Category: Psychology

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.

Alumni Spotlight: Zoe Reep

Today we are chatting with Zoe Reep, recent Michigan Tech grad who earned her bachelor’s of science in Psychology and Mathematics in spring 2022. This fall she begins her post graduate studies in Clinical/Counseling Social Work at Boston College. 

Zoe describes herself as a person who lives with intention and makes decisions—big and small—based on purpose. It is no surprise that she filled her summer “break” with activities and adventures that align with her curiosity and passion for the great outdoors. Let’s let Zoe unpack the details and give us a glimpse of what her purpose-filled living is all about.

Q: We last saw you in late April as your undergrad time at Michigan Tech was ending and your next adventure was about to begin. Where and how did you spend your summer after finishing your bachelor’s degrees?

A: For most of the summer, I split my time working with Michigan Tech’s Outdoor Adventure Program and a local screen-printing shop in Calumet called Monkey Business. I focused on my interests and explored new hobbies such as embroidery, sewing, kombucha brewing, gardening, puzzling, reading, and fly fishing. I also experienced #vanlife and used it as my temporary home for the first couple months. As summer went on, I wanted to do something even more physically and emotionally challenging. Within two-weeks I doubled my paychecks—working 14-16-hour days—packed up my things and hitched a ride out to Colorado with some friends.

The long workdays and foregone sleep to fund my trip was totally worth it! I spent the next 35 days hiking the Colorado Trail, a 486.6 mile trek. It was absolutely incredible and definitely life changing as I met people from all over the country and around the world. Some moments were tough, and sometimes dark, and other times I cried of joy. The experience taught me to be resilient, I even managed to make myself a splint in order to get down the mountains with a leg injury. The views were insane, the hikes were brutal, and the weather was not cooperative—we hiked through many, many thunderstorms. 

For those who don’t know about the Colorado Trail, it runs from Denver, CO to Durango, CO, has an elevation gain of 75,000 feet (more than twice the height of Mount Everest), 8 national forests, and 16 mountain passages. Most people who hike the trail as a thru-hike go into town every 3-5 days. For example, I stopped in Breckenridge, Twin Lakes/Leadville, Garfield/Salida, Lake City, and Durango. Most hitchhike to get into town. We definitely came across some interesting characters this way, and even got to ride in a semi-truck!. 

Some people stay overnight in town, as we did, and others just resupply and head on their way. I hiked the first half of the trail with some friends I met—a couple from Boston (now moving to California, sadly), and a hiker from South Dakota. One friend from Michigan Tech joined us along the way; the poor guy hiked the worst part—40 miles with 3 water sources, rocky roads and cow pastures, including a decaying cow on the trail. We separated paths from the Boston couple but I’ve been with the hiker, Russ, ever since. We finished the remaining trail route and road tripped it back through Houghton, Petoskey, Grand Rapids, Louisville, Dayton, Cleveland, Niagara, arriving in Boston. In fact, Russ will be moving out to Boston now! 🙂 Overall…summer was wild—and a blast. I documented a lot of it on my “adventure” Instagram account, which I created for my friends who wanted to laugh about my amusing life @2rav4u.

Q: You were part of Dr. Samantha Smith’s Nature Psychology class at Michigan Tech this spring. Were there any takeaways from the course that helped you make the connection between wellness, resilience, and nature?

A:  Great question! I took Nature Psych because it dealt with exactly what I wanted to move into post-graduate. So it didn’t really change my direction. However, it definitely created a lot more questions and curiosity for me. It helped me determine that this is exactly the field I want to go into. It gave me all sorts of fantastic connections and brought up a lot of passion for me. It helped me to connect with the local community and gave me tons of resources (in regard to social issues, the role of nature on the mind, local UP history, etc.). Dr. Smith is an incredible professor—I’ve learned a lot from her. I also admire who she is as a human being, which really ties the whole class together: Her curiosity, passions, knowledge, heart, etc. Highly recommend the course 🙂 Absolutely.

