Photograph of Elaine Schaertl Short

Elaine Schaertl Short

Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor
Assistive Agent Behavior and Learning (AABL) Lab
Departments of Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering
Tufts University

Research Interests

My work lies at the intersection of assistive technology and social robotics (including socially assistive robotics), developing robots that can support people, especially children, older adults, and people with disabilities, in achieving their goals. A key focus of this work is understanding the user as embedded in a social and environmental context, developing algorithms that can learn from, interact with, and provide assistance to such users in real-world environments such as schools, hospitals, and public spaces.

Lab Website Google Scholar Page CV (pdf)

A closeup of the short grey robot Moe using one arm to pick up a block from a table.

Integrating Task and Social Behavior in Time

Social interaction increases the importance of timing, since small changes can have social meaning (e.g., synchronization both results from and reinforces rapport). A core algorithmic challenge I address in my work is how to integrate socially appropriate behavior into temporal models for planning and control algorithms.

A group of people talk to each other and to the small fuzzy robot named Chili.

Efficient Interaction with Groups and Crowds

My work allows robots to influence, understand, and learn from people in groups, while making minimal assumptions about the specifics of their behavior. My goal is to enable robots to appropriately interact with and learn from people in public spaces, with learning algorithms that appropriately integrate information from diverse users and control algorithms that appropriately respond to human behavior in noisy environments.

The small fuzzy robot Chili sits on a table among various food items, playing with a young girl of about five years of age.

Understanding Robot Agency

Agency is the degree to which something or someone can be considered to have free will and autonomy. A robot's appearance of agency depends on both its behavior and the specific person with whom it is interacting. My work in this area contributed to our understanding of how a robot can predict and influence people's perceptions of its agency.


Elaine Schaertl Short is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Tufts University. She completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Maja Matarić in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California (USC). She received her MS in Computer Science from USC in 2012 and her BS in Computer Science from Yale University in 2010. From 2017-2019 she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Socially Intelligent Machines Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Elaine is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, USC Provost’s Fellowship, and a Google Anita Borg Scholarship. At USC, she was recognized for excellence in research, teaching, and service: she was awarded the Viterbi School of Engineering Merit Award and the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Merit Award for Current Doctoral Students, as well as the Best Research Assistant Award, Best Teaching Assistant Award, and Service Award from the Department of Computer Science. At Yale she was the recipient of the Saybrook College Mary Casner Prize. Her research focuses on building algorithms that enable fast, efficient assistive human-robot interaction in schools, homes, crowds and other natural environments.

CV (pdf)


Email is best.

Elaine Schaertl Short
c/o ECE Department
2501 Speedway
EER 6.804, C0806
Austin, TX 78712