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Discover Human Factors: A Hidden Gem in the ODU’s Psychology Program

By Jefferson Huddle

The Human Factors & Ergonomics Society (HFES) is a student led chapter of Old Dominion University. It falls mostly under ODU's human factors (engineering) psychology program. So, what exactly are human factors? How does psychology correlate with engineering? And what are the advantages for students involved in HFES? We were able to sit down and talk to the two co-presidents of HFES to learn more: Katherine Garcia and Matthew Pacailler, both Ph.D. students in human factors (engineering) psychology at ODU.

"Human factors area nice hidden gem in the Psychology program," says Pacailler. A lot of people only know about psychology as a clinical field for therapists and psychologists. "While that is what the majority of psychology students go for, there are other paradigms to explore."The paradigms Pacailler is referring to include industrial/organizational psychology, health psychology, and of course: human factors (engineering) psychology. These specialties, as well as clinical psychology, are all programs ODU has to offer.

"Human factors are a multi-disciplinary field, meaning we have the opportunity to work with other fields such as mechanical engineers, civil engineers, computer scientists, cyber security, as well as healthcare professionals," Garcia says.

"I'd like to think of human factors as a connection between people who make products and people who use their products," says Pacailler. "Essentially, we're somewhere in the middle, as we make products and systems better for human consumption." HFES students applying psychological principles to man-machine systems, which consist of a person, a machine, and an environment. Think of an airplane as a good example; you have the airplane which is the machine, the pilot is the person, and the environment being the sky," says Pacailler.

The list regarding advantages for students involved in HFES goes on. Students have the opportunity to travel the country to attend national conventions and field trips. Just a couple of ODU HFES' most recent and local ventures include NASA Langley Research Center, located in Hampton Roads, as well as 757 Makerspace here in Norfolk. 757Makerspace provides community workshop and studio spaces to which HFES has utilized for their research. Their home field for research is, of course, the laboratories located here at ODU. Some of their current members' research laboratories include Simulation Usability Research Facility (SURF), Applied Cognitive Performance Lab, Psychology of Design Lab, Research Environment for Alarm & Complex Task Simulation (REACTS) Lab, Human-Automation Collaboration (HAC) Lab, and Virginia Modeling / Analysis & Simulation Center (VMASC).

Garcia and Pacailler both agree that human factors are something that students outside of the psychology field should be aware of, but even students in the psychology program as well.

"It's so important for undergraduates in the psychology program to know the possibilities of what human factors can include," Garcia adds. "Whether or not you're a psychology major; if you have even the slightest interest in any of these fields, HFES is open and welcoming."

To learn more about HFES, visit www.oduhfes.com. If interested in joining, you may also contact them at: hfes.odu@gmail.com.

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