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Experimental Psychology: Human Factors Psychology

History of Human Factors at TTU

The Human Factors (HF) program was formed by Chuck Halcomb (and his students) in the 1966-1967 academic year. The program was and continues to be an integral part of the Experimental Psychology Program. Chuck remained at TTU until 1990. He then depa rted to develop another HF program—at Wichita State University. During his time at TTU, Chuck supervised over 70 theses! These students are still active in the HF community. In fact, two of his graduates currently serve as coordinators of other HF programs (Alex Chaparro at Wichita State, and Holly Straub at South Dakota). When Chuck departed, the HF curriculum consisted of Engineering Psychology , Advanced seminar in Human Factors, Human Performance, and Software Psychology. Students worked on various problems in HF, particularly in the areas of vigilance and human-computer interaction. In addition, the program was one of the first to encourage (not require) internships. Students completed internships at places such as IBM, the Navy Aviation Psychology Group, and GM. If you were a student of Chuck’s or involved in the evolution of the human factors program at Texas Tech, we’d love to hear from you!

In 1991, Pat DeLucia was hired to “keep the HF program going.” After she arrived, the flavor of the program moved from vigilance and human-computer interaction toward visual performance and transportation. In 1997, recognizing the increase in HF jobs and the relatively few number of graduate programs in HF, the department hired two additional faculty in the area: Paula Desmond, a postdoc from Peter Hancock’s lab, and Jeff Andre, trained by Herschel Leibowitz. Course offerings were expanded to include graduate courses in Stress and Fatigue in Human Performance; Human Factors Methodology; Sensory and Physiological basis of Human Performance, and Human-Computer Interaction. In addition, we began to expose undergraduates to the field of HF with the addition of undergraduate courses in Human Factors Psychology, and Stress and Fatigue in Human Performance.

The field of HF also was evolving. A board was developed and exams were offered for HF scientists to become certified. Between 1999 and 2000 the number of schools that became accredited by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) doubled. Potential graduate applicants begin to use accreditation as one of their criteria for selecting a graduate program. When one of our own graduates of the program, Gregory Liddell, asked whether our program was accredited, it was time to pursue HFES accreditation.

In 2002, the HF faculty and the Ergonomics faculty in Industrial Engineering pursued a joint application for HFES Accreditation. The long and arduous work of preparing the application paid off: We were accredited for the full 6 years. This put us in an elite class of programs. We are 1 of only 14 accredited programs in the country.

The job market in HF continued to expand. Employers could no longer wait to fill their positions with PhDs. They began to ask for HF specialists with master’s degrees and even bachelor’s degrees. We responded to these needs in the market place by formalizing a curriculum leading to a terminal MA degree in HF. Shortly after, we developed a 5-yr BA/MA degree in HF which was the first of its kind in HF in the country.

After Jeff Andre left TTU, we hired Frank Durso. He instantly propelled the stature of the program with his name recognition, long publication record, and 15-year history of funding from the FAA. Our students, as well as graduate students in the cognitive program and undergraduate psychology majors, were hired on his grant and continue to receive outstanding training. In addition, Frank fulfilled an important need in the curriculum, teaching Cognitive Ergonomics.

After Paula Desmond departed, we hired Keith Jones who came with experience as an assistant professor from Kansas State University. Keith was trained at the University of Cincinnati, known for producing eminent academic faculty in HF. Keith brought an ecological perspective to the program and filled a critical and almost impossible to find area of expertise in human-computer interaction (most of these folks opt for the more lucrative industry positions). Keith is recognized for his work in both ecological psychology and human-computer interaction, and has developed a long list of highly regarded publications in the field. He continues to provide outstanding training to both our graduate students and undergraduates.

After Frank Durso departed, we hired Martina Klein from the University of Cincinnati. Martina is recognized for her research on perceptual motor distortions in minimally invasive surgery. In 2009, the department hired Jamie Gorman who had just completed his postdoctoral at Arizona State University. Jamie received his doctorate at New Mexico State University and specializes in team coordination. He measures this using dynamic modeling.

The current curriculum reflects our continued commitment to providing students with a broad training and to the integration of basic and applied research. In addition to departmental and experimental course requirements, students choose from Human Factors, Human Factors Methodology, Perception: Theories and Applications, Cognitive Ergonomics, Human-Computer Interaction, and Practicum in Human Factors. To meet accreditation standards our students also take three courses in Industrial Engineering and must complete proficiencies in mathematics and computer programming. Students continue to complete internships and practica and we have worked hard in recent years to develop experiences locally.

Since its inception, the program’s reputation, stature, and size have increased tremendously. Faculty and students enhance our visibility and reputation with extensive involvement in the HFES, its annual meeting, editorial board, committees, awards and honors, and so on. In short, the HF Program at TTU has evolved into one of the best programs in the country.

And perhaps most important, our graduates continue to secure prestigious jobs in industry, government, and academia. We see many of these alums when the HF Program and Ergonomics Program hold an annual dinner at the conference of the HFES. They are very successful. We are proud of all of our graduates.

(A special thanks for contributions from Chuck Halcomb.)