Category: Graduate

ACSHF Forum: Kelly Steelman, CLS chair

Kelly Steelman, chair of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will kick off the academic year forums for Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors with her presentation, “Science Policy in Human Factors: A Primer on the Development and Application of the Human Readiness Level Scale”, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (September 19) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

As a Science Policy Fellow for the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), Steelman will talk about the work of the Science Policy group over the past several years, focusing on the development of the Human Readiness Level (HRL) Scale—a simple 9-level scale for evaluating, tracking,and communicating the readiness of a technology for safe and effective human use.

Complete abstract:
In 2019, Dr. Kelly Steelman was selected as a Science Policy Fellow for the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. In this presentation, Steelman will talk about the work of the Science Policy group over the past several years, focusing on the development of the Human Readiness Level (HRL) Scale—a simple 9-level scale for evaluating, tracking, and communicating the readiness of a technology for safe and effective human use. It is modeled after the well-established Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework that is used throughout the government and industry to communicate the maturity of a technology and to support decision making about technology acquisition. The HRL scale is defined in the ANSI/HFES 400-2021 Standard and is currently being socialized throughout the government, Department of Defense,  and industry.
Dr. Steelman will discuss the promise of the HRL Scale and associated standard as tools for increasing awareness of the field of human factors and for establishing requirements for human-systems evaluation—and the involvement of human-systems experts—throughout the development lifecycle.

Brandon Woolman presents research findings at MI Society for Neuroscience

Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) MS student Brandon Woolman presented his team’s research findings during the Michigan Chapter Society for Neuroscience at Central Michigan University on August 20.

Woolman’s, along with teammates Alexandra Watral (ACSHF PhD candidate), Rajiv Ranganathan (Kinesiology, Michigan State University), and advisor Dr. Kevin Trewartha, research titled “Sensorimotor Adaptation and Retention in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Early Alzheimer’s Disease,” is made possible by grant funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIH).

The study included preliminary data from participants diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and control groups of cognitively healthy older and younger adults. All of which performed a force-field adaption task using a specialized robotic device (KINARM). The team investigated whether the early stages of motor learning are affected by early AD, and whether those patients exhibit additional impairments in short-term (i.e., within the testing session) and long-term retention (after a 24-hour delay) of a newly acquired motor skill.

Participants were instructed to reach for visual targets, and while their arms moved, the robot would apply a velocity-dependent force perpendicular to the direction of the target. The mechanical load hinders smooth movements toward the target, but over time participants
adapt by applying forces to counter the load. Short-term retention of force-field adaption was assessed in a final block of trials on Day 1. Participants returned a day later to perform the same motor task to assess long-term skill retention over a 24-hour delay.

The work aims to determine whether acquisition, short- and long-term retention measures in a motor learning task, can identify differences between early AD and healthy aging. Measuring these differences could aid in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease in its earliest stages.

For more information and details on related research, see Dr. Trewartha’s Aging Cognition Action Lab website.

Brittany Nelson and the Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality

ACSHF PhD student Brittany Nelson (bottom left) at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany

Summer is a time for adventure and learning. ACSHF PhD student Brittany Nelson earned her spot to experience both as the recipient of a 2022 Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality scholarship.

The program offers a forum for young scholars from around the world in various disciplines to share their approaches, discuss their research, and inspire each other. This year’s Summer Institute took place June 14 – 22, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Brittany shares her experience with us here.


Photo of Brittany Nelson

I’m very grateful to have attended the Max Planck Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality in Berlin, Germany. I heard from some of the best researchers in the world who study decision making (e.g., Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer and Dr. Ralph Hertwig). While there I developed and refined new research ideas, created a professional network with excellent graduate student researchers, learned new methodologies from interdisciplinary fields, and refined my presentation skills in front of leading experts! On the last day I heard an inspiring talk from Dr. Naomi Oreskes who discussed the responsibility of scientists to disseminate our science within our society. I really enjoyed my time there and am significantly better researcher for it. [Hear Dr. Oreskes message in her Ted Talk below.]

Brittany was also awarded a King-Chávez-Parks (KCP) Future Faculty Fellowship this past spring in support of her doctoral studies. Under the advisement of Dr. Erich Petushek, her current Ph.D. research involves identifying, measuring, and improving key factors that impact healthy lifestyle decisions.

For more CLS summer adventures and the latest happenings, follow us on Instagram @clsmtu and like us on Facebook.

Measuring Changes in Motor Learning Outside the Laboratory

The Aging, Cognition, and Action Lab in CLS is currently investigating the validity of a new web-based application for measuring changes in motor learning that occur in healthy aging and Parkinson’s disease. Traditional laboratory approaches to measuring motor learning impose barriers to accessibility for many participants, while few options for portable devices such as smartphones and tablets have been developed. An effective web-based approach would allow testing to occur remotely, improving the reach to multiple populations of interest.