Q: You’ve had a four-legged friend along the way. What’s her name and how did she become your travel companion?  

A: Murphy is my recently adopted doggo. Her trail names are Wags—because her tail is cropped and is always wagging, uncontrollably. And Bumper—she hiked with a backpack and when she wanted to pass someone on the trail, she would keep bumping them with her pack until they made room for her to pass. I’ve had her for about 7 months, adopting her the day before my birthday. She’s loved by everyone who interacts with her. Here at Boston College, she has already strutted through one of my classes, gotten affection from all over campus, and explored the campus store and buildings. She is very calm and goofy, so she seems to get into any place she wants (i.e. places that don’t allow dogs). Funny, I almost didn’t take her home with me, but I knew I couldn’t end the day without adopting a dog so we became a pair. I was hoping that she would become my trail dog— running, biking, backpacking, etc.—and an unregistered emotional support animal. She has taken on both roles. I am currently planning to certify her as a therapy or facilities dog.  

Q: What field of practice will you be focusing on for your post graduate studies and how does this align with your purpose?

A: I am really interested in Wilderness Therapy. I’m toying with the idea of pursuing a PhD in this realm or becoming a Wilderness Therapy practitioner. I think there is a lot of research still to be done in this field and I’m super excited to help pave the way to a more effective and safe way to use nature to heal. 

Nature has been a huge source of healing for me—through coping with anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, and disordered eating. It has taught me a lot about the way my mind works (stressors, relaxers, etc), encouraging me to love my body and mind for the work that it can do (thinking, running, etc), and has strengthened my characteristics such as confidence, creativity, emotional regulation, etc. 

At Boston College, I will be working toward my Masters in Social Work. I am currently taking four classes and will be starting a field placement as a middle-school counselor. The school just received a therapy dog, so I hope to bring Murphy in as well. I also have a part-time job at a rock climbing gym teaching youth classes and covering  the front desk. Why rock climbing? After spending last summer as a wilderness therapy guide, I learned how effective rock climbing is when working on skills such as emotional regulation, confidence, anxiety reduction, teamwork/trust, etc. It is all very interconnected.


Read more about Dr. Smith’s Nature Psychology course and other related stories in the links below.

Related stories: 

Huskies Follow the Research Trail to Explore the Psychology of Nature

Samantha Smith Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

What is Wilderness Therapy?

@kltrocks

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Photo credit: Zoe Reep

Alumni Spotlight: Emilee (Philson) Stanczyk

Minoring in Psychology at Michigan Tech led me to find and obtain my dream job. I never knew that I could combine engineering and psychology and turn it into a career. My minor helped me understand how people think and behave, feeding into my work on medical devices that are used by various groups of people. It has also taught me how to interact with diverse personalities and perspectives, serve clients in a global market, and lead my employees toward success. I would not have the career that I have today without my Psychology minor.

Emilee (Philson) Stanczyk, Managing Human Factors Specialist at Emergo by UL

Michigan Tech alumna, Emilee (Philson) Stanczyk had a strong interest in medical technology when she started Michigan Tech in 2012, and knew she wanted to use her math and science skills for medical innovation. As she explored career options within biomedical engineering, she realized that before you design and develop medical technology, you have to first understand who your users arewhat they want and need and how they think and work. That prompted her to add a minor in psychology to her education, opening up a wide variety of career opportunities in the field of Human Factors Engineering. “I quickly discovered that Human Factors is highly regulated in the medical device field and would enable me to use my biomedical engineering skills to develop products specifically for their intended users,” said Stanczyk.

This past week we got a chance to catch up with Emilee and hear how her life after Michigan Tech has been going so far in this alumni Q&A.

Q: With Alumni Reunion 2022 right around the corner (August 4-6), we’d love for you to reflect back and tell us why you decided on Michigan Tech for your undergraduate studies?

