict internal states to non-human agents using their kinematics and whether they can be optimized to help make interactions more intuitive. Aside from her research interests, Ayeh loves food and enjoys trying different authentic dishes from the various cuisines around the world, as well as attempting to recreate them. She also enjoys travelling and getting to know people of diverse cultural backgrounds.
From the deep forests of Sologne in France, Robin grew to become an extremely curious person, sensitive to his environment and beings living in it. This curiosity and sensitivity led me, one way or another, to the National Graduate School of Cognitive Engineering (ENSC) in Bordeaux, France. Cognitics aims to understand and improve the flow of human-machine symbiosis, in terms of performance, substitution, safety, ease and comfort, and augment human through technologies.
Robin is passionate about our future and the infinite possibilities that are presented to us. Being part of the SOCIAL CDT programme and SoBA lab as a PhD student is the first step to what he hopes will be a great journey toward the integration of new technologies in our society, designed around and for humanity.
His doctoral project focus on the study of human behaviour around Social Drones in Virtual Reality (VR). Three objects of study, three questions : Human - How do they behave around drones ? Drones - How to make them social ? And Virtual Reality - What are the limits and capabilities of using VR as a research approach ?
Chris completed his BSc in Psychology at the University of Liverpool. During his undergraduate studies, Chris developed an interest into the clinical applications of psychology and neurosciences. To pursue this interest he completed the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Bangor University in 2016. Following a 12 month hiatus, globe trotting with his family, he joined the North Wales Brain Injury Service as a Clinical Psychologist. This post reinforced his passion for clinical and cognitive neuroscience. Chris is excited to join the SoBA lab as a PhD student under the co-supervision of Dr Richard Ramsey and Dr Rudi Coetzer at Bangor University. As a father of three, Chris rarely has the luxury of spare time... but when he does he wastes it wisely.
Born in Brazil, a citizen of Greece, and raised in Spain and South Africa, Haralambos (Harry, for short) is passionate about visiting new places and having new experiences. Eager to link it to other fields, he started studying Computer Science at Cardiff University. Harry became interested in the ways both digital and human brains worked and interacted with each other while studying for his MSc in Artificial Intelligence and interacting with digital brains using his own human brain. This has led him to very excitedly join the SoBA lab at Glasgow for PhD research in this kind of interaction, with a focus on quadruped robots. During his spare time, Harry can be found listening to music, learning an instrument (currently the bass guitar), practicing martial arts, and generally trying everything he hasn't done before at least once
Laura is an American who moved to the UK from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, and joined Professor Cross' lab in 2018. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Laura worked in several research institutions around the US and has also worked as a registered Educational Psychologist in the UK and US.
Laura is interested in understanding more about how humans and robots interact in social situations and whether, under certain conditions, humans may perceive that a robot "has a mind of its own." Further, she would like to understand how these perceptions might be different across the lifespan, between cultures, and between those with typical and atypical social development. Laura is thrilled to be joining the Social Brain in Action Lab and #TeamSoBots! Her PhD research focuses on understanding more about the neural mechanisms involved in various human and robot social interactions.
In her free time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, diy projects, and getting outdoors (especially, along the coastline or in the mountains).
Guy comes from sunny Tel Aviv, Israel, where he completed his bachelor studies in Communication Science at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya (IDC), specializing in interactive communications. During his studies Guy was a member of IDC’s media innovation lab (miLAB), developing robotic prototypes and mobile applications to study their influence on human behaviours. Eager to continue exploring, Guy conducted his Research Master’s studies at the University of Amsterdam focusing on human-agent cooperation, personalized interactions, and the role of discourse in agents’ embodied cognition.
Guy is pursuing his PhD as an ESR member of ENTWINE, the European Training Network on Informal Care, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovation Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Union. His research examines how caregivers disclose their emotions and needs to social robots, and how these, in turn, can reduce caregivers’ stress and burden. This project is aimed at developing personalized solutions, interventions, and recommendations to support and promote caregivers’ well-being using social robots.
In his free time, Guy enjoys spending time in the mountains hiking, snowboarding, and photographing.
Originally from the sunny coasts of Greece, Katerina completed a joint degree in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Glasgow (UK). It was then that she discovered that she's a bit of a figurative zombie, in that she's really passionate about brains (in a non-carnivorous fashion, of course). She moved on to do her MSc with the Social Robots team in the SoBA Lab, and she also worked with research teams at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (NL) and Harvard University (USA) to explore how social cognition can shape our interaction with robotic agents, and vice versa. She's currently really excited about her PhD under the supervision of Dr Richard Ramsey, in which she's looking into how major brain networks interact to give rise to fundamental aspects of social cognition. Katerina is also a visual artist who likes to integrate AI and immersive virtual reality to explore the aesthetic side of the uncanny valley. More often than not she can be found at a music gig, drawing on the metro, stargazing on the beach, or discovering a brand new way to procrastinate.