As a part of their investigative research, Dr. Kevin Trewartha and his team are seeking healthy older adults to participate in the study, as well as those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Interested participants are otherwise free from medical conditions that affect movement besides Parkinson’s disease, are between the ages of 60 and 90, and are familiar with computers and how to use them. Participants should also be free from other medical conditions that impair cognitive function.

Photo of PhD student Alexandra Watral

The research is spearheaded by ACSHF PhD student Alexandra Watral who received a Songer Research Award for this project. This award is funded through a generous donation from MTU alumni Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) to the College of Sciences and Arts.

For more information or to see if you qualify for the study, contact the Aging, Cognition and Action Lab at 906-487 2378.

Assessing the validity of an online assessment of motor learning, Alexandra Watral, 2022

Q&A with Teaching Award Winner Briana Bettin

Briana Bettin is the recipient of Michigan Technological University’s 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Teaching Professor/Professor of Practice/Assistant Professor category.

My goal is not just that students know how to code — you can find coding tutorials anywhere that give you raw “stuff.” I want to help them validate whether they understand what code does and whether they can communicate about code with others and justify their decisions while programming. I also ensure that students recognize, even if we aren’t building big systems for people just yet while we learn these foundations, that code is powerful and comes with responsibility, that there are social impacts to what they program and that computer scientists are often the least likely to recognize how impactful to society their job can be. These skills and this awareness are what job recruiters look for in the modern market. They are also valuable even for those who won’t go on to become programmers.

Briana Bettin

For complete Q&A with CLS / CS assistant professor Briana Bettin, see Michigan Tech News.

Student Spotlight: Warat “Pomm” Khaewratana

CLS congratulates its most recent PhD recipient, Warat “Pomm” Khaewratana. 

Dr. Khaewratana successfully completed his dissertation, “Word games for education: Investigating the effectiveness of adding elaboration tasks to crosswords for learning technical vocabulary,” in May 2022.

Receiving a Royal Thai Scholarship to study in the United States, Pomm set out to help resolve the problem regarding a lack of skilled laborers in Thailand’s workforce. His motivation was to create effective and innovative workers with knowledge in the latest technology and skills obtained through specialized training and curriculum. He began his graduate studies at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York, and earned the degree Master of Science in Manufacturing and Mechanical Systems Integration before arriving at Michigan Tech. 

Pomm was accepted to the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) PhD program in Fall 2018. He focused his doctoral research on the challenge in STEM education to not only memorize technical terms but learn and remember how to apply them in practice. He examined the gaming technique of crossword puzzles combined with strategies to enhance memory for training technical information. See dissertation abstract below for more information regarding this research.

Abstract: One challenge in STEM education is the learning of technical terms. In order to reason about higher-order scientific concepts, knowledge of technical vocabulary is often a prerequisite. Improving the knowledge may enhance learning of higher-order concepts because it reduces cognitive load students experience while learning. To that end, we need innovative learning-aid tools that help students not only in learning and remembering technical terms but also in applying the learned knowledge in broader concepts. This dissertation investigates the hypothesis that learning gain from crossword solving can be used to teach technical terms. Furthermore, I am also examining the hypothesis that an additional elaboration technique will enhance the effect of the crossword puzzle. In a series of seven experiments, I investigated the effect of crossword with add-on elaboration on students’ ability to retain memory of learned technical terms and to provide more in-depth explanations of those terms. Across experiments, I investigated (a) three different types of elaboration technique, (b) collaboration vs. individual participation, (c) in-person vs. online training, and (d) short vs. long delay. Across experimental variations, results indicated that using a crossword alone produced a statistically significant learning effect relative to a control condition. Although adding structured elaboration did provide benefits when added to crossword-based study, the results were mixed where additional time was given to crossword, and different elaboration techniques did not provide specific enhancement on memory retention. Implications for theoretical perspectives on learning technical vocabulary and best practices to implement crossword in educational settings are discussed.

Pomm will join Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a teaching professor as part of the Royal Thai Government fully-funded international scholarship agreement. 

Pomm says the best memory of his time at Michigan Tech were all the group activities provided by Graduate Student Government (GSG), CLS department socials, and other university events. “I was able to try new things that I may not have gotten the chance to do on my own. Or if I did, it would not have been the same as experiencing it with others,” he explains. 

He also gave special thanks to his Co-advisors Elizabeth (Beth) Veinott and Shane Mueller, committee members (Shari Stockero, Amanda Gonczi, and Qian Zhang), colleagues, CLS staff, and chair Kelly Steelman. In closing, Pomm stated “I am who I am now because of them. Graduate student life can be very challenging. These people have helped me to succeed and prepare for my future.”

