Category: Research

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

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.

Erich Petushek ranks in top 100 most impactful articles on the ACL

Photo of Erich Petushek, CLS assistant professor

Erich Petushek (CLS) and co-authors received high rankings in The top 100 most impactful articles on the anterior cruciate ligament: an altmetric analysis of online media, recently released by SAGE Open Medicine.

Petushek’s article “Evidence-Based Best-Practice Guidelines for Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Young Female Athletes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and has been ranked #16 as measured by the Altmetric Attention Score (AAS). Altmetric tracks the type and volume of online engagement the research has received since published.

The purpose of the research was to evaluate the common and effective components included in Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) neuromuscular training (NMT) programs and develop an efficient, user-friendly tool to assess the quality of the injury prevention programs. This was accomplished by using meta-analytic techniques to develop an easy to use checklist—a human factors tool—to evaluate the effectiveness of ACL injury prevention programming. The article’s AAS was 380 at the time the ranking was conducted in January 2022.

Clinicians, coaches, athletes, parents, and practitioners can use the developed checklist tool to gain insight into the quality of their current injury prevention programs and optimize their programming for future ACL NMT to reduce injury risk.


Erich is an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences and a member of the Health Research Institute at Michigan Tech.

Briana Bettin Wins Best Paper Award at ITiCSE ’22

A paper by Briana Bettin, Assistant Professor (CS / CLS), received Best Paper Award at the 27th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE ’22), held July 8-13, 2022, in Dublin, Ireland.

The title of the paper is, “Semaphore or Metaphor?: Exploring Concurrent Students’ Conceptions of and with Analogy.” Co-authors are Linda Ott (CS) and Julia Hiebel. The paper is published in the conference proceedings.

Paper Abstract: Concurrent programming can be a rewarding but challenging topic for computing students. Comprehending concurrency can help students gain a better understanding of the computer as a machine, and how processes within modern machines execute and interact. Knowledge of concurrency is important to develop secure and robust multithreaded programs. However, understanding this topic at a machine and syntactic level can be difficult for students due to its novelty and complexity. Several topics in concurrent computing can initially be explored at a high-level using real-world examples and analogies to facilitate comprehension. This paper explores perspectives provided by university students in a concurrent programming course on the use of analogy to facilitate learning about concurrent topics. Through this paper, we draw attention to analogies used in course examples and assignment prompts, while turning attention to how students interpret and reason about and with these. We also explore new analogies these students crafted while reasoning about the problem space. This exploration suggests that while these students may draw attention to different aspects (in different ways) of an analogy’s design, they generally approach similar conclusions in their reasoning process provided the core relational design remains intact. Students also applied prior analogies from lecture and past assignments, actively reasoning during problem solving with these known examples. There is also some evidence of analogy mixing and swapping, suggesting malleability in analogy use while problem solving. Together, this exploration contributes to understanding student problem solving, reasoning behaviors, and perspectives while using analogy within concurrent computing courses.

Paper Citation: Briana Bettin, Linda Ott, and Julia Hiebel. 2022. Semaphore or Metaphor? Exploring Concurrent Students’ Conceptions of and with Analogy. In Proceedings of the 27th ACM Conference on on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education Vol. 1 (ITiCSE ’22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 200–206. https://doi.org/10.1145/3502718.3524796

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.

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

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.

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.

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Recirculate – Hunter Malinowski