A: I knew that I wanted to major in Biomedical Engineering, so I started with schools in my home state of Michigan that offered the major. I was looking for a school that was big enough to have lots of opportunities for me to begin my career and get involved in student organizations, but small enough for me to make connections with my peers and professors. Michigan Tech was that happy medium. Although all of that was what drew me to look at Michigan Tech, it was my first visit to campus that really “sold” me. The campus itself is beautiful but the surrounding area was like no other place I had lived before, and I just knew it was where I would spend my undergraduate years.

Q: You have recently been promoted to Managing Human Factors Specialist at Emergo by UL. What does an average day at work look like for you?

A: In short, every day is different! A lot of my work consists of usability testing where I conduct sessions with representative users who use devices in development so that I can assess if the device is safe to use. This could mean I’m working with surgeons to evaluate a new surgical robotic system, or patients who have a skin condition to evaluate a new injection device. Other projects involve working with clientsmedical device manufacturersto advise them on regulatory strategy, often navigating FDA’s Human Factors requirements for marketing a medical device. In addition to my project work, I serve as a manager to a team of human factors specialists and help guide and mentor them.

Q: It’s evident that you are passionate about your work. Can you tell us a bit more as to why?

A: Knowing that my work impacts individuals on a daily basis is meaningful and is why I do what I do. I know that at some point in my life, I or someone I love, might need to use a medical device, and taking the time to design the devices intentionally, such that they can be used safely and effectively, is so vital in today’s world.

Q: Looking back, can you tell us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way?

A: My biggest lesson I have learned so far in my career is not to dwell on mistakes. Sometimes a failure seems like the worst thing that could happen in the moment. But often times, dwelling on the mistake is worse than the actual mistake. Accept that mistakes are learning opportunities and although you can’t change the past, you can use it to transform your future.

Q: What do you see for the future of Human Factors?

A: The field of Human Factors is growing and growing and has never been so important in our society. As technology advances and becomes more widely available, implementing Human Factors into product designboth medical and non-medicalwill be imperative to safe and effective use. I see the field growing and more and more jobs becoming available.

Q: You have been of service as a student mentor through the Women’s Leadership Institute and The Chapel Student Ministry. What is the top advice you give to young students deciding on their future education and career?

A: Find what you’re passionate about and what motivates you. Although your career will often be challenging and hard work, it should be something you enjoy doing. Find your “why” for why you enjoy something and use it as your driving motivation to move forward and work toward a goal. Finally, don’t be afraid to change your mind. Life is too short to have a career you don’t love. Go after what you want and make it happen!

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your career in the human factors field so far?

A: The most rewarding part was during one of my usability tests. I was working with a patient who had a rare diseaseone that limited her life expectancy to a relatively young age. During the session, the patient got emotional talking about her disease and how it has negatively impacted her life. After hearing stories about her experience, we got to talk about how the device in development we were assessing would greatly improve her day-to-day activities and overall lifestyle. She thanked me for the work I was doing and was so appreciative that her needs as a patient were being considered. It was very rewarding to hear first-hand the impact my work would have on that patient population.

Another really rewarding experience was getting to travel to Shanghai, China for a usability test where we were interested in learning how the different techniques taught in medical school in the US and in China might impact the way surgeons use a surgical stapler. It was my first time visiting China, and I really enjoyed that cultural experience as part of my job.

Q: With a background in psychology, you understand the importance of self care. What are some ways you incorporate it into your life?

A: The most important self-care tip I can relay is to set boundaries. I work in a hybrid model where I spend some days in the office and some at home. In today’s modern world, I am usually accessible via phone or email at all times. It’s important for me to set boundaries on my work email and make sure I am not checking it during “off” hours so that there is separation between home and work. I also find that moving my bodywhether it’s a run around my neighborhood, a walk during my lunch break, or time in the gymcan do just as much good for my mental and emotional health as it can my physical health. I also make sure that I spend some time away from technology each week to engage in something I enjoy doing, like cooking, reading a book, or playing golf.

Q: What is next for you on your life journey?

A: Career-wise, I am looking to grow into my role as a people manager, which is something I took on a few months ago. I look forward to opportunities to mentor and manage those who are early in their career.

