HCRI Staff

Administrative Staff

Michael Littman :: Co-Director

Michael is the Co-Director of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative. He works in reinforcement learning, but has done work in machine learning, game theory, computer networking, partially observable Markov decision process solving, computer solving of analogy problems and other areas.

Littman received his Ph.D. in computer science from Brown University in 1996. From 1996-1999, he was a professor at Duke University. From 2000-2002, he worked at AT&T. From 2002-2012, he was a professor at Rutgers University; he chaired the department from 2009-12. In Summer 2012, he returned to Brown University as a full professor.

Bertram Malle :: Co-Director

Bertram is the Co-Director of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative. In his research, Dr. Malle focuses on social and moral cognition, examining such issues as intentionality judgments, mental state inferences, behavior explanations, and blame and guilt. He uses a wide variety of methodologies, including text content analysis, observations of social interaction, eye tracking, and reaction times. Recently he has begun to examine how social and moral cognition can be realized in a robotic system, and how humans interact with such robots.

Bertram studied psychology, philosophy, and linguistics at the University of Graz. After receiving his Master’s degrees in psychology and philosophy, Malle received his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1995, and joined the faculty of the University of Oregon the same year. During his tenure at the University of Oregon, Dr. Malle also served as the Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences (2001-2007). He became Professor of Psychology in 2007, and in 2008 he joined Brown University.

Peter Haas :: Associate Director

Peter is the Associate Director of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative. He was the Co-Founder and COO of XactSense, a UAV manufacturer working on LIDAR mapping and autonomous navigation. Prior to XactSense, Peter founded AIDG – a small hardware enterprise accelerator in emerging markets. Peter received both TED and Echoing Green fellowships. He has been a speaker at TED Global, The World Bank, Harvard University and other venues. He holds a Philosophy B.A. from Yale.

Ian Gonsher :: Design Instructor

Ian Gonsher is an artist, designer, and educator. He is on the faculty in the School of Engineering at Brown University, where his teaching and research focus on design process and creative practice. He is also the co-founder of the Brown Design Workshop, Brown STEAM, the Creative Scholars Project, the Brown Creative Mind Initiative, and Critical Design/Critical Futures.  He holds a BFA in Industrial Design and Art History from the University of Kansas, as well as a MFA in Furniture Design.

Suzanne Alden :: Grants Manager

Suzanne has been with Brown University since 2010, initially coordinating grants for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, then transitioning in 2013 to the Department of Computer Science, where she serves a dual role as Finance and Grants Manager, and administrative coordinator of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative (HCRI). Prior to her work at Brown, Suzanne spent ten years as a development officer and grant writer for Rhode Island-based nonprofit organizations, raising millions of dollars for a wide range of causes, including health, housing, education, and the environment. She has a master’s degree in accounting and earned the CFRE fundraising credential in 2010.



Elizabeth Phillips

Elizabeth “Beth” Phillips earned her Ph.D. in 2016 in Applied Experimental and Human Factors Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Prior to joining the HCRI, she worked with the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, a multidisciplinary research consortium working towards the development of future human-robot teams. Beth has an interest in how robots and other technologies are changing the way we interact with the world and one another, including the role that robots will play in providing companionship for humans in the near future. Her research focuses on the application of psychological principles to support the development of robotic systems that can work as partners, assistants, and companions for people.

Maartje de Graaf

Maartje is a social scientist in the multi-disciplinary field of human-robot interaction. Her research is motivated by her intrinsic drive to understand human behavior and its underlying psychological and cognitive processes. Her past research indicates a strong impact of human-robot relationships in the emergence of long-term acceptance of socially interactive technologies. Envisioning a future in which the social abilities of robots can only increase, her research interest focuses on the social, emotional and cognitive responses from users to robots including the societal and ethical consequences of those responses. The end goal is to influence technology design and policy direction to pursue the development of responsible robots.

She has joined Brown’s Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative with a Rubicon grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The research project aims to investigate the underlying psychological and cognitive processes of how people explain both human and robot behavior.

Before starting at Brown University, Maartje was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Communication Science at the University of Twente, The Netherlands. Maartje has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Communication Management (2005), a Master of Science in Communication Studies (2011), and a PhD in Human-Robot Interaction (2015). Personal website: https://robonarratives.wordpress.com/