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Senior Researchers

Patrick Gebhard

Background: Patrick is a Research Fellow and Principal Researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH (DFKI) in Saarbrücken, Germany. Since 2007, he is head of the Affective Computing group in the Cognitive Assistants department. His research focuses on Affective Computing, a sub-field of Artificial Intelligence centered on human emotional intelligence and its employment for Human-Computer Interaction. He has fully coordinated or taken work package leads in several national and European research projects. He acquired a long-term experience with computational models for affect and social behavior and their employment to model socially interactive agents and their evaluation.

Research Interests: Computationally Modelling of Affect and Social Behavior, Socially Interactive Agents, Social Training  

In the group: Management of projects and research. Responsible for computational models of emotion, emotion regulation, and social behavior models for socially interactive agents.


Tanja Schneeberger

Background: Tanja completed her Master’s degree in Psychology in 2014 in the Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Saarland University. Following that, she became a part of the ACG in 2015, having previously worked in the Automotive Group at DFKI. Throughout her tenure at the ACG, Tanja obtained her PhD in 2023. Her doctoral thesis focused on exploring affective reactions towards socially interactive agents and their computational modelling.   

Research Interests: Relationship between Human and Socially Interactive Agent  

In the group: In experimental studies, in which we transfer aspects of human-human-interaction to human-agent-interaction my goal is to find out which role socially interactive agents can play for humans and how a successful relationship between an agent and a human can be created.


Fabrizio Nunnari  

Background: Fabrizio got a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2005 on real-time 3D data visualization. From 2005 to 2012, he worked between academia and industry as research programmer. Since 2013, Fabrizio is a researcher at DFKI.  

Research Interests: Real-time 3D Interactive Applications, Generation and Animation of Virtual Humans  

In the group: Fabrizio (aka FN, aka Finnland) takes care of everything related to the generation and animation of virtual humans and on the animation of virtual interpreters for Sign Language. Also working on the intersection between virtual humans and personality perception.  




Dimitra Tsovaltzi  

Background: Since 2020, Dimitra is a Senior Researcher at DFKI in Saarbrücken, Germany. In 2016, she was awarded the german degree of Habilitation (post-doctoral degree) for the Learning sciences from the Educational Technology and Knowledge Management department at  Saarland University, where she held a faculty position until 2019. Before that, in 2010, she was awarded her interdisciplinary Ph.D. in automating feedback through schema theory for technology enhanced learning from the department of Informatics in collaboration with the Learning Sciences, Saarland University, and worked as part of the E-Learning group at DFKI.  

Research Interests: Dimitra is interested in shaping societal change through technological support for group processes. She has been working on designing technologies to support the interplay of socio-emotional and cognitive factors for learning and group interaction, focusing on awareness tools, possibilities for dynamic scripting.   

In the group: Dimitra works on models for socio-emotional interactions to leverage socio-emotional awareness for affective computing. This includes conceptual and empirical research taking into account technical requirements for development.



Janet Wessler  

Background: Janet is a Senior Researcher at DFKI in Saarbrücken (Germany) since 2021. Since 2016, she has worked as a postdoctoral researcher Social Psychology Group of the Psychology Department at  Saarland University. In 2016, she earned her Ph.D. in the Social Cognition Group of the Psychology Department at University of Salzburg (Austria). Her dissertation was about the influence of psychological distance on interpersonal synchrony in human-human interactions, especially on emotions and gestures.   

Research Interests: Janet is interested in nonverbal processes during social interactions, like emotional expressions, synchrony and mimicry, and how these processes can shape relationship, behavioral and even economic outcomes (e.g., in negotiations).  

In the group: Janet works on how findings of human-human interactions can be transferred to human-agent interactions, and how they contribute to building a trustful relationship with a virtual agent.    



Mina Ameli

Background: Mina holds a Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence Engineering and B.Sc. in Information Technology Engineering. Mina joined DFKI in 2019 and started as a researcher in ACG in July 2022. In her previous roles, she worked on different projects implementing services utilizing Machine Learning, Time Series Analysis and Computer Vision.  

Research Interests:  Predictive models in Human Computer Interaction. Sensors and Multimodal Interaction.  

