Author: ljhitch

Student Highlight: Hunter Malinowski

Reading about Hunter Malinowski, a psychology and computer science major at Michigan Tech University, it’s hard to believe a student could accomplish so much during their undergraduate studies. But what is really amazing is the fact that Hunter began her dual degree programs just two short years ago.

Starting with her first semester, Hunter was awarded third place in the Bob Mark Business Model Competition and received a MTEC SmartZone Breakout Innovation Award and honorable mention in Central Michigan University’s New Venture Challenge for her start-up idea “Recirculate – The Future of Sustainable Fashion”. (See YouTube video below where Hunter describes her waste-reduction business model.)

Utilizing what she had learned in her first-year research methods class, Hunter applied to and received a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from Pavlis Honors College (PHC). Each REU site receives funding from the National Science Foundation to support the research and contributions of many undergraduate students allowing students to work in a group of ten or so while conducting research at the host institution.

In her second year, Hunter continued her research work under the direction of CLS associate professor Dr. Shane Mueller after receiving a grant from Pavlis’ Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP). Her project, titled “Assessing the Effectiveness of the XAI Discovery Platform and Visual Explanations on User Understanding of AI Systems,” was part of the university’s 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium. This spring, Hunter was also selected by PHC as a University Innovation Fellow and, in conjunction, attended the Stanford University Hassos Plattner Institute of Design (d_school) program in March. 

Hunter also devotes time to the campus community, currently as VP of Finance for Delta Zeta and as a member of the Order of Omega Honor Society. Past positions include Vice President of Public Relations for the Panhellenic Council, and member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) as their representative on the Well-being Advisory Board Team. Hunter’s academic achievements have earned her a place on the Dean’s list each semester as well.

We caught up with Hunter during Week 14 to find out more about her life at Michigan Tech.  

Q: Looking back, what were the deciding factors that led you to select Michigan Tech for psychology and computer science? Has your experience met or exceeded your expectations?

A: When I first toured Michigan Tech, I was solely interested in psychology. I visited the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department and was able to see all of the research labs, which was a large deciding factor for me in choosing Michigan Tech. I ended up taking a computer science class my junior year of high school, and loved it. I went on to do summer programs with Kode with Klossy, as well as the Women in Computer Science Summer Youth Program (SYP) at Michigan Tech, and that was the experience that solidified that I felt like I really belonged here. 

My experience at Michigan Tech has absolutely met my expectations; I was able to get involved in research during my first year and I love the environment that the psychology classes have. With the smaller size department, you end up knowing everyone very well and it makes classes a lot more comfortable. 

Q: What interests you about the combination of Psychology and Computer Science?

A: People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m majoring in Psychology and Computer Science because they don’t see how the two fit together. But there are so many interesting intersections between the two. First and foremost, if you know how to code and create a piece of technology, it’s not very useful if the user interface is poor. You could have a perfect technical design, but without understanding the psychology of the users, your app probably won’t get used. However, the most interesting aspect to me is artificial intelligence and its applications, which is what I plan to go into after graduating.

Q: With so many accolades over the past two years, what has been the highlight for you so far?

A: The trip to Palo Alto through University Innovation Fellows was 100% my favorite experience since being here. We attended a conference at Stanford; the campus was so beautiful and there were so many amazing speakers at the sessions I attended. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.

Q: What are your future plans for your time remaining at Michigan Tech and when you complete your undergraduate degrees?

A: I am returning as a Ford IT intern this summer. Other than that, I think I will mostly be focusing on my classes and getting involved on campus where I can. When I complete my undergraduate degrees, I plan on staying here at Michigan Tech for one more year to complete my Accelerated Masters degree!

Q: What do you like to do in your “spare” time in the local area?

A: I love hanging out with my friends, going on adventures, and doing crafts (I love to crochet). One time, my friends and I were volunteering at Treat Street, passing out candy to local children. Afterward we decided to go and watch the sunset at Breakers Beach, which was happening in like 20 minutes. So we went in our Halloween costumes since we didn’t have time to change. That’s probably one of my favorite memories since being here. I love the Keweenaw because you’re so close to so many beautiful sights.

Q: Would you like to share any “Words of Wisdom” with high school juniors and seniors deciding on their college career?

A: I think my best advice for students making their college plans is just to do what feels right. You have so many options, and it can be hard to decide between them all, whether it’s the college you’re deciding on or what major you want to do. But at the end of the day, you know yourself best, so don’t overthink it too much. If something doesn’t feel right, you can always change it. Which is probably one of the hardest things for me because I feel like I want to do everything. And sometimes you have to admit to yourself that something isn’t working out, or else you’ll get overwhelmed.

