Hi, I'm Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Kory-Westlund standing smiling arms folded in front of trees

I am an author, scholar, and artist.

I have a multidisciplinary background with expertise in education, psychology, cognitive science, computer science, ethics, and robotics. I hold a PhD and MS in Media Arts & Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, and a BA in Cognitive Science from Vassar College. I am a research scholar with the Ronin Institute. I've worked for NASA, done voice acting for robots, designed graphics for software startups, and created playful language learning interventions for preschoolers.

Watch my TEDx talk: Kids can't be taught, but they love to learn!

Tech, Learning, and Design Consulting

My specialty is being able to talk and work across disciplines—I build bridges. I am available for consulting on a range of topics—writing & editing, technical work, speaking, and design.

Get in touch.

Book: Grad School Life

My book is available now! You can preorder from Columbia University Press here: Grad School Life: Surviving and Thriving Beyond Coursework and Research Or check with your favorite book retailer!

book cover for Grad School Life: Surviving and Thriving Beyond Coursework and Research by Jacqueline M. Kory-Westlund. It shows a piles of papers behind the title, with a small potted plant on top of one stack, and the bottom half of the page covered in blue as if underwater


Grad school isn’t easy. It’s even less easy when you’re also managing a second job, a family, or depression—or when you are a first-generation student, or if you come from an underrepresented group or a lower socioeconomic-status background. Grad students are overworked, overstressed, and over it.

Most grad school advice books focus on the professional side: finding funding, managing research and teaching, and applying for academic jobs. But students today face a difficult job market. Only a handful will obtain coveted tenure-track professorships, so they need alternative career prep. Plus, grad school is only one part of your life. And with an average age of 33 years, today’s students are juggling far more than school.

That’s where this book comes in. It will help you keep up a personal life, make the most of your time, and prepare for your career—whether in academia or beyond. This pragmatic book explains how to persevere through the grad school long haul, covering challenges both on and off campus. It shares candid, specific advice on personal finances, mental health, setting your own learning and career goals, maintaining friendships and relationships, and more.

Peppy, sensible, and smart, Grad School Life points out the pitfalls of academia and helps you build the life you want. With fresh insights, concrete suggestions and exercises, and helpful lists of resources, this book gives grad students a new roadmap for not only surviving but thriving—both in school and in the real world.

My Research

I completed my PhD at the MIT Media Lab in the Personal Robots Group under Dr. Cynthia Breazeal in 2019. I was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a Media Lab Learning Innovation Fellowship to support my research at the Media Lab.

Jacqueline Kory-Westlund in a red dress holding a red and blue striped robot and smiling

My research has centered on human-robot interaction (HRI), educational technology, and young children's learning. For example, I have explored how social robots can be used to engage and support children in learning, how to create more effective robotic learning companions (e.g., with relational AI), how children understand and empathize with social robots, what long-term interactions with robots are like, and the ethics of using social robots in children's lives. I am interested in how technology is used in the "real world" to facilitate learning (as opposed to during experimental studies under the supervision of researchers), especially by different populations (e.g., by families and homeschoolers vs. in schools). I am intrigued by the connections between people's relationships and their learning, and how technology can be used to encourage human flourishing.

Motivating my work are broader questions about the nature of personal identity, how people understand and perceive others, and the importance of empathy, relationships, and social-emotional skills in learning.

Read about my research on social robots for kids, my experiences in grad school, or news about my work.


Writing & Editing

I write books, papers, essays, blog posts, and more. I specialize in helping clients hone their messages and share their stories in clear, concise language.

Contact me about:

  • Grant writing
  • Technical writing
  • Proposal development
  • Science communication
  • Professional writing support and editing for academic professionals
  • College, graduate school, fellowship, and scholarship application essays
a pen laying on a lined notepad, ready for use

Technical Consulting

I have extensive experience performing interaction design and evaluating user experience across a range of technology—including websites, apps, games, and robots—using both quantitative and qualitative methods and data analysis. I'm most excited about interactive projects, technology for children, and people's relationships with their technology. My expertise includes:

  • Human-robot interaction
  • Interaction design
  • Relational and humanistic AI
  • Story, character, and dialogue
  • Wireframing and mockups
  • Project management
  • Feedback and evaluation methods
  • Questionnaire and survey design

In prior work, for example, I've built relational AI systems for social robots, developed playful language learning games, designed months-long technology-based interventions for kids, created new assessments for understanding how children relate to robots, and helped think tanks assess how they use technology for learning.

a young girl hugging a fluffy dragon robot behind a little play table


I am available to speak at conferences, business events, and other venues. I am happy to speak on topics including:


  • Human-robot interaction
  • Children and robots
  • Social robots and gender
  • Learning with technology
  • Learning and relationships
  • Creative learning

Graduate school:

  • What you need to know if you're considering a PhD
  • Making the most of your PhD
  • Project management in graduate school
  • Parenting in graduate school
  • How to thrive in grad school, both personally and professionally
  • How to prepare for a post-ac/alt-ac career


  • Lifelong learning
  • Homeschooling as a child and as a parent
  • Life planning for creative individuals

Watch my TEDx talk: Kids can't be taught, but they love to learn!

Jacqueline speaking at TEDxCdA

Art & Design

I am well-versed in graphic design, interaction design, and marketing. I create work with a variety of media, including acrylics, watercolor, vector graphics, photography, and textiles.

My past work includes creating marketing materials and advertisements for small businesses and political campaigns, and building a variety of educational tablet apps for children. (Read about the storytelling and language learning games I created for use with a social robot.)

Contact me about:

  • Photography
  • Graphics for apps and games
  • Custom graphics and logos
  • Graphic design
line drawing of birch trees on paper