Selma Sabanovic

Assistant Professor, School of Informatics and Computing

At an early age, Selma Sabanovic, assistant professor in the School of Informatics and Computing, was introduced to the world of technology. Both her parents held research and academia positions in electrical engineering. Sabanovic, as a young girl, would regularly accompany her parents to the lab. Although her parents hoped that she would study engineering, Sabanovic took a route of her own.

Sabanovic obtained a master’s degree in political science and international relations from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. While studying political science, Sabanovic was intrigued with the emerging technological issues in society.

“I realized that my early introduction to technology had left me with many unanswered questions,” Sabanovic stated.

However, she was unable to find theoretical space in political science to study her technical questions. Sabanovic’s desire to bridge her background in technology and social science led her to gain a doctorate’s degree in science and technology studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her current research focuses on developing an understanding of the different social and cultural contexts that influence human robot interaction (HCI) and social robot design.

“I want to understand the social perspective of robotics and how peoples’ interpretations of technology affect how robots are designed and used,” Sabanovic stated.

Identifying societal perceptions of robots allows Sabanovic to discover practical applications for robots. To further explore robotics, Sabanovic is part of a collaboration funded by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society to collect oral histories of pioneering robotics researchers.

“We want to put a human face on robotics which will allow people to gain a better perspective of the social aspects of technology and science,” Sabanovic said.

As Sabanovic endeavors to understand the development of this interdisciplinary field, she inadvertently stands as one of the female pioneers in technology. She understands the importance of increasing female participation in technology and questions how she can help correct the situation.

“It’s not just getting women to understand they’re capable to enter technical fields, but fixing biases that discourage women from entering,” Sabanovic stated.

Although Sabanovic strayed from technology as an adolescent, she now finds herself in a position to make a positive difference not only in robotics, but on a wider scale.

View Sabanovic's website here »