For more information on our Psychology and Human Factors programs, and the student opportunities highlighted in this post, please contact us at cls@mtu.edu. For our latest happenings, follow us on Instagram @clsmtu or Facebook


The Psychology of Nature


Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition. From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, improved immune system, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. [Source: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature]

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences has blended these wellness findings with the area’s abundance of outdoor activities and endless beauty into its new course – Nature Psychology. The course was developed by Dr. Samantha Smith, CLS assistant professor, with noteworthy contributions from several other faculty at MTU.The new course centers experiential learning and takes an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to helping students explore how our mental experience is connected to the natural environment. 

The course also featured a significant service learning component. In collaboration with Jill Fisher, program manager at the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), the students designed a pamphlet explaining many ways that spending time in nature is good for mental health, physical health, and cognitive performance. The pamphlet will be placed at various KLT trailheads and around the local community. The class also created a family-oriented activity with the aim of getting more people exploring the great outdoors, and the KLT-protected lands in particular.

This year’s course culminated with a weekend nature retreat in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, allowing students to directly experience and reflect on concepts they discussed throughout the semester. The retreat, facilitated by Dr. Smith and Dr. Erika Vye, included hiking, outdoor cooking, nature-themed discussions and crafts, and time for interpersonal connection and reflection.

Complementary Research and Curriculum Development 

In addition to learning about traditional psychology themes, like the impact of time in nature on cognitive performance and mental health, the new course introduced students to a variety of other perspectives on the human-nature connection. Brigitte Morin (BioSci) illuminated the human body’s physiological response to spending mindful time in the natural world, and Dr. Mark Rhodes (SS) led students on an exploration of human geography, political ecology, and what the word “nature” really means. Dr. Chelsea Schelly (SS) engaged students in an exciting examination of environmentally responsible behaviors, and our interdependent relationship with the biophysical world from a sociological lens. Lisa Gordillo (VPA) spoke to some of her own and others’ work at the intersection of art and ecology to facilitate community engagement and conversations about environmental justice and human rights. Dr. Erika Vye (GLRC) introduced students to the importance of varied personal values for geologic features, the wide-ranging connections people have with landscape, and the value of geoheritage as a geoscience communication tool affording place-based learning experiences that nurture our sense of place. Dr. R.J. Laverne (CFRES) shared his expertise on urban forestry, and the consequences of becoming too disconnected from the natural world that we evolved to thrive in.

The takeaways to keep for life

Throughout the course, students gained a greater understanding of:

  • how nature impacts human psychology and physiology,
  • how an understanding of psychology and the human-nature connection can be used to promote positive social and environmental outcomes,
  • how to engage in and promote environmental stewardship efforts and become more environmentally responsible citizens of the Earth.

There’s More

The Nature Psychology course is not the only experiential learning opportunity provided by the CLS department. Course offerings also include Environmental Psychology, where students go outside the classroom to observe psychological principles and practices at play in various real-world settings. For example, during the course, students conduct a walkability survey of Houghton, and conduct a scavenger hunt at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum to explore the design of educational environments.

In the fall semester, during the Upper Peninsula’s famous “color season”, the department also organizes a “Psych Hike” – a group hike on one of the area’s beautiful trails. This is a great way to calm the mind, move the body, and enjoy time together in nature.  

For more information regarding our Psychology and Human Factors programs, please contact us at cls@mtu.edu. And for the latest happenings, follow us on Instagram @clsmtu or Facebook

Photo credit: Hannah DeRuyter


Kelly Steelman receives ICC Annual Achievement Award

The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) has announced the winners of the ICC Annual Achievement Awards. The annual awards recognize exceptional contributions to the mission of the ICC, dedication to research and support of colleagues and students, and were awarded during the Computing[MTU] Showcase. Nominations came from individuals and ICC Centers, and previous winners convened to decide awardees. This year, awards went to Kelly Steelman (CLS), Xiaoyong (Brian) Yuan (AC/CS), and Sidike Paheding (AC/CS).

Steelman, department chair and associate professor in cognitive and learning sciences, and an affiliated associate professor in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and computer science, was recognized for achievements in collaborative, interdisciplinary research, and mentorship and support of junior faculty. Steelman is a member of the Center for Human-Centered Computing in the ICC.