In the group: Applying Machine Learning and Computer Vision Algorithms in projects. Utilizing the Visual Scenemaker to implement Human Agent Interaction Scenarios.

Links: Mina’a LinkedIn

Manuel S. Anglet

Background: B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Computer Science.

Research Interests: Manuel is interested in social interaction, sensors and machine learning.

In the group: Manuel joined 2018, working on the Visual Scene Maker tool and the integration of Social Signal Processing in VSM.


Chirag Bhuvaneshwara

Background: Master Degree at Saarland University with a focus on Machine Learning, Computer Vision and Computer Graphics. Started as a Research Assistant in ACG in July 2020 and is now a full-time researcher and PhD student at ACG.  

Research Interests: Machine Learning for Human Computer Interaction  

In the group: Chirag is a PhD student working on Affective Computing tools, emotional models and integrating Machine Learning models in studies using Socially Interactive Agents (SIAs). He is interested in Machine Learning for Human Computer Interaction, and is working on extending the Visual Scenemaker tool that enables to set up better SIA interactions easily.



Lara Chehayeb

Background: Lara holds a B.Sc. degree in Environmental Health, a Teaching Diploma and a Master’s degree in Educational Technology.  She is a member of DFKI since 2021 and is currently a Researcher. She worked previously as an educator at a school and a manager of different community development projects.

Research Interests: Lara is interested in optimizing the use of social interactive agents in conflict situations. Her primary focus lies in understanding individual differences in human-computer interactions

In the group:  Lara works on creating computational models for socio-emotional interactions in classroom settings. Within the current project, her goal is to support teachers’ self-regulation during a socio-emotion conflict in a classroom. 



Mirella Hladký

Background: Mirella holds a Master’s degree (M.Sc.) in Psychology. She is member of DFKI since 2014. In 2017, Mirella joined the Affective Computing Group as an Assistant Researcher and was promoted to Researcher in 2019. She completed her Master’s thesis in the group in 2022. To fit the interdisciplinary research environment, she studied Computer Science for 5 semesters.  

Research Interests: Emotions, emotion regulation, emotional expressions (especially in interactions with virtual agents), trust in self-driving vehicles, intelligent tutoring systems  

In the group: Mirella’s research focuses on the emotions and social behaviors that humans experience and show when interacting with computers. Her aim is to computationally interpret and model human emotions.
Her expertise lies in the in-depth analysis of human emotions and emotional expressions. She is an advocate for qualitative research methods.  

Links: Mirella’s LinkedIn


Ann-Kristin Thurner

Background: Diploma in Psychology, Psychotherapist (Psychodynamic)

Research Interests: Ann-Kristin is interested in the
relationship between agents and humans and how agents can support in
difficult life situations. 

In the group: Ann-Kristin joint the ACG in 2020,
supporting with her profound knowledge in emotion and emotion regulation
due to her experience in psychotherapeutical practice.


Research Assistants

Eva Katharina Balzert

Background: Bachelor student in Psychology at the University of Trier. Joined the ACG as a research assistant in February 2023.

Research Interests: Emotional expressions, trust in agents and self-driving vehicles, relationship between humans and socially interactive agents, human-agent interaction

In the group: Mainly focusing on the UBIDENZ and EmmI projects, aiding the research process with literature searches, annotating participant videos and assisting with conducting experiments.


Shailesh Mishra 

Background: Master Degree at Saarland University with focus in Graphics, Vision and Machine Learning. Research Assistant since August, 2022.

Research Interest: 2D/3D Animation, Graphics, Generative Modeling

In the Group: Worked exclusively on character animation for the sign language. Why? Simply because it’s fun. No other reasons than that.


Sebastian Beyrodt

Background: B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Stuttgart. Prior research experience in Research & Development on the topic of Human-Robot Interaction and Human-Computer Interaction between 2018 and 2021. Joined the ACG group in March 2022.

Research Interests: Human-Robot Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction, Relationship between Humans and Technology, Emotions and Affect

In the group: Working as research assistant on the MITHOS and MindBot Project



Anna Lea Reinwarth

Background: Bachelor student of Psychology. Prior research experience in social psychology. Joined the ACG as a research assistant in October 2021.