Originally from Dresden in Germany, Amelie initially moved to Scotland to complete a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Glasgow. There, she was first introduced to the field of social robotics and was immediately fascinated by how it combines social cognition and social neuroscience research with the study of new and emerging technologies. Pursuing her passion for scientific research, Amelie went on to obtain a MSc in Psychological Research from the University of Edinburgh, where she was an active member of the Edinburgh Open Research Initiative and Edinburgh ReproducibiliTea. Amelie is excited to start a PhD in the fall of 2022 as part of the SOCIAL CDT programme and the SoBa lab under the supervision of Prof. Cross and Dr. Foster from the School of Computer Science. Her PhD project will be on human-robot interactions, specifically investigating how to best align human expectations of a robot’s appearance and capabilities to facilitate better social interaction. She is especially interested in using neuroscience techniques to study how humans perceive and interact with artificial agents. In her free time, she is an avid reader and loves old films
Hannah was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. She began her career in the library and information management field before deciding to change paths and study psychology at Macquarie University. During her undergraduate studies she found herself gravitating to classes about the cognitive processes involved with reading and literacy. She undertook her placement with the Reading Clinic at Macquarie University, leading a group of fellow undergraduates researching evidence-based treatments for poor readers.
Hannah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology with the Bachelor of Human Sciences, being the first undergraduate to complete the Cognitive and Brain sciences major. She is currently studying the Master of Research within the Cognitive Science department at Macquarie University, under the supervision of Professor Emily Cross, Doctor Nathan Caruana and Professor Genevieve Macarthur. Her research topic being what features in a robot reading companion would help reduce anxiety in children with poor reading. She has an interest in having her public library and research worlds to become full circle, by having literacy initiatives, technologies, and other aids to help support poor readers within an accessible space.
Community orientated and a hobbyist at heart, Hannah enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, upcycling projects, tabletop games, reading with her cat and tending to her plants.
Originally from the United States, Courtney earned her BA in Neuroscience from Colgate University in upstate New York. During her undergraduate studies, she completed her thesis in the field of neuroaesthetics, an interdisciplinary field that Courtney’s passions for both the sciences and the arts lend themselves quite well to. Courtney’s past experiences as a researcher and as a trained dancer inspire her and help her to think analytically and creatively when formulating research questions and when synthesizing her discoveries in this field. Courtney began her postgraduate studies under the supervision of Prof Emily Cross at Macquarie University in 2022, where she plans to investigate the influence of expertise and sociocultural background on neural and behavioural responses to dance. In her PhD studies and beyond, Courtney strives to continue to explore relationships between neuroscience and the arts to help create a better socially and culturally connected world. In her spare time, Courtney enjoys taking dance classes, reading, going on walks around the city, and finding new coffee shops to try.
Jean-Noël was born and raised in London, where he completed his BSc Psychology degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. At Goldsmiths, Jean-Noël fostered a love for social psychology, especially social behaviour and perception. Between studies, he was keen on research involving social robots, which can help us to better understand human behaviour and interactions. Enticed by Glasgow University’s social robotic platform and enamoured by Glasgow City, he moved to Glasgow and is currently undertaking an MSc in Research Methods in Psychological Science. Through his studies, he has taken a particular interest in social robot design, specifically: socio-ethical considerations, facilitating positive human-robot interactions, and the integration of social robots in everyday life. He is happy and excited to be part of the SoBA lab, and worked on a MSc project with Guy Laban on self-disclosure at the University of Glasgow, and has been working on an MRes project with Prof. Cross at Macquarie University in July 2021, with the aim to continue on to a PhD after that. In his spare time, he likes to cook and has a love for music.
Kristina was born and raised in South Sydney, Australia. She completed a Cert III Assistant in Nursing qualification during her later years in Secondary School which led her to develop an interest in Human Sciences. During her undergraduate studies at Macquarie University, she found herself gravitating towards research in Cognitive Science. Kristina graduated with a double degree in a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Human Biology with a Bachelor of Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Kristina began her Postgraduate studies at Macquarie University under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Caruana and Prof. Emily Cross. In her MRes project, PhD studies and beyond, she strives to continue to explore social robot design facilitating positive human-robot interactions, and the integration of social robots in educational settings. Aside from studies, Kristina enjoys going on walks with her dog, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Sabrina is a bachelor student, currently completing a double degree in Information Systems and Cognitive Brain Science at Macquarie University. After assisting Ryssa Moffat in her experiment to find the correlation between motor synchrony and the audience effect she has been enlightened to deepen her understanding of cognitive functions and behaviour.Sabrina is interested in investigating features of robot sociability during human robot interactions and comprehending the complexities of attachment for inanimate objects that simulate life. She is also keen a learner, who always looks to exercise her coding skills. She is particularly drawn to the technological development of experiments and has been shadowing Aitor Miguel Blanco in his role and projects.If you can’t find her tutoring, studying or managing societies, she is most likely taking a nature walk, swimming or brainstorming a new art project.
