Team Members

Rachael E. Jack, Lab Director, Professor

Lab Director and PI of the program  ‘Computing the Face Syntax of Social Communication’ funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 759796). 

Rachael E. Jack is Professor of Computational Social Cognition in the School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of Glasgow. Jack’s work has produced significant advances in understanding facial expression of emotion within and across cultures using a novel interdisciplinary approach that combines psychophysics, social psychology, dynamic 3D computer graphics, and computational modelling. Most notably, Jack’s work has revealed cultural specificities in facial expressions of emotion; that four, not six, expressive patterns are common across cultures; and that facial expressions transmit information in a hierarchical structure over time. Together, Jack’s research has challenged the dominant view that six basic facial expressions of emotion are universal, leading to a new theoretical framework of facial expression communication that her lab is now transferring to digital agents to synthesize culturally sensitive social avatars and robots.

Jack’s work has featured in several high-profile scientific outlets (e.g., Annual Review of Psychology, Current Biology, Psychological Science, PNAS, TICS) and is currently funded by the European Research Council (ERC) to lead the research program Computing the Face Syntax of Social Face Signals, which will deliver a formal model of human social face signalling with transference to social robotics. Jack has been funded previously by the ESRC Future Research Leaders award, ESRC Open Research Area, and British Academy.

Jack is recipient of the American Psychological Association (APA) New Investigator award, the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society (SANS) Innovation award, the British Psychological Society (BPS) Spearman Medal, Association for Psychological Science (APS) Rising Star award, and International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE) Young Researcher Spotlight.

Jack is also Associate Editor at Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,  Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Affective Science and is on the Editorial Boards of Emotion, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, and Behavior Research Methods. Jack  serves several roles on the committees/boards for the conferences of the Society for Affective Sciences, IEEE Automatic Face & Gesture Recognition, ACM Intelligent Virtual Agents, and the Vision Science Society. Jack is also Secretary of Association for Psychological Science (APS), Chair of the APS Globalization Committee, and panel member for ERC Advanced Grants.

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Chaona Chen, Leverhulme Research Fellow

Chaona Chen is a Leverhulme Research Fellow to lead the program  ‘Equipping artificial agents psychologically-derived dynamic facial expressions.’ She uses the method of social psychophysics to understand how facial expressions are used in daily conversation and to develop facial expressions for social robots to improve human-robot interactions. Chaona graduated from University of Glasgow with a Ph.D. titled ‘The Dual Role of Culture on Signalling and Receiving Dynamic Facial Expressions’ in 2017. Before that, she studied Psychology and Philosophy in Wuhan University in China and graduated with a B.Sc. in Psychology (First Class) in 2013.


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Jonas Nölle, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Jonas Nölle is a postdoctoral researcher on the FaceSyntax project. He received his PhD from the Centre for Language Evolution in Edinburgh and previously studied linguistics and psychology in Berlin and Cognitive Semiotics at Aarhus University, where he was also involved in projects at the Interacting Minds Centre. His research interests include human
meaning-making in interaction, social cognition and cultural evolution. In the context of Face Syntax, he specifically investigates how facial expressions interact with other modalities such as speech in multimodal interactions. He also co-founded the MOSAIC group at UoG that provides a transdisciplinary platform for researchers from multiple fields who are interested in human interaction and multimodal signalling.

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Twitter: @jonasnoelle

Tobias Thejll-Madsen, Ph.D. student

Tobias is a Ph.D student with the Centre for Doctoral Training in Socially Intelligent Artificial Agents, where he works with Prof Rachael Jack and Prof Stacy Marsella.  His research focuses on variance within facial expressions of emotions with a goal to develop a generative model of face signals for digitals agents that is perceptually, culturally, and contextually valid. He has a broad interest in computational social cognition.  Previously, he graduated with an MA in Psychology and a MSc in Human Cognitive Neuropsychology from the University of Edinburgh.

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Valentina Gosetti, Ph.D. student

Valentina Gosetti is a  Ph.D. student at the University of Glasgow’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research focuses on understanding whether, when, and how the dimensions of face shape, complexion and movements interact to shape and nuance social perception. She is also interested in how social group membership (e.g., gender, culture, race) affects social face perception. She previously graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology (First Class) from the University of the West of Scotland and an M.Sc. in Research Methods of Psychological Science (Distinction) from the University of Glasgow.