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Special shout out to colleagues Isaac and Stephanie Flint, Thomas Offer-Westort, Kaitlyn Roose, Anne Linja, Lamia Alam, and Shruti Amre.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being and impacts how we think, feel, and behave. It enables us to connect with others, make decisions, handle stress, and many other aspects of daily life. As with our physical health, mental health plays a big role in our overall well-being. But unlike general physical illness or injury, it can be more difficult to recognize when someone is struggling with a mental health issue. 

Since September 2020, approximately 56 Michigan Tech faculty and staff have been trained and certified to recognize signs and symptoms, and provide support and strategies to those in need. This is all thanks to the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) and Mental Health First Aid training provided by the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being. The training, led by Sarah Dowd, Director of Student-Athlete Wellness and Clinical Counselor, and Sarah Woodruff, Clinical Counselor-Outreach, follows a hybrid model with several hours of pre and post-work and two half-day sessions of in-person instruction. The content focuses on the ALGEE plan: Approach/Access, Listen nonjudgmentally, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help and other support strategies. 

Several faculty and staff from Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS) now join those certified as part of the most recent cohort trained this May.

Associate Professor Kevin Trewartha (CLS/KIP) describes his reasons for completing the training. “I have multiple roles on campus that motivated me to complete the Mental Health First Aid training. Aside from engaging with students every day as a faculty member, graduate program director, and research advisor, I am also serving as the co-chair of the University Senate Committee on Promoting and Facilitating Equity and Understanding. In addition, I am also the faculty representative for the College of Sciences and Arts on the University Diversity Council. This year, the Senate passed a resolution on raising awareness and reducing mental health stigma. The Senate and the Diversity Council are dedicated to ensuring that individuals living with mental illness are supported and welcomed at Michigan Tech. I completed the MHFA to ensure that I am prepared to contribute to those efforts.” 

Staff also play an important role in mental health support. “As CLS department coordinator and graduate program assistant, I interact with students, faculty, and staff for a variety of purposes on a daily basis,” Lisa Hitch explains of her participation in the recent MHFA training and certification. “I want to be knowledgeable about identifying and helping someone in need. I’m grateful that Michigan Tech values and provides such training for faculty and staff.”

MHFA as common as CPR

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows that in 2018 an estimated 46.6 million people, or 18.9 percent of adults ages 18 years or older, experience a mental illness or substance abuse disorder each year. Latest research now estimates that more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults report experiencing symptoms of depression as we continue to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vision of the NCBH is for Mental Health First Aid to become as common as CPR and for Mental Health First Aid training to be available to everyone in the United States. 

The MHFA training also teaches first aiders the importance of self care — putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you are able to assist others. SAMHSA has defined eight dimensions of wellness to help individuals focus on optimizing their health through emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social components. (https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4958.pdf). This is helpful information we can all use to support our overall wellness.

Michigan Tech’s Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being offers the Mental Health First Aid training each semester with the next available session sometime this fall. Certification is valid for three years upon successful exam completion. 

Sources: https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month; https://www.samhsa.gov/; https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/news-and-updates/; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/us-cases-of-depression-have-tripled-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Resources:

https://www.mtu.edu/well-being/

https://www.mtu.edu/deanofstudents/students/resources/

https://www.mtu.edu/well-being/for-students/services/individual-therapy/wellbeing-guide.pdf

Mental Health First Aid

ACSHF Forum: Grad Student Presentations

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host ACSHF PhD Students Tauseef Ibne Mamun and Brittany Nelson at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. Their presentations will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (April 18) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Tauseef Ibne Mamun
Connected Vehicle Field Study: Outcomes and Challenges
Abstract: 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.

Brittany Nelson
Identifying Healthy Lifestyle Knowledge Gaps Among Medical and Non-medical Students
Abstract: Across the US, chronic illnesses including cancer and cardiovascular disease are a result of poor lifestyle decisions such as diet, tobacco/alcohol use, and physical inactivity. Data suggests that previous interventions lack effectiveness for impacting lifestyle decisions, particularly long term. One reason why individuals continue to engage in unhealthy behaviors may be due to gaps in understanding that are not currently filled by previously developed interventions. To the extent individuals are informed of the risks/benefits of key health behaviors and the tools valuable for overcoming challenges associated with engaging/quitting those behaviors then people are more equipped to make decisions that are in-line with their goals and values. Little information exists on what informational gaps people hold. Therefore, the objective of this study was two-fold. First, it was designed to measure how calibrated medical and non-medical students are on the relation between lifestyle behaviors and their risk of major diseases. Second, this study was designed to identify informational gaps that impact perceived challenges of engaging in healthier lifestyle behaviors. Data from medical (N = 128) and non-medical (N = 24) students suggests they hold insufficient knowledge regarding the relation between lifestyle behaviors and risk of health outcomes. The most commonly reported barriers across non-dietary behaviors were time 39%, lack of motivation 15%, and weather 9%. The most commonly reported barriers specific to eating behaviors were cost 26%, taste 21%, and food spoiling too quickly 10%. The results from this study have implications for future intervention design.

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.