Yuan, an assistant professor in applied computing and computer science, was awarded for achievements in research in heterogeneous architectures for collaborative machine learning. Yuan is a member of the Cybersecurity Center in the ICC.

Paheding, an assistant professor in applied computing and computer science, was recognized for achievements in research in out-of-this-world deep learning and cybersecurity. Paheding is a member of the Data Science Center in the ICC.

Recordings and slides from Computing[MTU] Showcase workshops and sessions can be found on the ICC website.


Shruti Amre receives “Best Poster” in first Computing[MTU] Showcase

Michigan Tech’s College of Computing and the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) co-hosted the first Computing[MTU] Showcase on April 4-6, 2022. Organizers say the showcase was intended to be a connection-maker on many levels, including undergraduate and graduate students presenting their most exciting innovations and current research.

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS) was proud to have nine of the 40 entries in the Showcase’s research poster competition come from CLS students. With “Best Poster” going to Shruti Amre, ACSHF PhD student, for “Keep your hands on the wheel: the effect of driver engagement strategy on change detection, mind wandering, and gaze behavior”. Shruti is advised by Dr. Kelly Steelman.

Amre’s winning research poster

A few details on the research

Advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) have revolutionized traditional driving by enabling drivers to relinquish operational control of the vehicle to automation for part of the total drive. These features only work under certain pre-defined conditions and require drivers to be attentive of their surroundings. While the features are engaged, there is an increased risk associated with drivers losing awareness of their environment. Popular manufacturers like Tesla requires drivers to have their hands-on-the-wheel while Cadillac’s ADAS requires drivers to keep their eyes-on-the road. We utilized a low-fidelity simulation and eye tracking to examine the effects of hands-on-the wheel and eyes-on-the road driver engagement strategies on change detection, mind wandering, and gaze behavior in a semi-autonomous driving task.


The showcase also hosted more than 20 speakers, including counterterrorism, health informatics, machine learning and security experts from companies and institutions ranging from Adobe, Amazon and Microsoft to the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.


Faculty Research Talk by Kevin Trewartha

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging

Research talk by Dr. Kevin Trewartha

Dr. Kevin Trewartha, associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS) and Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP), will present a talk on cognitive neuroscience of aging, Friday, April 15, 2022, at 3:00 pm, in Rekhi Hall Room G005. The lecture can also be attended virtually on Zoom. For more information on Dr. Trewartha’s research, visit his Aging Cognition Action Lab.

Dr. Hongyu An, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will also present. Dr. An’s research interests include neuromorphic engineering/computing, energy-efficient neuromorphic electronic circuit design for Artificial Intelligence, emerging nanoscale device design, and spiking neural networks. Visit Dr. An’s faculty webpage.

The lecture is sponsored by the Department of Computer Science.


Top Six Things to Consider when Choosing a University

Top Six Things to Consider when Choosing a University

By Beth Williams, Director of Admissions, Michigan Technological University, April 2, 2022

From Michigan Tech News. Read the original article.

The move from high school to college is a really big deal — but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Knowing the basics will help you get ready. To make the process of finding the right school a little less stressful, here are six key things to consider in your search.

1.) Outcomes

An education must be a smart investment in your future — and one that pays you back. Look beyond cost and consider the outcomes. Student loans are manageable (and often less costly per month than mandatory state tax withholding) when you have an outstanding resume to build on and lock in a high starting salary.

Gather data and compare placement rates within six months of graduation, median early career pay and return on investment. Ask about on-campus career fairs and the companies that visit campus to recruit students — for full-time jobs as well as co-ops and internships. How you’re able to distinguish yourself during college often adds to your success after graduation.

“Gerdau views the students of MTU as having a level of dedication and fortitude that isn’t easily found. Combine those values with the approach that MTU takes with its hands-on labs, highly educated professors, diversity initiatives and abundant leadership opportunities through project work and student organizations? Those are the reasons Gerdau is one of hundreds of employers that make the trek to the UP every year.” – Julie Soderberg, Gerdau

Amazon, IKEA, General Motors, Kimberly Clark, Los Alamos National Laboratory and more than 200 other companies and organizations make Michigan Tech a recruiting destination for our spring Career Fair. They know the talent tomorrow needs can be found at Michigan’s flagship technological university.

See how Michigan Tech pays you back.

2.) Class Size

A university’s average class size is important. Too big and you are just a number. Too small and you may not have access to the opportunities you’ll need to get ahead. Find a close-knit campus where you can learn — a place that provides opportunities to stand out on campus, so your education lets you stand out in the workplace.