Twitter: @valgosetti

Shaul Ashkenazi, Ph.D. student

Shaul Ashkenazi is a Ph.D. student with the Centre for Doctoral Training in Socially Intelligent Artificial Agents (SOCIAL AI CDT) at the University of Glasgow. He conducts his research under the joint supervision of Prof. Rachael Jack and Prof. Gabriel Skantze from KTH, Stockholm. His research is concerned with modelling conversational facial signals for culturally sensitive artificial agents. Shaul has a vast technological background, having worked in the hi-tech industry for more than a decade as both a software developer and an ML researcher. He earned his M.A. in Linguistics from Tel Aviv University in 2021 where, together with advisors from the University of Edinburgh, he explored recovery strategies in dialogue with senior adults. Before that, he earned his B.Sc. in Computer Science from the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo in 2014.


Monica Duta, Ph.D. student

Monica Duta is a PhD student with the Centre for Doctoral Training in Socially Intelligent Artificial Agents at the University of Glasgow, where she works on a project supervised by Prof. Rachael Jack and Dr Marwa Mahmoud. Her research interests concern multimodal facial expression signal processing, specifically the perception of hand-over-face gestures (combination of face and hand gestures). She has previously worked in projects involving the use of prediction in emotion recognition and data-driven models of valued facial expressions in different cultures. Monica has previously graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology (First Class) from the University of Aberdeen. She has also completed her M.Sc. in Research Methods in Psychological Science (Distinction) from the University of Glasgow.


Yichen Wu, Ph.D. student

Yichen Wu is a Ph.D. student at the University of Glasgow’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience. His research interest lie in how facial expressions can have a role in multimodal communication and facial expression/perception in general. Previously, he graduated with an M.Sc. in Applied Psychology from the Chinese University of Hongkong, Shenzhen and an M.Sc. in Psychology (by research) from the University of Glasgow. He likes singing, hiking, humans, all animals, all non-animals and the world!


Max Christou, Ph.D. student

Max is a Ph.D. student at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Socially Intelligent Artificial Agents following his Psychology with Neuroscience BSc at the University of Glasgow. Previously, Max worked alongside the FaceSyntax lab to develop explainable facial expression models, helped by his background in mathematics and statistics. His interests lie in integrating state-of-the-art computational methods, such as self-supervised learning, with contemporary psychological theory and the cutting edge research conducted within the lab. A key component of Max’s research is mitigating the range of cultural biases introduced in machine learning, under the supervision of Prof Rachael Jack and Dr Tanaya Guha.

Previous Team Members

Thora Bjornsdottir, Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Thora worked on the ERC-funded Face Syntax research program from 2019 to 2020. Her research focuses on how social group memberships (such as social class, sexual orientation, culture, and nationality) affect social perception, investigating how our faces reflect our social identities and experiences, how our group memberships impact our perceptions of others, and how we mentally represent members of various social groups. She received her Ph.D. in 2019 from the University of Toronto, where she received her MA in Psychology in 2015. She received her BA in Psychology (magna cum laude) and German (summa cum laude) from Cornell University in 2014. Thora is now Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at Royal Holloway University, London, UK. 



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Tommaso Querci, Ph.D. student

His research interests lie in understanding how humans perceive emotions from facial movements and in designing facial expressions for virtual agents and social robots. He graduated with a B.Sc. in Social Psychology at University of Padova in 2017, and completed his M.Sc. in Research Methods in Psychology (Distinction) at the University of Glasgow in 2018. Tommaso is now Co-founder & CEO at IMMERGO, Virtual Reality.  

Dr Meng Liu, Ph.D. student (Graduated 2021)

A newbie of nearly everything, a fan of movies and a learner of Matlab. Also a writer in Doban.

Research Interests: Dynamic facial expressions, social robots, cross-cultural communication.

Abigail L M Webb, Postdotoral Research Associate

Abigail joined the Face Syntax Project in October 2021 until April 2022. Previously, Abigail was a recipient of the Economic and Social Research Council’s postdoctoral fellowship, after completing her Ph. D. in 2018 at the University of Essex. Her research explores human facial emotion perception, with a particular focus on visual and perceptual biases during facial emotion processing, and the potential influence of image-related effects. 


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Laura B. Hensel, Ph.D. student (Graduated 2022)

Laura B. Hensel is a recent Ph.D. graduate in the School of Psychology & Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests lie in determining how we perceive different personality dimensions from dynamic facial expressions and to use this information to improve Human-Computer interaction. In 2017, Laura graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology (First Class) and in 2018, she completed her M.Sc. in Research Methods in Psychology (Distinction) from the University of Glasgow.