Case study: Cristina Denk-Florea

Cristina is a second year PhD student at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research is funded by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS), an Economic and Social Research Council-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). She focuses on evaluating and developing methods aimed to reduce the emotional impact of being exposed to distressing imagery. The need to develop these methods is mainly relevant for professionals working in areas such as law enforcement and the military whose psychological wellbeing was shown to be affected by exposure to distressing imagery. For example, the frequency of exposure to this type of imagery has been found to be a strong predictor of symptoms similar to those experienced by people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Considering the devastating impact of exposure to distressing imagery, AI could be used to either augment or possibly replace the need for humans to examine this type of imagery. For example, algorithms identifying specific imagery features may be used to collect information about imagery content that is nowadays collected by humans. Alternatively, if human exposure to distressing imagery is still necessary, these algorithms could be used to assess the severity of the imagery a person will see and automatically trigger emotion regulation techniques to be implemented by the viewer.

“The Doctoral Training Partnership has provided me with the opportunity to work with the industry, my research being carried out in collaboration with organisations such as the National Crime Agency, the Home Office and Qumodo - a company focused on developing AI products. This access to external agencies enables me to create a direct connection between my research and its possible impact on the industry, allowing me to adapt my research aims accordingly.

“This doctoral training allows me to pursue internships at one of my industrial collaborators, Qumodo. The first internship with them was for me one of the stepping stones on the path of understanding the development and implementation of artificial intelligence systems. I also started developing my programming skills with the support of Qumodo’s employees. In addition, I am embedded in the larger SGSSS cohort and benefit from everything that this DTP offers in terms of student led symposia, summer schools and advanced social sciences methods training. The HUB festivals that SGSSS offers are further aimed at improving mental health and facilitate discussions of equality, diversity and inclusion issues.

“My training allows me to acquire skills highly desirable in both academic and industrial settings, giving me flexibility in the career path I will choose to pursue at the end of the PhD.

“I believe the activities undertaken within the UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in AI will lead to a more effective translation of research findings from academia to the industry. There will be new centres of excellence training a cohort of 1,000 AI students who will drive future AI application and innovation both nationally and internationally.”