You’ll have some larger lectures at Tech, but the average class size is 25 and our student-to-faculty ratio is 13 to 1. You’ll know professors and they’ll know you by name. Ask questions and engage in discussions. Get more out of your classroom experience.

3.) Support

It’s a fact. College is hard. To be successful, it’s critical that you maintain your health and overall well-being as you navigate your college experience. It’s okay to ask for help — from academic support to mental health and disability services. Be sure to review the resources and programming available on campus (or while working or taking classes remotely) to help you be well and thrive physically, mentally and academically.

Support resources to consider:

4.) Safety

On-campus safety and policy are major factors when considering a school — and so is the safety of the surrounding area. The greater community is directly connected to a university. What kinds of safety resources does a school have in place? Knowing the school’s policies and procedures concerning student safety can be useful in deciding whether or not it is the best fit.

Michigan Tech is proud be ranked as the safest public university in Michigan by Niche.com.

5.) Location

Location plays a major role in your college experience and it’s important to consider a school’s city, town and community. Do you want to see city lights or the northern lights? The way the community interacts with the college — and its students — is also important. Finally, consider the location’s opportunities to expand your interests and explore new activities and hobbies.

“The campus is located on Michigan’s most beautiful playground — the Upper Peninsula — and borders the Keweenaw Waterway, which connects to Lake Superior. Huskies spend a lot of time outside exploring, skiing, swimming, hiking, biking and even dogsledding.” – Chrissy Grotzke, Associate Director of Admissions

6.) Fit

How you feel at a school is perhaps the most important factor in your decision. The excitement of game day fades, so make sure your day-to-day experience is truly rich and rewarding.

Make time for a campus tour so you can walk around the campus. Watch how students interact with each other and consider if the atmosphere seems more collaborative or competitive. Schedule a time to talk with a professor or academic advisor for your intended major. Ask students what they like — and don’t like — about their school. Look for student organizations and activities you might like to join. Find a place where you feel a sense of belonging — where you’ll be an integral part of the community and can explore and grow with others who will support you.

“Michigan Tech is known for providing students with access to the support, care and resources they need to be successful. We’re here to support students and ensure they stay on track to graduate. That’s what we do — and we’re good at it. We work with faculty, academic advisors, academic department chairs, MTU college deans and other colleagues on campus to assist and support students through degree completion.” – Wallace Southerland III, Dean of Students

Most importantly, look for things that matter to you most and trust your gut. If it feels right, you’ll be that much happier at your new college home.


Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.


BASIC Computer Tutoring Resumes at Portage Lake District Library

From WLUC-TV6. Published March 26, 2022.

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Since 2018, Michigan Tech University senior Mitchell Eckstrand has come to the Portage Lake District Library to help people in Houghton with computers. It is something he has enjoyed doing almost every weekend.

“If I can do my part to help other people feel more comfortable with their devices or other tasks that they’re doing on their computer, {then} it’s rewarding for me,” said Eckstrand.

These tutoring sessions are part of BASIC, which stands for Building Adult Skills In Computing. For at least 11 years, MTU professors and students have helped community members understand technology.

MTU faculty members Charles Wallace (CS/ICC-HCC, CompEd) and Kelly Steelman (CLS/ICC-HCC) direct the volunteer program.

“Sometimes, it’s questions they don’t know about,” said Chuck Wallace, an Associate Professor of Computer Science. “Sometimes, it’s problems with existing technology. But, we take them on one-on-one and work together with them.”

Saturday, marked the first in-person session in two years.

Besides regular computers, people get help with their tablets, phones, and even Chromebooks.

“Having some Chromebooks here for people who don’t have those is a really great way for people to be able to try out some more portable technology,” said Kelly Steelman, an Associate Professor of Human Factors and Psychology. “So, they might consider whether they want to get something like that for themselves.”

The program also helps those who are anxious about asking technological questions.

“As the pace of technology progresses,” Steelman explained, “it’s more of a common discussion that everybody needs help and will need help at some point.”

Eckstrand says those he and his peers help are not the only ones who learn something new.

“A lot of times, I’ll get questions that I don’t know the answer to, and then we’ll work together to figure out the problem,” he stated. “I learn a lot of things, too that I probably would have never known had I not been involved in this program.”

The BASIC sessions will continue helping others gain technological knowledge until the end of April, before starting again in September. They are open to anyone in the community, and no sign-ups are necessary. The free sessions are on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Portage Lake District Library’s Community Room.