Research interests: Synchrony, accessibility of interactive agents, implications of discriminatory biases in deep learning

In the group: Primarily working on the UBIDENZ and MITHOS projects, helping the research process with literature searches (including research on synchrony, attachment style, trust, and working alliance), assisting with conducting experiments, managing the social media accounts of the group. Tutor for emotion theory and social computing (term 22/23)




Alexandra Alles  

Background:  Master student of Psychology. Working as a research assistant in DFKI since 2017. With a short interruption, she is part of the group since 2018.   

Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction & Human-Agent Interactions and the effects of emotions and trust.   

In the group: Helping in the research process of empirical studies of the affective computing group.    


Daksitha Withanage Don  

Background: Was in the group during his Embedded Systems studies. He joined ACG group in November 2020.  

Research Interests: Multimodal Interaction, Machine Learning for Human computer interaction, Advance driver assistance systems (ADAS).  

In the group: Working with YALLAH platform to develop virtual 3D characters which can virtual interpreters for Sign Language.   


Bernhard Hilpert

Background: Master in Psychology. Bernhard has been a Research Assistant at the Affective Computing Group from 2017 to 2019 and a junior researcher from 2020 to 2022.  

Research Interests: Designing models of Human Affect and Behaviour and researching them in settings of Human Computer Interaction  

In the group: Bernhard researches how virtual
agents influence human perception and affect in interaction situations.
Further, he designs conceptual computational models  for Affect and
Emotion. His responsibilities include experimental design,
operationalization and conduct of studies, literature research for
interaction modeling and taking care of methodology and interpretation
of results.  


Rhythm Arora  

Background: Pursued Masters in Computer Science during her time in the group. Rhythm joined the Affective computing group as a research assistant in 2020.

Research Interests: Human Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence, Software Engineering, Multimodal dialog Interaction.  


Evelyn Beyer

Background:  Pursued Master in Psychology during her time in the group, focusing on industrial & organizational, applied social and clinical psychology.  

Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction
& Human-Agent Interactions and the effects of emotions and trust.
Developing a model for trust in human-agent-interaction, autonomous
drive, virtual jobinterview training   

In the group: Examined shame, shame regulation and
psychological mindedness in her Bachelor’s Thesis. Assisted in several
experiments conducted in the ACG, e.g., on developing a trust model for


Lenny Händler

Background: Bachelor Student in Computer Science, joined the ACG group in 2018.

Research Interests: Modeling interactions with computational systems.

In the group: Worked on the Visual Scene Maker.


Sarah Hoffmann  

Background: B.Sc. in Computer Science, joined the ACG group in 2020.  

Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence

In the group: Extending the Visual SceneMaker tool


Jessica Lackas  

Background: B.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Educational Technology, joined the ACG in 2020.  

Research Interests: Jessica is interested in how socio-cognitive factors and emotion regulation influence individual, as well as, collaborative learning and performance.  

In the group: Working on models of interactions with the aim of inducing a flow state in collaborators.

Matthias Hock

Background: B.Sc. in Computer and Communications Engineering, working toward M.Sc. in Computer Science during his time in the group.

Research Interests: Matthias is interested in artificial intelligence and probabilistic modeling, and applications to emotions.

In the group: Worked on Visual Scene Maker, teaching assitance.

Lydia Rupp

Bachelor’s degree in psychology

Passionate literature analyst and conceptual thinker. Assisted in several experiments conducted in the ACG.


Anke Hirsch

Master’s degree in psychology

Examined the impact of room color and light in virtual environments in her Bachelor Thesis. Studied virtual characters and their personality in her Master Thesis. Worked on several experiments conducted in the ACG making use of her experience as amateur actor. 


Alvaro Cepero

Master’s degree in Computer Science

Made virtual characters and robots more social. Worked on Baxter and  Visual SceneMaker.


Zhenqiang Guo

Master’s degree in Computer Science and Communications Engineering

Worked on the interactions between social agents and humans and the StickmanFX and Reeti agents.


Beka Aptsiauri

Bachelor’s degree in computer science

Created 3D version of Stickman and Virtual Reeti.