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 mountains or sea, watching animal documentaries, dancing, or trying to master the Glasgwegian and Australian accents. Emily was previously an assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen/Donders Institute in the Netherlands and a lecturer/SL/Professor of Social Neuroscience at Bangor University, and currently serves as the PI on the ERC Starting Grant SOCIAL ROBOTS. She holds joint appointments as a Professor of Social Robotics at the University of Glasgow and a Professor of Human Neuroscience at Macquarie University.
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.
Aitor is an engineer from the region of Asturias, in the north of Spain. He studied Automation and Industrial Electronics in the University of Oviedo (Spain) and has an MSc in Robot Systems from Southern Denmark University (Denmark). He started his journey through the robotics field during his bachelor's degree, where he learned about robot control and specialized in computer vision. During his masters, he started using artificial intelligence, and he explored the use of artificial neural networks for the interaction between robots and their environment. After finishing his MSc, he worked as a Software Test Engineer in the machine control sector for two years, before he moved to Sydney (Australia).
Aitor is very passionate about technology, and he is excited about taking care of new robots and help them deal with the complex world we live in. He is also passionate about sports and music, and during his free time, it is easy to find him swimming, climbing or running around.
Aitor Miguel Blanco
Originally a developmental psychologist with core interests in social cognition, Maki gained a Ph.D. on theory of mind and sarcasm in preschoolers and then worked on autobiographical memory in infants (Lancaster), sandwiched with a lectureship (Manchester) in between. Following a career break to raise a family, she hopped to health research on analysis of telephone consultation with NHS 24 and an online intervention for dentally anxious children (St Andrews and Dundee) and more recently around mental health, children and technology (IHW, Glasgow). She is excited about her adventure with Social Robotics where she can revisit and nurture her set of skills from past research as well as reflect her experience of arriving in the UK as an undergraduate from Japan where she was born and brought up.
Being a busy mum of two human children and a lovable/handful canine baby, her life and work are constantly intertwined, which she considers one of the greatest blessings of being an academic. When time allows, she likes to play tennis, go for walks on hills and mountains, or make/mend things with hands, from cooking, baking or sewing.
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.
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.
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.
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, and will be starting a PhD with Prof. Cross at Macquarie University in July 2021. In his spare time, he likes to cook and has a love for music.
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.
Henry recently switched over to the so-bots lab from a PhD in philosophy of cognitive science at the University of Warwick where his research focused on computational models of motor control in individual and joint action. At the end of 2017 and into the summer of 2018 he worked as a researcher at the Cognitive Robotics, and Interaction Lab at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Italy under the supervision of Dr. Alessandra Sciutti and Dr. Francesco Rea. This year he will begin a PhD in social robotics under the supervision of Prof. Emily Cross as part of the so-bots lab in Glasgow. His research interests lie at the intersection of neuroscience, robotics, and computer science. Specifically he is interested in the computational modelling of social cognitive function in human-human and human-robot interaction and the development of these models into workable frameworks for applications in real-world robotics platforms. His PhD work focuses on bringing deep neural networks and machine learning research to bear on questions in kinematic communication in human-human and human-robot interaction. In his spare time Henry enjoys running, cooking, and playing video games. He is also an avid and unashamed player of Dungeons and Dragons and hopes to one day be the owner of a fleet of giant dogs.
As a born and bred Scottish lass, Rebecca has spent the past 5 years completing her BSc and MSc studies in Psychology at the University of Glasgow. She is very excited to continue her journey there as a new member of the SoBA Lab on an ESRC-funded PhD under the supervision of Professor Emily Cross. Her love of classical ballet and passion for social psychology were the driving forces behind her interest in how individuals identify emotion from the body in motion. She will be exploring this area further with the SoBA Lab and is looking forward to implementing the ideas with the help of her new robotic friends! When not in the lab Rebecca can be found brunching with friends, attending life drawing sessions, preparing choreography to teach to her ballet class or searching the west end for pugs to cuddle.
SoBA Lab Alumni
some of the truly amazing folks with whom we have been lucky to do science over the years!
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)