Copyright 2022 WLUC. All rights reserved.


Graduate Research Colloquium, 2022

Each spring, Michigan Tech’s Graduate Student Government sponsors the Graduate Research Colloquium (GRC) Poster & Presentation Competition. The GRC is a unique opportunity for current graduate students to share their research with the University community and to gain experience in presenting that research to colleagues. During this year’s GRC a virtual mock conference will be set-up where presenters are broken down into various technical sessions, ranging from Advances in Modern Medicine and Health to Power and Energy, and everything in between.

Five Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) students will be competing in this year’s event on March 29-30.

Lamia Alam

Assessing Cognitive Empathy Elements within the Context of Diagnostic AI Chatbots

Empathy is an important element for any social relationship and it is also very important in patient-physician communication for ensuring the quality of care. There are many aspects and dimensions of empathy applicable in such communication. As Artificial Intelligence is being heavily deployed in healthcare, it is critical that there is a shared understanding between patients and the AI systems if patients are directly interacting with those systems. But many of the emotional aspects of empathy may not be achievable by AI systems at present and cognitive empathy is the one that can genuinely be implemented through artificial intelligence in healthcare. We need a better understanding of the elements of cognitive empathy and how these elements can be utilized effectively. In this research, the goal was to investigate whether empathy elements actually make a difference to improve user perception of AI empathy. We developed a scale “AI Cognitive Empathy Scale (AICES)” for that purpose and conducted a study where the experimental condition had both emotional and cognitive empathy elements together. The AICES scale demonstrated reasonable consistency, reliability, and validity, and overall, empathy elements improve the perceived empathy concern within diagnostic AI chatbots.

Betsy Lehman

Easy Does It: Ease of Generating Alternative Explanations As A Mediator Of Counterfactual Reasoning In Ambiguous Social Judgments

According to sensemaking theory (Klein et al., 2007), people must first question their theory of a situation before they can shift their perspective. Questioning one’s perspective may be critical in many situations, such as taking action against climate change, improving diversity and equity at work, or promoting vaccine adoption. However, research on how people question their theories is limited. Using counterfactual theory (Roese & Olson, 1995), we examined several factors and strategies affecting this part of the sensemaking process. Eighty participants generated explanations and predicted outcomes in five ambiguous social situations. Likelihood of an alternative outcome was the measure for questioning one’s frame. Two models of the data were created. Using path analysis, we compared fit between a base model (i.e., ease, malleable factors, and missing information) and a model based on counterfactual generation theory with ease as a mediator. Results indicated that the counterfactual theory model fit was better, indicating that ease of generation may be a critical mediator in the sensemaking process. This work contributes to research focused on understanding of the mechanisms of perspective shifts to support applications for system design and training, such as programs to reduce implicit bias.

Anne Linja

Examining Explicit Rule Learning in Cognitive Tutorials: Training learners to predict machine classification

Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) systems are becoming more commonplace and relied upon in our daily lives. Decisions made by AI/ML systems guide our lives. For example, these systems might decide whether we get a loan, and the full-self driving car we’re sharing the road with even makes decisions. However, we may not be able to predict, or even know whether, or when these systems might make a mistake. Many Explainable AI (XAI) approaches have developed algorithms to give users a glimpse of the logic a system uses to come up with its output. However, increasing the transparency alone may not help users to predict the system’s decisions even though users are aware of the underlying mechanisms. One possible approach is Cognitive Tutorials for AI (CTAI; Mueller et al., 2021), which is an experiential method used to teach conditions under which the AI/ML system will succeed or fail. One specific CTAI technique involved teaching simple rules that could be used to predict performance; this was referred to as Rule Learning. This technique aims to identify rules that can help the user learn when the AI/ML system succeeds, the system’s boundary conditions, and what types of differences change the output of the AI system. To evaluate this method, I will report on a series of experiments in which we compared different rule learning approaches to find the most effective way to train users on these systems. Using the MNIST data set, this includes showing positive and negative examples in comparison to providing explicit descriptions of rules that can be used to predict the system’s output. Results suggest that although examples help people learn the rules, tutorials that provided explicit rule learning and provided direct example-based practice with feedback led people to best predict correct and incorrect classifications of an AI/ML system.

