fortiss scientist Cara Storath

Scientists in focus

Cara examines the requirements and potential related to interaction between humans and machines.

Can you provide some insight into your activities at fortiss? What are you involved in?

I’m a research associate in the Human-centered Engineering field of competence. We’re involved with the interface between humans and computers – or machines. On the one hand that means we try to understand the requirements of humans, while on the other developing the technologies so that they also satisfy these requirements. In this case “human-centered” means that we begin the development process with humans and continuously analyze the solutions with users as well. This is in contrast to the still-frequent and unfortunate practice of developing technologies first and then thinking about whether there is a meaningful application or if the technologies function under real conditions at all.

What is your research focus?

I focus primarily on the interaction between human and artificial intelligence (AI). In other words, how can we shape AI so that it functions for humans and so that humans feel comfortable with it. The problem with AI is that it is frequently based on so-called “black box algorithms” – in other words, you can no longer understand the decisions being made. Of course that makes it difficult to trust AI, plus it harbors safety risks if, for instance, you have to assess whether AI made an error or guess which assumptions the decisions were based on.

When did you acquire an interest in programming? What do you find exciting about it?

I enjoyed informatics classes in high school from the very beginning and that’s why I also decided to study media informatics in college. For me however, programming was more of a means to an end and what I really found cool was all of the things you could do with it. I was never the kind of person who spends their leisure time programming things like apps. I preferred to spend my time on design. With the field of human-computer interaction, I’m fortunate to be able to combine both. 

“A lot of different fields of research, as well as research and industry, come together at fortiss. That makes it really exciting.”

fortiss scientist Cara Storath

How did fortiss come to your attention?

I played around with the thought of returning to research and then simply looked around at what was available in my field in Munich. I found the actual job advertisement through a normal job portal.

What does the work environment at fortiss offer you?

A lot of different fields of research, as well as research and industry, come together at fortiss. That makes it really exciting. Most of all I value the freedom to realize the projects the way I imagine them. You can also work on your doctorate here, but at the same time still gain practical experience with industry.

My coworkers are extremely helpful and nice. During corona it was a bit difficult to establish personal contact. Meanwhile, everyone is at the office more often and smaller events help you to get to know others.

“Most of all I value the freedom to realize the projects the way I imagine them.”

What motivates you with your work? Where would you like to see your research results applied?

I really enjoy getting to the bottom of things and I’m happy whenever I can contribute something to the current state of knowledge. I also find my field of work really exciting.

Basically I hope to be able to contribute my small part in placing humans more at the center of AI development instead of the algorithm. Given that I’m still at the very beginning though, I have yet to decide on a specific direction.

What advantages of working at fortiss would you point out to job applicants?

If you want to conduct research and perhaps pursue a doctorate as well, but still gain practical industry experience, then fortiss offers a good middle ground between both. You have a strong connection to the universities and a very scientific environment on the one side, but you still work with industry partners on concrete projects and sometimes you see your work quickly applied. This is a very rare and valuable combination.