MSU's Bethel chosen as Fulbright scholar

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A distinguished faculty member in Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering will advance her research in Australia after being named a Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar.

Cindy Bethel, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will continue researching therapeutic robots at the University of Technology Sydney during the 2018-19 academic year.

Bethel, who holds the Billie J. Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering, is well known in her field for the robotic and therapeutic beagle puppy she created, Therabot.

Cindy Bethel, an associate professor in Mississippi State’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will continue her research with Therabot in Australia as a Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

In Australia, Bethel will collaborate with researchers in the University of Technology Sydney’s Magic Lab for Social Robotics to improve the design and function of Therabot and test its effectiveness. Bethel and her team are working to develop a robotic therapy support system, which includes providing a small robotic dog to individuals undergoing therapy, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorders.

“The Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar Award is a prestigious award that will help me fulfill a lifelong dream of performing research abroad in an area that I hope will make an impact and allow me to perform outreach to under-represented groups in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” Bethel said. “I have always dreamed of spending extended time in Australia, and this award is allowing me this opportunity. It is also my hope that I will be able to perform outreach activities with the Aboriginal people of Australia.”

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the international community. Through the Fulbright program and other international initiatives, MSU regularly sends faculty members around the globe to foster the institution’s land-grant missions of learning, research and service.

During her time in Australia, Bethel will test the effectiveness of two therapeutic dogs – one that is a stuffed plush dog and another that has more life-like movements and is robotic. The research project involves using a forensic interview approach to ask participants about their experiences with stress and anxiety. The project is a continuation of research that has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

At MSU, Bethel is the director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab. She also is a research fellow with the university’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and the Social Science Research Center. For more, see or

For more on Therabot, visit or

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Friday, March 23, 2018 - 8:25 am