Tauseef Ibne Mamun

Connected Crossings: Examining Human Factors in a Field Study

Poor driver decision-making continues to be a challenge at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings (HRGC). One way to improve safety has been to introduce a new, in-vehicle warning system that communicates with the external HRGC warning systems. The system gives drivers different rail-crossing-related warnings (e.g., approaching crossing, train presence) depending on the vehicle location. In a rare field study, 15 experienced drivers drove a connected vehicle (Chevy Volt) and used the warning system on a 12-mile loop, then completed a semi-structured interview and usability survey. Results from the post-drive survey and interview are reported and provide a template for future usability assessments for field studies involving new technologies.

Lauren Monroe

Don’t throw a tempo tantrum: the effects of varying music tempo on vigilance performance and effective state

Vigilance tasks, or sustained attention tasks, involve an operator monitoring an environment for infrequent and random critical signals buried among more frequent neutral signals for an extended period of time. In addition to an observable decline in task engagement, task performance, and arousal over time, these tasks are also related to an increased subjective workload. Previously, music has been shown to have a positive impact on operator engagement and reaction times during sustained attention, however the differences between fast and slow tempo music on vigilance performance and subjective mood measures have not been studied. The present study (N=50) examined the effects of music played at different tempos on a selection of performance metrics and subjective measures of mood, engagement, and workload. Results indicated that varying the tempo of music did not have an effect on the decline in the correct detection of critical signals. There also was not a significant impact on measures of arousal and stress, but the fast tempo condition had a slightly positive impact on worry and engagement from pre to post task subjective measures.

For more information on our student and faculty research see: https://www.mtu.edu/cls/research/


Undergraduate Research Symposium, 2022

Emilie Jacques


Hunter Malinowski

The tenth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) took place on Friday, March 25, 2022, in the Rozsa Lobby. The Symposium highlighted the cutting-edge research conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduates. The students represented a wide array of scientific and engineering disciplines from across campus and highlighted the diversity of research areas being explored.

UG psychology students Hunter Malinowski (CS dual major) and Emilie Jacques were among this year’s URS participants. Hunter presented her research with advisor Dr. Shane Mueller in “Assessing the Effectiveness of the XAI Discovery Platform and Visual Explanations on User Understanding of AI Systems”. Emilie presented her research with advisor Dr. Susie Amato-Henderson in “The Immediate Effects of Mindfulness on Test Anxiety”. Both students were recipients of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).

Congratulations to all participants!


Samantha Smith Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Samantha Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS), is this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase member.

Smith will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Dean David Hemmer selected Smith for her innovative course design that takes full advantage of the beautiful Keweenaw.

Smith’s new course, Nature Psychology, centers experiential learning and takes an innovative approach to helping students explore how our mental experience is connected to the natural environment. The course was selected for an IDEA Hub pilot project grant because of its innovative approach to making the subject meaningful to students and because it provides students with an interdisciplinary perspective on the subject matter by connecting them with faculty from a variety of disciplines that engage with the natural world.

Smith’s course features a significant service learning component. After a meeting with Jill Fisher, outreach coordinator from the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), the students have designed a pamphlet that will be placed at various KLT trailheads. The pamphlet will explain many of the ways that spending time in nature is good for mental health, physical health and cognitive performance — which should be a good way for them to share the things they are learning about in class. The class is also creating a family-oriented activity with the aim of getting more people out exploring and learning about the KLT and the land they protect.

The course culminates with a nature retreat in the Porcupine Mountains, allowing students to directly experience and reflect on concepts they’ve discussed throughout the semester. To prepare for this retreat, Smith completed an intensive five-day wilderness first responder course over the winter break.

Nature Psychology is not Smith’s first experience with experiential learning. In her Environmental Psychology class, she also takes students outside the classroom to observe psychological principles and practices at play in real-world settings. For example, she brings students on a walkability tour of Houghton and conducts a scavenger hunt at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum to explore the design of educational environments. Student and peer evaluations of these courses have highlighted their excellent organization and pacing through a combination of demonstrations, discussions, individual and small-group activities, and lecture.

CLS Chair Kelly Steelman says: “Since joining the department in 2019, Dr. Smith has developed a reputation as a high-quality, innovative instructor at the introductory, upper-division and graduate level … and one that excites students enough that they seek out opportunities to provide glowing feedback. In fact, last semester, I had two different students from two different classes stop me on campus to rave about her courses.”

Hemmer includes similar praise in his nomination: “Hiring faculty is one of the best parts of my job. When newer faculty like Dr. Smith quickly make such a positive impact in (and out!) of the classroom, it is truly heartening.”