Gabriela Villalobos-Zúñiga

Gabriela Villalobos-Zúñiga | Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

PhD Reseracher in Human-Computer Interaction & Persuasive Technology

I create persuasive tech. My goal is to understand what motivates individuals to chase their objectives. Particularly, I support people to improve or change their behavior with temporary technology support. Health, Physical Activity, and Wellbeing are my focus fields. My research lies in the intersection between behavior change, human-computer interaction, psychology and software development.

I enjoy creating software, sharing knowledge and training and leading people. These activities were my routine while working back in Costa Rica -my fascinating home country.

In my PhD research, I study human motivation. Particularly,  the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (based on Self-Determination Theory) on physical activity.  I do this through long-term mobile technological interventions.

When not wearing my researcher hat, I travel to new cities and at the same time attend concerts of my favorite music bands. I also love cooking and recently got immersed in the yoga world.

Gabriela felt fascinated for technological devices since her childhood: She spent hours watching and emulating her dad - an electronic engineer - working with sophisticated electronic equipment.

This enthusiasm for technology was still present in her early 20's, and little by little she switched her thinking to ask herself: how can I have a positive influence in people? From that moment on, she began a unique journey that is still going.

She spent four years as a software developer working for multinational companies in Costa Rica, her natal country. Later she moved to Europe to study and deepen her expertise in the relation between humans and computers. Her major interest was understanding how to make technology adapt perfectly to people and their needs. While at the Old Continent, she collaborated on the first designs of an application to aid designers film their video prototypes. She also created a system for safe in-car text entry, thinking on the enormous problem of drivers that insist on using text messaging while driving.

After two years she returned home. She went back to work for a multinational company to implement a user-centered software design and development culture. However, her deepest interests remain on the challenges and possibilities of leaving a positive footprint which allows an academic job.

Gabriela returned to Europe -this time Switzerland- to research on persuasive and behavior change technology and study ways to promotes the increase of physical activity with the help of technological interventions.

Gabriela has a bachelor degree in computer engineer from Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, a dual master degree in Human-Computer Interaction and Design from Université Paris Sud XI and Aalto University and a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from EIT Digital. Since early 2017 she works as a PhD researcher at the PErsuasive Technology Lab(PET) at University of Lausanne.

Additionally she is a fervent fan of travelling to new destinations with the excuse of attending music concerts. She has been practicing physical activity since 6 years old and currently is incursionating in the universe of yoga.


Here's some of my recent work

Pearls of Wisdom


Video Clipper

HP Labs



Activity Self-Tracking with Smart Phones: How to Approach Odd Measurements?

Villalobos Zuñiga, G., & Cherubini, M. (2018). Activity Self-Tracking with Smart Phones: How to Approach Odd Measurements?. arXiv preprint arXiv:1707.07887.


Not a Technology Person: Motivating Older Adults Toward the Use of Mobile Technology

Villalobos Zuñiga, G., & Cherubini, M. (2017). Not a Technology Person: Motivating Older Adults Toward the Use of Mobile Technology. arXiv preprint arXiv:1707.07887.


T9+HUD: Physical Keypad and HUD can Improve Driving Performance while Typing and Driving

Villalobos-Zúñiga, G., Kujala, T., & Oulasvirta, A. (2016, October). T9+ HUD: physical keypad and HUD can improve driving performance while typing and driving. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications (pp. 177-184). ACM.

Contact Me

Feel Free to Contact

my location:

University of Lausanne
Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne)
Internef 127.1/2 (map)
CH-1015 Lausanne

Phone number:

+41 21 692 35 89

email address: