Category: Michigan Tech News

New Faculty Lecture: Briana Bettin, CS and CLS

Dr. Briana Bettin will present a New Faculty Lecture on Friday, November 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Dr. Bettin is an assistant professor in both the Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences departments. Her research interests span education, experiential design, and human factors. Her talk is titled, “Facets and Inclusions: Analogy as a Transformative Tool for Navigating CS Curricula.”

Briana Bettin

Abstract: Our increasingly digital society requires citizens to effectively communicate about and with computing technologies in order to thrive. Learning to navigate the digital landscape and computing topics can be immensely challenging. Shifting to “think like a programmer” is often challenging, and why the machine behaves as it does can appear antithetical to “the real world” assumptions students are used to in their daily lives. Coupled with stereotypical notions on the difficulty and societal impacts of computing and programming, students can easily become frustrated and discouraged from learning necessary skills and topics for the fourth industrial revolution.

This talk explores how using analogical representations to convey computing concepts and ideas can transform student relationships with computing material. Tying the “difficult novelty” of computing topics to lived experiences can help machine behaviors become relatable rather than flummoxing. Creative and cultural expressions using analogical representations create further avenues for CS curricular transformation, allowing students to foster their sense of self and community in relation to their computing studies. The lived experiences of students have many angles, and learning computing topics is a path paved with flaws. By transforming curricular dialogues to center students and their existing understanding, we can use these facets and inclusions to transform their experiences learning computer science.

Biography: Briana Bettin’s research blends user experience methodologies with education research to better understand programming students and the impacts of the classroom environment. She is a member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystem’s (ICC) Computing Education research group.


The Human Factor, Design with the Human in Mind

The 2021 Michigan Tech Magazine is Live! And highlights the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences’ new BS program – Human Factors.

How can people use technology to improve work, society, and life? Students in Michigan Tech’s human factors program set out to answer that question by studying human abilities and limitations, and how they apply to design. In one of the first undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation, students explore how humans use, interact with, and think and feel about technology, and investigate the roles both humans and machines will play in solving the problems of tomorrow.

“Many of today’s college students will eventually work in jobs and industries that don’t yet exist,” says Kelly Steelman, department chair and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences. “We intentionally designed the human factors curriculum to encourage students to develop both depth and breadth of skills. Human factors students will take courses from across campus and engage in multidisciplinary, project-based work to pick up the diverse skill sets needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.”

To read the full story see section: 1400 Townsend Drive, and to learn more about our Human Factors program visit https://www.mtu.edu/cls/undergraduate/human-factors/


ACSHF Forum: Monday, October 11

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Stefka Hristova  (Associate Professor Humanities) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Emptied Faces: In Search For An Algorithmic Punctum”, will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (Oct. 11) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Abstract: In his seminal work Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote that in photographic portraits “[t]he air of a face is unanalyzable.” This argument connects to the larger theory of the photographic punctum, a laceration of time that signals the existence of a subject and forecasts its death. The punctum of the traditional portrait quickly became complicated as portraiture fueled composite portraiture linked to human typologies as exemplified by the work of Galton, Bertillon, and Lombrosso. This practice of combining and reconfiguring faces has found new currency in contemporary algorithmic culture where human faces are recorded, dissected, and recombined into seamless deep fake faces by what Deleuze and Guattari call “faciality machines.” This talk traces the articulation of faces in predictive algorithms through an investigation of the UTKFace data set. Further, it analyzes the rise of deep fake portraits through an engagement with Philip Wang’s This Person Does Not Exist and Mitra Azar’s DoppelGANger projects. This harnessing of portraits and therefore of human faces as raw material has been challenged in a counter project titled This Person Exists, which exposes the real people behind Wang’s project. This work brings back notions of personhood and humanity by revealing the original photographs as well as their authors and subjects and points to the ways in which algorithms feed on and erase humanity. I situate two additional sites of resistance to the decomposition of the human face: namely Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “unknown tracts” and Barthes’ notion of the photographic punctum.


Erin Matas Named Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellow

Library Director Erin Matas is one of 20 information professionals selected from the U.S. and Canada to join the 2021-22 ARL Leadership Fellows cohort. The ARL Leadership Fellowship develops and prepares the next generation of senior library and archival leaders. Past Leadership Fellows have emerged as successful leaders in a wide array of roles and settings, including as deans and directors of leading research libraries and archives.

“I am thrilled to join this cohort because of the impact that the program’s goals will have on my approach to library leadership,” says Matas. “ARL’s priority is to advance scholarship through systemic changes at the intersections of public policy, institutional policy and the ever-changing landscape of how we research, teach and learn. This program is an exceptional opportunity for library leaders to join these conversations and bring important guidance to their home institutions.”

In their press release, ARL shared that the 2021-22 cohort brings together an immensely diverse and highly accomplished group of library leaders, representing the broadest range of research institutions and communities since the program began in 2004

Provost Jackie Huntoon noted that Michigan Tech is proud to have a representative in the 2021-22 cohort of ARL Leadership Fellows. “Matas’ outstanding contributions on campus and beyond have clearly contributed to her selection. By participating as a Fellow, Erin will be able to continue to grow as a library professional and contribute her knowledge of best practices to the Michigan Tech community.”

Matas is the director of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library and is pursuing an advanced degree in applied cognitive science and human factors at Michigan Tech.


ACSHF Forum: Monday, September 13

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Cindy Miller (staff engineer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Human Factors in Aviation, Healthcare and Motorcycles,” will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (Sept. 13) via Zoom. Dr. Miller will present a summary of human factors engineering projects in aviation, healthcare, and motorcycles. She will discuss some of the tools, methodology, and design processes used for these projects, as well as provide a short review of her career path.

ACSHF Forum flyer


Dr. Kelly Steelman and CLS Affiliated Faculty Receive National Science Foundation Grant

Dr. Kelly Steelman (CLS) is the Principal Investigator of a newly funded project titled “EAGER: SAI: Illuminated Devices: A Sociotechnical Approach to Empowering Digital Citizens and Strengthening Digital Infrastructure.” The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding a research and development grant of $299,617.

Michigan Tech faculty members Dr. Briana Bettin and Dr. Leo Ureel, who have joint appointments in CLS and CS, and Dr. Charles Wallace, who is affiliated with CLS, are named as Co-Principal Investigators.

Find the project’s abstract and additional information on the NSF’s website here.


Psychology Student Tyrell Buckley Named Krampade All-American Scholar

Tyrell Buckley, a senior Psychology student and Michigan Tech hockey player, has been named a Krampade All-American Scholar for the 2020-2021 school year. He is one of nine Huskies who were awarded the honor by the American Hockey Coaches Association. Congratulations, Tyrell!

Find the full announcement on the Michigan Tech Athletics website.


New Chair of Cognitive and Learning Sciences Has Passion for Human Factors and… the Ukulele

David Hemmer, Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts, announced that Kelly Steelman has accepted the position as chair of the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

Kelly Steelman

Steelman, an associate professor of psychology and an affiliated associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, had been working as the interim chair.

Hemmer cited her work developing Michigan Tech’s new bachelor’s degree in human factors as one reason he’s happy to see her in the role. “Kelly has done a great job as interim chair, including shepherding the department’s new Human Factors BS degree through to approval,” he said. “I look forward to working with her over the next three years.”

You’ve been working as the interim chair during a time of great change here. From a new university president, to a new college. What have you enjoyed about it?

Some people might view this as somewhat terrifying: to step into a chair position, or really any leadership position, in a time of great institutional change, with a global pandemic and lots of uncertainty in the world and in higher education. But for me, this seems like the best time to be in a leadership position, because you can actually do things and facilitate positive changes. You know, when everybody’s off-kilter, it gets the ball rolling and then you just get to help guide it in different ways. That’s a lot easier than trying to get people who are used to the status quo to take that first step.

You came a really long way to join us in Houghton. Tell us about that.
I came to Michigan Tech following a post-doctoral fellowship at Flinder’s University in Adelaide, Australia. So I traded in the ocean and warm temperatures for the shores of Lake Superior, and a much heavier jacket.
I had returned to the States for a conference where I saw an advertisement for an assistant professor position in CLS. So I went over to check out the Michigan Tech lab poster. I grew up in Grand Rapids, so I was familiar with Michigan Tech and its reputation. And I knew that there was a graduate-level program related to human factors. But, when I walked up to the poster, I saw a group of women standing there, and I thought, wow, that really defies my expectations about Michigan Tech. That was not the crowd that I expected to see.

