Social Robots

A European Research Council funded Social Neuroscience Research Project

Meet the social robots team!



Prof. Emily S. Cross

Emily is a professor of social robotics at the University of Glasgow and an honorary professor of cognitive neuroscience at Bangor University. She co-directs the Social Brain in Action Laboratory, and also serves as the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded Social Robots project. Emily completed her PhD with Scott Grafton at Dartmouth College, and then worked at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig, Germany) and the Behavioural Science Institute and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands). Emily has been building and collecting robots since a young age (more aesthetically interesting than functional ones!), and looks forward to helping chart the course to peaceful coexistence with our robotic overlords of the future.


Bishakha Chaudhury

Bishakha comes from the city of Kolkata in India. She has a BSc in Computer Science from Fergusson College (Pune, India), a Masters in Computer Application (Chennai University, India) and Masters in Virtual Reality and Computer Graphics from the University Of Sussex (UK). All the computer games she played while growing up piqued her interest in virtual reality, computer gameplay and artificial intelligence. Her masters dissertation and the game mods and demos she made ensured her a career in the games industry in London. She worked mainly as an AI programmer and was responsible for AI racers and developing variety in the characteristics of non-human players. After this, she joined a team working on computer-aided orthopaedic surgery, where a robotic hand was used for performing precision hip and knee surgery. She then followed her family to scenic North Wales and worked in the local IT industry for six years as a senior developer and technical analyst. As she was looking for an opportunity to return to AI and robotics, the Social Robots project was the perfect opportunity for her to do so. In her spare time she likes reading, going on hikes, dabbling with paint, and on those rare sunny days, taking her two boys to the beach.



Dr. Ruud Hortensius

Ruud, a Dutchman, obtained his PhD under supervision of Prof. Beatrice de Gelder at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Before that, he completed a BSc in Social Work, a BSc in Psychology, an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. In his research he investigates the neural mechanisms of positive and negative social interactions. He continued to explore these topics as a postdoctoral researcher on Dutch and South African soil at Maastricht University and the University of Cape Town. Excited by the unique insights robots offer human psychology and neuroscience, he is eager to explore the dynamic social interactions between robots and less robot-like beings in the Social Robots project at Bangor University. In his spare time, he is an avid reader, emerging hiker, and an unapologetic Morrissey enthusiast.


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Dr. Elin Williams 

Elin completed a BSc in Psychology at Bangor University, developing a passion for research and cognitive neuroscience. She went on to complete a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol funded PhD with Prof. Emily Cross, investigating how autistic traits affect the reward value assigned to biological and robotic motion, using behavioural, eye-tracking, and fMRI techniques. In her spare time, Elin enjoys riding her horse, cooking (and eating!), cycling, and creating fun plots in R! 



Anna Henschel

Originally from the cold and rainy north of Germany, Anna completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Konstanz, where she developed a passion for neuroscience and all things brain related. She left for the Netherlands in 2015 to pursue a Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuropsychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, exchanging her running route along Lake Constance for the Amstel river. Topics she is interested in include (but are not limited to) empathy, emotion regulation and our social (as well as antisocial) brain. Besides neuroscience, she likes to explore as many bookstores as she can, always leaving with a book (or two), British TV shows, and taking lots and lots of pictures on travels abroad. Anna is excited to join the Social Robots project in September 2017, to find out more about the underlying neural mechanisms of socializing with our robotic friends. After getting acquainted with them in graphic novels, movies and books, she cannot wait to delve into the intricacies of interacting with robots in real life, upgrading from science fiction to science.


Katie Riddoch

Originally from the northern town of Oswaldtwistle, Katie moved to sunny Cornwall to study Marine Sciences and the innovative technologies used in the Renewable Energy sector. She then turned her attention to how technology can be used to help people more directly and began her studies at Bangor University. Katie studied BSc Psychology with Neuropsychology whilst volunteering in a number of the research labs, then an ESRC funded MSc in Psychological Research. Katie is excited to continue her studies at the University of Glasgow, undertaking an ESRC Industrial Strategy Studentship under the supervision of Prof. Emily Cross. Her PhD will aim to better understand the role social robots could play in healthy independent ageing, and how our attitudes and perceptions of robots might change over time. When Katie isn’t dancing or bouldering, she enjoys watching the documentaries of Louis Theroux and attempting to cook.

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Te-Yi Hsieh

Te-Yi grew up in the hustle and bustle of Taipei, and completed a BSc in Psychology at Chung Shan Medical University and came to the beautiful North Wales for her MSc at Bangor University. During her Masters in Psychology Research, Te-Yi developed a great interest in human-robot interaction (HRI) and investigated people’s responses to a social robot’s negative emotions in a competitive game. Such research experience also inspired her to keep pursuing the passion in this field. She is now undertaking an ERC funded PhD in Neuroscience and Psychology under the supervision of Prof. Emily Cross at the University of Glasgow. Te-Yi strives to understand how human minds respond to human-like artificial agents from both cognitive and social psychology perspectives, in order to gain insight into our mental processes and also to see what psychologists can do to bring about ideal HRI. In her spare time, she likes to read, paint, watch movies, and is recently an amateur translator.


Laura Jastrzab

Laura is an American who moved to the UK in the summer of 2017 from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, and will join Professor Cross' lab in Autumn 2018. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Laura worked in several large research institutions around the US (Stanford University, UCSF, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) and has also worked as a registered Educational Psychologist in the UK and US. She 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 Robots Lab! She will be working on the Social Robots project to understand more about the neural mechanisms involved in various human and robot social interactions. 

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Rebecca Smith

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.

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Henry Powell 

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 secondary interest is in the application of machine learning in this area and how Bayesian deep learning in particular can be used to shed light on questions of implicit communication in social interaction between humans and robots.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.


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Hannah Bargel

Originally from Münster, a city full of students, Hannah moved to Lübeck to study medical engineering. In the Hanseatic City of Lübeck Hannah finished her bachelor’s degree after three years of studying. During her studies she discovered several fascinating areas in the wide field of applied computer science. She decided to apply for the internship at the SoBots Lab in Glasgow to figure out which field of interest excites her the most and to discover how she wants to specialise in her upcoming master’s degree. The interdisciplinary aspect of how the different research fields are working well together in the lab is fascinating but also inspiring Hannah for her future. Besides, she never got in contact with robots before and was really excited to meet Pepper, NAO & Co during her internship.  In her free time, Hannah prefers to spend as much time outside as possible. She enjoys meeting friends for a picnic in the park, go for a run or to explore the best coffee places in town. Also, Hannah is excited for travelling, exploring new cities and cultures, going for a hike in the highlands or going on a road trip on the weekends.



Merel Bekking

Merel Bekking is a contemporary product designer from The Netherlands. In 2012, she graduated from the Utrecht School of the Arts (NL). Merel likes to work on bigger design thinking projects involving cross-sector collaborations. These big research projects are more focused on questions rather than solutions or products. She collaborated with plastic producers, South African artists, traditional Sotho wavers, taxidermists and neuroscientists. Her work has been funded by the Creative Industries Fund NL, Creative Action Llandudno and the K. F. Hein Fonds, and is developed on her own initiative and in commission. Merel has exhibited and presented at the Milan Design Week, Dutch Design Week, DIY Berlin, the World Architecture Festival in Singapore, and more. Between 2015 and 2016 Merel was working and living in Cape Town (South Africa), and in the beginning of 2017 she relocated to Bangor, North Wales. Merel is very excited to be collaborating with the SoBA lab on the Social Robots project and work together on the exciting robotic petting zoo.

©2018 Social Robots | University of Glasgow