Computer Science PhD Ameneh Shamekhi’s research takes place at the promising intersection of Human-AI collaboration and natural language processing. Shamekhi investigates the design and development of AI agents that can collaborate with people, augment their capabilities, and facilitate their tasks in various contexts such as decision-making, healthcare and work environments.
A native of Tehran, Iran, Shamekhi is pursuing a doctorate in computer science, focusing on human-computer interaction. An integral part of her research has been focused on conversational agents — software programs that talk with humans for a variety of purposes. Shamekhi and the lab where she works, the Relational Agents Group, develop conversational agents for the healthcare field that educate, promote behavioral change, and act as companions for patients. One agent, for example, chats with hospitalized patients to help keep loneliness at bay while also monitoring their symptoms. Another is designed to guide people with chronic pain and depression through a breathing meditation session.
During her time at Northeastern, Shamekhi researched various aspects of conversational agents while interning at Microsoft and IBM, and a pilot project she worked on at IBM led to her dissertation topic: “Designing conversational agents for small group decision-making facilitation.” Her virtual facilitator expertly leads a small group through a hiring decision — without the implicit bias and other disadvantages human facilitators bring to the table — and could be used for many types of decisions. After graduation, she hopes to continue working at the cutting edge of conversational agent research.