Longtime psychology professor studies interactions between humans and robots

Donald Loffredo, a psychology professor at the University of Houston-Victoria for the past 21 years, said he became attracted to psychology because of his desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

Donald Loffredo

“I chose psychology as a field of study because I really wanted to help other people deal with life,” Loffredo said. “At the end of each semester, I hope students walk away with a clearer understanding of themselves and other people.”

His work in the field includes more than 30 publications in scientific psychology, communication and computer science. He has conducted research in computer gaming, multicultural psychology, personality and HIV/AIDS.

In 2015, UHV received a $191,567 grant from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army to conduct research in Immersive Virtual Reality with Applications to Teleoperation and Training through the UHV Computation & Advanced Visualization Engineering lab. The grant is funding a research project studying the interactions between humans and robots.

Loffredo is working on the project with Alireza Tavakkoli, director of the UHV digital gaming and simulation program, and Li Chao, chair of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences Science, Technology and Mathematics Division. Loffredo’s role is focusing on designing the processes of the research and analyzing data on the interactions between humans and robots. He predicts robots will play an important role in the everyday lives of humans within the next ten years.

“Robots will be used to assist the elderly and others with special needs,” he said.

Of all the projects Loffredo has worked on as a UHV professor, the Department of Defense and the U.S Army grant research project is the one he is the proudest of, he said.

Over time, the medium through which psychology courses are taught has increasingly gone from face to face to online, Loffredo said.

“Online classes help more students attend college, particularly those who work full-time jobs,” he said.

Prior to teaching in Victoria, Loffredo taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, Houston Community College and North Harris County Community College. Loffredo said he was attracted to working at UHV because of its small size.

The number of UHV students have tripled and two new buildings have been added to the Victoria campus since Loffredo began working for UHV in 1995. The future of Victoria is interconnected with the growth of the campus, Loffredo said.

As a Rhode Island native, Loffredo said there was some initial culture shock after moving to South Texas. He was struck especially by “how friendly and polite people are in Texas,” he said. “The biggest shock was the extremely hot weather.”

After he retires from his career in higher education, Loffredo said he has aspirations for producing work for the silver screen. His favorite film genres are drama and suspense.

“I would like to be a screenwriter and a producer,” he said.

Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s three schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Jeremy Shapiro, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.