Life-wise, my husband and I hope to start a family soon and plant our roots in the Chicago suburbs. We bought our first house a few months ago and are enjoying some new projects as first-time homeowners. I also really enjoy traveling and have a bucket list item to visit all of the US National Parks, so I’m hoping to cross some more off in the next few years!


We look forward to seeing our alumni back on campus in August and invite everyone to stay in touch on Instagram and Facebook @clsmtu.

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

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

Undergraduate Research Symposium

On Tuesday, April 19, the PSY 3001 Research Methods class hosted a poster session presenting the research they completed during the last semester as part of the course. The course instructor and research advisor for these undergraduate students is CLS associate professor Dr. Shane Mueller.

There were seven posters from 15 students in the symposium with faculty staff and students attending the event.
The abstracts for each poster is listed below the photo gallery.

Peer Evaluation Study of a Women’s Reproductive Health Course: A Synthesis of a Qualitative Study of Medical Professionals.  
Erin Brooks
The education of young women has transitioned from health and sex education to what it implies to “get your period” and how to actively avoid pregnancy (Schmitt et al., 2021). Young women have the right to be taught the basics of their reproductive system and the skills to identify and understand their own health. In an effort to combat this lack of knowledge, studies have researched the knowledge of fertility awareness in individuals and where they received their education (Chowlowska et al., 2020; Armour et al., 2021). The goal of this two part study is to identify a gap in the knowledge of young women about their reproductive health and to design a course that would educate women about the information that was not taught to them. The study was of a two part design: the first was semi-structured interviews with women’s health professionals, and,the second part was a peer evaluation of a course that addressed this gap. The results of the first study came to a conclusive identification of an educational gap on the natural signs and patterns of a woman’s cycle, including misconceptions women have held about their own bodies. The peer evaluations also held a high rate of correlation in the direction that the knowledge presented in the short course was beneficial to them as individuals. These studies helped to bring to light the knowledge gap there is in the education of young women today and where there is room for growth, providing the basis for courses for future classes.

Failure to Replicate: The Influence of Post-Event Information on Situation Recall.
Kaitlyn Baccus, Gabby Bosley and Makenna Nuttall
The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of post-event information on situational recall. We hypothesized  that when given leading post-event information after viewing a dashcam video, participants will be less likely to accurately describe and remember the event than those who are not given leading post-information. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two Google surveys with questions to assess their knowledge of a dashcam video of a car accident they watched. Questions about the accident included filler questions and one key question about car speed. The results of the data did not support our hypothesis and showed that the non-leading group reported a higher average speed than the leading group. These results encouraged us to conduct a second study, this time a within-subjects study. Four surveys were created using older car accident videos and an attention-check video of a mountain bike accident. These videos were counterbalanced with leading and non-leading questions regarding the event that occurred in the videos. The key questions were again related to the car’s speeds. The results of this study showed that there was not a significant effect of verbiage on vehicle speed estimates between the conditions.

Comparing the Perceived Effectiveness and Difficulty of Memorization Strategies in Different Age Groups.
Trenton Laramore, Abby Morley, and Samantha Walker 
Previous studies on the use of mnemonics as a study technique have found that deeper analysis and longer processing time of material will enhance memory performance (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). However, there has not been much research on the comparison of mnemonic strategies. It is hypothesized that the Story Strategy (SS) would be more effective in free recall compared to the First Letter Strategy (FLS). An online randomized questionnaire assigned participants into four groups that watched two videos testing both strategies. After recall, participants were asked to assess difficulty and effectiveness. Results show that participants recalled more words using the SS compared to the FLS and thought the SS was more effective and difficult overall. These results suggest that deeper levels of processing are linked to better performance. This study leads to further research in our second study about how age impacts perceived difficulty and strategy performance. Participants were randomly assigned into two groups and watched four videos where both strategies were tested. Participants were then instructed to recall words utilizing the strategy they were given. After recall, participants were asked to subjectively assess effectiveness, difficulty, and usefulness.  Results show that FLS was considered more difficult, while SS was considered more effective, but memory performance was not impacted by age for either strategy.  Results suggest that use of memory strategies may successfully counteract organic mild effects of memory loss as we age.