Susie Amato-Henderson, our former department chair, walked up and introduced herself and then invited me out to lunch with a group of graduate students. By the end of the lunch, I knew I had to apply for the position. I actually ended up extending my stay in the US long enough to be able to interview for the job before returning to finish my post-doc in Australia.

I was thrilled when I got the job offer and luckily managed to convince my wife and son that it was a great idea to move here even though neither of them had even been to the Upper Peninsula and didn’t really know where it was. After I accepted the job, we came up to find a place to live and actually saw a moose on our drive up to Copper Harbor. That was, of course, really thrilling and the first sign that we were moving to a really amazing place!

What do you like about life in the Upper Peninsula?
I love that it is just so easy to get outside and explore. I really enjoy hiking and cross-country skiing on the Tech Trails and exploring new waterfalls and beaches. I’m not a downhill skier but the rest of my family has really gotten involved at Mont Ripley. My wife works in the ticket office and my oldest son is a ski and snowboard instructor. Even my four-year-old has tried out snowboarding and loves the tube park.

I’ve particularly enjoyed getting involved with the Pewabic Community Garden in Houghton and the Keweenaw Roller Derby league. Both were great ways to meet folks with common interests and helped us feel like we were actually part of the local community.

The competition for students is tougher than ever. What do you see as a competitive advantage here?
Most people don’t think of psychology when they think of Michigan Tech. But I am very proud of our program and what it offers to our students. As one example, our psych students have far more opportunities to get engaged in research in our department than they would in other programs. All students take a two-semester research methods course that gives them the opportunity to work in teams to design, conduct, and present their own research studies.

Many students go on to do research with faculty members and really hone their research skills, making them competitive on the job market and also for graduate programs. Our undergraduate psychology program has a great record of students getting into competitive masters and Ph.D. programs.

Our undergraduate psychology program is also flexible by design. In addition to gaining research and internship experiences, we encourage our students to add minors, double majors, join the Pavlis Honors College, and really focus on building a personal portfolio of skills. Many of today’s college students will be working in jobs or industries that don’t yet exist, so it is really important that students can clearly communicate their skill sets to potential employers. We build advising right into the curriculum to help students do this.

What makes you so passionate about human factors in general and what does the study of this discipline offer to Tech students?
I completed two degrees in Aerospace Engineering before discovering the field of human factors. For those who are unfamiliar with it, human factors is the study of human performance, especially within socio-technical systems, and the application of that knowledge to the design of safe, efficient, and satisfying products, workplaces, processes, and systems. For me, pursuing human factors in my graduate studies allowed me to blend my interests in people and technology.


Through the Tech Forward Initiatives of the past few years, we’ve talked a lot about the fourth industrial revolution, the integration of the physical, digital, and social worlds, and the rapid pace of technological change. The problems facing the world today require that we take a human-centered approach and that we understand how people think, feel and behave and how they interact with technology.

Our new human factors major will be great for students that are interested in designing the future and building new technologies, but also really care about people and want to understand why people do the things that we do and why we make the mistakes that we do. A human factors program is a particularly good fit for Michigan Tech as it blends foundational coursework in psychology with courses in systems engineering, human-computer interaction, usability, business, and design. Designing the major was a true multi-disciplinary effort, with faculty from numerous departments and colleges providing input and feedback.

You already mentioned your roller derby involvement. What’s something else people might not know about you?

About two years ago, I joined a local ukulele troupe called The Yooper-leles. One of my colleagues in engineering Engineering Fundamentals, Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, invited me and it was so much fun! We had folks from five years old to probably 85, with a variety of skill levels. I’m still a beginner, but I did get in a fair bit of practice during the stay-at-home order. I’m really looking forward to when we can all gather to play together again.


ACSHF Forum: Monday, February 8

Cyber crime has a significant impact on nations, corporations, and individuals. Violations of information security can reduce consumer confidence and valuation at the corporate level, and jeopardize social and financial well-being at the personal level.

In this talk, Robert West, an Elizabeth P. Allen Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience of DePauw University, will explore the findings of some of his recent research to demonstrate the utility of a decision neuroscience approach to providing insight into the neural correlates of ethical decision making in the context of information security. Please join the ACSHF Forum on Zoom Monday, February 8, at 2 pm. Zoom meeting link