Category Shine a light on ...
19 February 2024

The Dog Whisperer

Tag Innovation
Tag AI
Tag Heilbronn

The Dog Whisperer

Alina Hafner is not only writing her doctoral thesis, but also decoding the emotions of animals.

At 25 years old, Alina Hafner is about to start on the path to a doctorate degree. She explains: “My work deals mainly with what is referred to as the scientific approach to entrepreneurial decision-making.” Even though Alina Hafner has attained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business information technology, her background was less than ideal: “I had no actual role models in my social or familial environment because I was the first in my family to attend university.”


Alina Hafner says she has never felt any disadvantage in the world of information technology due to her gender: “I want to hope those prejudices no longer exist. Also, they certainly are not any more or less pronounced in science than in any other area of society.” She reports that the requirements for a career in research are the same for every person. “What you are expected to bring to the table in addition to an authentic demeanor, an interest in the topics and in challenging them critically, an intrinsic motivation, and the conviction to do the right thing, are persistence and stamina.”


A Pet Project

Aside from her work as a doctoral student under Prof. Miriam Bird, Alina Hafner co-founded the start-up Fauna AI, an AI tool for determining the emotions of animals. She describes how it works: “To detect animals’ emotional states, we use artificial neural networks. We train a model with image, audio and video data.”

The focus currently is on family pets. “People who have dogs and/or cats are very passionate, however, emotional ties to cows tend to be less strong,” says Alina Hafner, a passionate dog owner herself. She adds that it is not easy to obtain training data from farmers. “They don’t have time to waste. That is why we have to make the commercial benefits clear to them.” The AI tool could serve as a type of early-warning system for an animal’s state of health so precautions could be taken.


I want to publish research findings with practical relevance and direct benefits.

Alina Hafner, Doctoral Student at the Global Center for Family Enterprise at TUM Campus Heilbronn


Driving her thesis and her start-up at the same time requires efficient time management. “I am invested in the Fauna AI project out of passion and my love for animals. I don’t mind spending a lot of my free time working with it and I don’t count the hours I spend.”

Alina Hafner’s doctorate degree will be the next milestone in her budding career. She specifies her plans: “I want to publish research findings with practical relevance and direct benefits.” She also wants to be a role model for the upcoming generation: “I have participated in Girls’Day and other initiatives that promote young talent.”