Sexual Education Comprehensiveness As It relates to Comfort and Suggested Material for Grades 6-8.  
Keighley Blindauer, Cat Madish, and Katie Ulinski  
The teaching of sexual education is currently under scrutiny by many and the value of teaching the topic is under question. Previous research has shown that students retain knowledge better when the class is comprehensive and inclusive as well as that students want that kind of instruction (Narushima et al., 2020). It is therefore the goal of study one was to discover if there is a correlation between comprehensiveness of past sexual education and comfort level when discussing sexual topics. The data showed that there was not a correlation between comprehensiveness and comfort level (Perarson’s correlation, p=0.886, p > 0.05). Despite this finding, it is the goal of the second study to suggest a new course in sexual education that is more inclusive and comprehenesive than pervious standards. To do this, current standards were compared and a new syllabus was suggested. A specific lesson plan was also suggested. Based on the first study and suggested materials, the teaching of sexual education is a constantly shifting field that needs to respond to what students learn best to.

The Perception of Self-Esteem Levels and its Effect on Mental Disorders.
– Jayden Middlecamp and Caity Weirick 
Self-esteem and mental illnesses are two things that often go together, and the presence of mental illnesses can create low self-esteem over time through feelings of anxiety, depression, and many other common mental health conditions. There is often a stigma surrounding mental illnesses in the United States that everyone who suffers from them will have low self-esteem, and those who have higher self-esteem are not as prone to developing or suffering from mental illnesses. Previous research has investigated these stigmas of mental health, as well as addressed the ways in which mental illnesses impact self-esteem. However, our interest lies in investigating whether or not levels of self-esteem (low or high) will impact someone’s perception of that individual’s mental state. Two surveys were created in order to assess this and included four different scenarios with common, easily-identifiable mental disorders. Each scenario was accompanied by statements from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale in order to imply low or high self-esteem without directly stating it. This allowed participants to get an impression of the person in each scenario. Following up, they were asked if they believed their self-esteem impacted their mental disorder. Results of this study were computed in a paired-samples t-test, giving a result of 0.008. Since the p value is less than 0.05, the null hypothesis is rejected and the results are statistically significant, showing that participants were more likely to say that high self-esteem impacted mental disorders compared to those with low self-esteem.

Change Blindness: Recognizing Facial Change and Comparing Confidence.
Alyssa Everett & Kallie Weecks 
Past research has shown that small changes often go undetected, which introduced a phenomenon known as “change blindness.” Research has also been done to show that the brain has a specific area called the Fusiform Face Area for recognizing facial features. However, little research has addressed which parts of the face changes often go unnoticed or how confidence affects detection. Utilizing the flicker paradigm, videos were developed to test if relevant changes were more easily noticed in faces and less susceptible to change blindness. The results from Study 1 showed that there was a significant difference between big and small changes, but irrelevant and relevant changes were not statistically different. This shows that the materials used in this study were well made to have big and small changes indicating that these videos could be used for further research. Study 2 used the materials from Study 1 to compare confidence to the ability to detect changes. This was done by showing a short clip of a video and asking participants to rate their confidence in identifying a change in the longer video. This found that there was a statistically significant correlation between the confidence and the accuracy of detection. This implies there may be the ability to detect a change before identifying what the change is.

Identity Formation Among Undergraduate Engineering Students at Michigan Technological University.
Emily Grant 
Sixty percent of Michigan Technological University (MTU) students are enrolled in an engineering program. Identity within one’s career has been a researched topic for many years and it shows that there is a high correlation between one’s success in their career and how much one identifies with their career choice. Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) theorizes that an individual’s interests, choices, achievement, and satisfaction all interact with each other (Lent et al., 1994). To test and further understand this research two studies were conducted involving engineering students at MTU. These studies’ main goal was to understand and conceptualize how much identifying as an engineer can impact one’s success throughout their time at MTU as well as their success after graduating when thrust into the professional engineering world. Throughout this research, I take a look into the opinions and feelings of MTU engineering students to discover what it is that led them to pursue a degree in engineering. Using the Critical Decision Method (CDM) interview process involving 6 participants which preceded a survey/questionnaire that expands the sample size to 94 engineering students, I’ve Developed a qualitative model of students perceive themselves as engineers, whether any role models led them to this point, and finally, a sense of how MTU either supports or neglects the needs for engineering students to succeed and create a strong identity with their chosen field of engineering.

