The human factor – Prof. Dr. Sabrina Eimler on the role of psychology in computer science

What motivates women to do research? How do you experience working as a scientist? And what advice would you give to young girls who are interested in MINT? zdi.NRW answers these questions during the zdi heroines October by presenting researchers from NRW who can serve as role models for others. 

In an interview today: Prof. Dr. Sabrina Eimler. She teaches Human Factors and Gender Studies at the Institutes of Computer Science and Positive Computing at the Ruhr West University, organizes courses there every year for Girls Day and told us how she ended up as a psychologist in the STEM field. We also learned from her what her favorite research project has been and what tips she has for young female scientists. 

Professor Eimler, SYou have a doctorate in media and social psychology, but teach at the Computer Science Institute of the Ruhr University West. At first glance this seems contradictory. How did that happen? 

I slipped into the field of computer science more or less by accident. Because I didn't want to commit myself to one area, I studied applied communication and media sciences at the University of Duisburg-studied food. This was one of the first interdisciplinary courses to combine psychology, computer science and media technology. It was there that I dealt intensively with computer science for the first time. At my former school, there was no computer science subject at all. I then did my doctorate in the field of media and social psychology, but I was always surrounded by MINT. At the University of Duisburg-Essen, psychology is part of the engineering sciences. That's why I was in constant contact with people who work interdisciplinary and have a very strong technical focus. Psychology and computer science have many interfaces. Wherever people interact with technology, psychology also plays a role. This combination fascinated me. 

An IFrom their enthusiasm one can guess that exactly this interface Ihas become your research area. Are we correct? 

Exactly, iI have two major research areas: Human factors and gender studies. 

This means that I look at how the interaction between people and technology can be positively designed - whether autonomous driving, virtual reality, Social  Media or interaction with robots. The main question here is: What do these devices have to be able to do so that people can use them well and feel comfortable with the devices? And what role do psychological factors play in the interaction? 

My other area of ​​research is about the question: What role does gender play in the use of technology? And how can you see girls and women who consider themselves less tech-savvy - although they have potential - enthusiastic about computer science? This is how it works in area Vvirtual reality (vR) there is a big difference between creating an industrial robot and an art gallery virtually. If girls and women can live out their interests through computer science, it motivates them to deal with the technical side as well. 

Now that we have a brief look at IIf you have received your research area, we are of course interested in whether you have a favorite research project? 

That's a really difficult question – I actually like all my research projects. 

In one of my projects develop we have a virtual companion for children and young people who, with the help of artificial intelligence, can recognize where hate, bullying, prejudice and fake news originate on the Internet. This companion could later be used primarily in social media. If I write, for example on Facebook, "I hate XY.", this companion would jump in and highlight certain words. He then asks if I really want to send this message and point out that I could hurt other people with it. We are aware that we cannot censor hate on the internet. That's why we bet the people and examine how we can motivate people, not engaging in such behavior and understanding why the behavior is harmful.  

In the other project, which I find super exciting, we created a "factory of the future" in virtual reality. There you can collaborate with a robotic arm, that of an artificial intelligence (AI) is controlled. This makes it possible to experience what it could be like to interact with an AI in the future. Here, too, we are researching the psychological aspect: How does the robot have to behave so that people enjoy working with it? After all, people should feel good and not get the feeling, to be superfluous. We found out that communication between man and machine is of fundamental importance. Does the robot do its Work, without e.g. B. displaying what he is currently doing on a screen unsettles the human colleagues*Interior. However, if the robot communicates its next work steps, people are less stressed and can complete their own tasks more effectively.  

Beide Pprojects are good examples Therefore, like Research can positively change the future. Was that too Ihre Motivation to do research in the STEM field after your doctorate? 

I was already aware back then: MINT will be our future shape. i war never the pure computer scientist who programs, but I wanted to At least always understand MINT to the extent that I influence my own futuresen can. I wanted to get involved in order to later live in a future that I helped create and not in one that given to me by others.  

Prof. Dr. Eimler in exchange with students. (Photo: HRW, Henning:Photography)

That is also the goal of my research: to enable people to take part in these important discussions in the field of digitization. In order for this to succeed, we not only have to pay attention to the scientific aspect when developing new technologies, but also always consider the human factor. What does this technology bring us? What social changes does this technical development bring with it? Is it fair or does it exclude people? After all, everyone should feel comfortable in this digital future. 

They've been campaigning for this for years, get more women excited about the MINT field. What would you   MINT-interested young woman along the way, who may still be unsure whether MINT Ris important to her? 

Get in touch, there are so many great initiatives and opportunities! It's perfectly okay if you don't "pure" want to become a physicist or computer scientist. MINT not only needs the nerds who tinker and develop. MINT also needs those who keep track of what the scientific developments with our society and individual individuals. What opportunities do they offer and how can we use them to positively shape the future? 

Network with like-minded people and talk to people from all kinds of disciplines, because the world is not disciplinary. Since STEM is unfortunately still a male-dominated field, will her for surelich also Dexperience discrimination. Don't let that get you down, hages through. Since uncomfortable. you have one vote, use them. It's your future too. Help shape it and don't leave it to others! 

There is more information on the "Virtual Companion" project in which Prof. Eimler is involved here .

Here it goes to the website of the Institute for Computer Science at the Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences.

More information about the zdi heroines October 2020 is available here .

You might also be interested in these posts

The photo shows a boy wearing VR glasses. He is standing in front of a futuristic looking lamp.

General, Vocational Training, girls promotion

zdi.NRW at the future day in the state parliament

Pupils at the zdi girls camp

girls promotion

6 tips for STEM girls work...

The photo shows the participants in the panel discussion. They stand side by side in a row and smile at the camera.

girls promotion

"Electrical engineering instead of Bibi's Beauty Palace"