SoBA Lab Alumni
some of the truly amazing folks with whom we have been lucky to do science over the years!
Rebecca Smith (PhD student, 2018 - 2022)
Henry Powell (PhD student, 2018 - 2022)
Torben Rehmer (DAAD summer intern, 2022)
Maki Rooksby (Postdoc, 2019-2022)
Aitor Miguel Blanco (Programmer Extraordinaire, 2020-22)
Kohinoor Darda (PhD student then Postdoc, 2016-22)
Andrew Wildman (PhD student, 2018-22)
Te-Yi Hsieh (MSc & PhD student, 2017-22)
Katie Riddoch (MSc & PhD student, 2018-22)
Rachel Newey (MSc & PhD student, 2017-21)
Anna Henschel (PhD student, 2017-20)
Ruud Hortensius (Postdoc, 2017-20)
Michaela Kent (Research Technician, 2019-20)
Merel Bekking (Artist-in-Residence, 2017-20)
Bishakha Chaudhury (Programmer, #TeamSoBots Heroine Extraordinare, 2017-20)
Dorina de Jong (visiting MSc student, University of Groningen, 2019-20)
Rosanne Timmerman (visiting MSc student from University of Utrecht, 2019-20)
Isabella Gould (Glasgow MSc student in Psychology, 2018-19)
Katerina Manoli (Glasgow MSc student in Psychological Research, 2018-19)
Luca Marie Leisten (DAAD Summer Intern, 2019)
Hanna Seelemeyer (DAAD Summer Intern, 2019)
Martin Hoffmann (Erasmus+ Summer Intern, 2019)
Julia Fechner (Erasmus+ Summer Intern, 2019)
Andrea Orlandi (visiting PhD student from University of Milano-Bicocca, 2017-18)
Aidas Aglinskas (Bangor MSc student in Neuroimaging, 2014-15)
Dan Alderley (Bangor MSc in Foundations in Clinical Psychology student, 2013-14)
Lauren Alpert (Columbia University Summer Intern, 2011)
Hannah Bargel (DAAD intern from Uni Lübeck, 2018)
Annabel Benjamin (Bangor MSc student, 2012-13)
Laura Bilbao-Broch (Donders Institute MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience student/intern, 2016-17)
Emily Butler (Bangor MSc student, PhD student & Postdoc, 2011-15)
Chu Chen (Bangor MSc student, 2012-13)
Kelvin Dawson (Bangor MSc in Psychological Research student, 2012-13)
Lina Davitt (Social Robots Project Manager, 2016-17)
Niamh Dickson (MSc in Psychological Research student, 2016-17)
Nadine Diersch (DAAD Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-14)
Veronica Diveica (Bangor University Summer Intern, 2017)
Kim Drommelschmidt (Radboud University BSc Honors student, 2011-12)
Andreea Ducan (Bangor University special project intern, 2014-16)
Anastassia Elizarova (Bangor University special project intern, 2013-14)
Laurel Fish (Bangor University special project intern, 2014-15)
Tom Gardner (Bangor PhD student, 2012 - 2016)
Elena Giacomazzi (DAAD intern from Uni Osnabrück, 2017)
Harrison Goodall III (Pomona College Summer Intern, 2015)
Inez Greven (PhD student, 2013 - 2016)
Felix Hekele (Bangor Research Project Support Officer, 2016-17)
Malte Heyen (DAAD intern from Uni Osnabrück, 2017)
Alex Jones (Bangor Postdoc, 2013/2014)
Allison Kirkegaard (Pomona College Summer Intern, 2016)
Louise Kirsch (Bangor PhD student & Postdoc, 2011-15)
Mutindi Kithu (Bangor MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2015-16)
André Klapper (Radboud University MSc student, 2011-12)
Merle Koch (DAAD intern from Uni Osnabrück, 2016-17)
David Lilley (Bangor MSc student in Psychological Research, 2013-14)
Lucy McGarry (Ryerson University visiting PhD Student, 2013)
Jaydan Pratts (Bangor University MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2017-18)
Verónica Romero Ferreiro (visiting PhD student from Madrid, 2015)
Julia Scaife (Cardiff Intercalating medical student, 2011-12)
Nicky Smith (Bangor University Summer Intern, 2015)
Arielle Snagg (Pomona College Summer Intern, 2012)
Marie Sindermann (DAAD Intern from Uni Osnabrück, 2015-16)
Shaun Stone (Bangor MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2015-16)
Alexis Sweetman (Bangor MSc in Psychological Research student, 2011-12)
Simon Titone (Bangor MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2017-18)
Abigail Whitfield (Bangor MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2013-14)
Elin H. Williams (Bangor PhD student and Social Robots Project Manager, 2015-18)
Elliott Ward (Bangor MSc in Neuroimaging student, 2016-17)
Zach Woods (Bangor MSc student in Psychological Research, 2014-15)