To learn about the latest in our undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research – follow us on Instagram and Facebook @clsmtu!

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.

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.

ACSHF Forum: Grad Student Presentation

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host ACSHF PhD Student Shruti Amre at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Keep Your Hands on the Wheel: The Effect of Driver Engagement Strategies on Change Detection, Mind Wandering, and Gaze Behavior”, will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (April 4) in Meese 109.

Abstract: 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 to 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.

Human Factors in Healthcare Keynote: Dr. Rupa Valdez presents “Creating Systems That Promote Equity: A Journey Across Disciplines”

Please join us Friday (Mar 25) in ATDC conference room 101 (and via Zoom); talk from 3:30-4:30, with interactive discussion to follow from 4:30-5:00.

Dr. Rupa Valdez is an associate professor at the University of Virginia with joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also a core faculty member of Global Studies and the Disability Studies Initiative. Dr. Valdez merges the disciplines of human factors engineering, health informatics, and cultural anthropology to understand and support the ways in which people manage health at home and in the community.

We encourage faculty and graduate students with any overlap in research, interest in collaboration, or just interest in learning more about Dr. Valdez’s work/journey/activism to join us!

This event is co-sponsored by CLS, KIP, and CSA, and is sponsored in part by the Michigan Tech Visiting Professor Program, which is funded by a grant to the Office of the Provost from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez-Parks Initiative. Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer that provides equal opportunity for all, including protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Abstract:
Catalyzed by the pandemic and by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many
others, there is rapidly growing interest in determining how we can create sociotechnical
systems that promote equity rather than perpetuate disparity and injustice. In this talk, I share
and critically reflect on my journey toward this goal over the last decade. I begin with earlier
efforts to merge approaches from cultural anthropology and engineering to inform the design
of patient-facing health information technologies. I end with more recent community-based
participatory research and policy-based efforts to reimagine public health education, accessible
healthcare, and the role of community in shaping the research process.  My engagement with
historically marginalized communities has pushed my efforts from a primary focus on creating
technologies aligned with the contexts in which such communities are embedded to a broader
focus on working with communities to shift these contexts. In concluding remarks, I reflect on
how encouraging such work requires, at minimum, embracing a broader conceptualization of
engineering and, more ambitiously, work that may be considered a-disciplinary.

BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Rupa Valdez is an associate professor at the University of Virginia with
joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering
and Applied Sciences. She is also a core faculty member of Global Studies and the Disability
Studies Initiative. Dr. Valdez merges the disciplines of human factors engineering, health
informatics, and cultural anthropology to understand and support the ways in which people
manage health at home and in the community. Her research and teaching focuses on
underserved populations, including populations that are racial/ethnic minorities, are of low
socioeconomic status, or are living with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Her work
draws heavily on community engagement and has been supported by the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Science
Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), among others. She recently
testified before Congress on the topic of health equity for the disability community and
received the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
(HFES) for her pioneering work in creating and developing the subdiscipline of patient
ergonomics.
Dr. Valdez currently serves as an Associate Editor for Ergonomics, the Journal of American
Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) Open, and Human Factors in Healthcare. Among other
appointments, she serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of People with
Disabilities and on PCORI’s Patient Engagement Advisory Panel. She is further the
founder and president of Blue Trunk Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to
making it easier for people with chronic health conditions, disabilities, and
age-related conditions to travel. Dr. Valdez herself lives with multiple chronic health
conditions and disabilities, which have and continue to influence her work and advocacy.