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May 7, 2021

E205 - Brain Signals Drive Exoskeletons with Therapy

Recorded live on May 6th, 2021, hosted by Blake A…

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Recorded live on May 6th, 2021, hosted by Blake Arnsdorff & Elyse Hallett


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Brain Signals Can Drive Exoskeleton Parts Better With Therapy: 


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How do you handle a user interview when your interviewee talks too much? Iamjustheretoexist /r/userexperience

Entering HF Field - DaSkepDick /r/humanfactors


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| Take a deeper look into the human element in our ever changing digital world. Human Factors Cast is a podcast that investigates the sciences of psychology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, physiology and anthropometry and how it affects our interaction with technology. As an online source for human factors, psychology, and design news, Human Factors Cast is your essential resource for new, exciting stories in the field.


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| Disclaimer: Transcript provided by OtterAI and YouTube automatic Closed Caption. Any inaccuracies or errors are not attributed to the Hosts or contributors to Human Factors Cast. |

hello everyone and welcome to episode 205 of human factors cast uh we are recording this live on may 5th 2021 and of course this is human factors cast with a little bit of a different twist this week as nick is off so i'm your host for this week blake arnsdorff joined today by human factors extraordinaire and our typical healthcare symposium returnee elise hallett elise how are you doing tonight hello hello i am so good how are you doing i am doing fantastic thank you so much for hopping in to do this show for us and helping me out tonight to go over this and uh let's just kind of without any further ado let's hop into some programming notes and then we'll bring everybody the news um all right so up next for the community uh so there's no podcast next week so nick and i are gonna be on a bit of a hiatus for our little summer vacation but we we will be back on may 20th with a brand new episode and for those of you that may be joining us for the first time we have recently put out some hfes healthcare symposium coverage on our youtube channel and of course on our podcast through whatever medium of choice you have um and so you can check out things like the health the student health design competition winners a couple of different types of healthcare professionals interviews so check those out and that can give you some help some insight into the healthcare field alright so without further ado let's get right into the human factors news of the week so this is the part of the show that's all about human factors news this is where we talk about everything related to the field of human factors this could be anything for medical privacy security robotics ai you name it as long as it has any relation to human factors and we can kind of get our little um enjoyment out of it we it's fair game so this week what are we talking about we're talking about brain signals that can drive exoskeleton parts better so this is a bit of a mouthful that i'm going to read but we'll break it down piece by piece so despite the promise of powered lower limb prosthesis existing controllers for these prosthetics do not assist many daily activities that require continuous continuous control of prosthetic joints according to different human states of movement or changing environments you might be in the objective of this recent case study was to investigate the feasibility of direct continuous electromyographic or emg control of a powered ankle prosthesis this combined with physical therapy guidance actually showed some improved standing postural control in an individual with a specific type of amputation so specifically emg signals were used to proportionately drive a pneumatic artificial set of muscles through this prosthetic ankle and clinical based activities were used in the training and evaluation protocol during the study to really validate is this a measure that we can use or a new type of prosthetic that we can use so in comparison to participants daily passive prosthetics so without any kind of neural control they saw that training actually yielded a lot of great benefits in terms of much better scores in terms of being able to balance and be stable as you're standing so overall this entire study really focused on the team observing rapid improvements and improve in performance through training under load and further improvement in performance across training days as people use this enhanced prosthetic case study is really the groundbreaking research that is starting off a series of what will be neural prosthetics or prosthetics that can take into account what's going on from a neuronal perspective and how it can translate the movement so there's a lot to unpack in the story this story is actually a cambridge paper so if you're interested in it you can actually go and read the full paper on their website but at least before we dive into kind of the nitty gritty details initial reactions i know you had a little bit of time before the show to kind of look through this what does this make you think of or how does it make you feel uh well right off the bat like it it was a bit of a heavy read um it went into a lot of the you know emg side and i'm sure if i handed this to my sister who is a physical therapist she probably would have picked up on a lot of the lingo uh pretty quickly but um you know once i got through that i found it pretty fascinating because it's just it's such a good example of really understanding not you know just how people move but some of the nuances that goes into normal movement and bringing that into this because you know as you touched on there's you know quite a bit of dynamic movement that you know we do and we don't even realize you know as especially people who have you know all limbs who aren't relying on these um pro theses and um you know so having that be kind of a focal point in the study i found to be you know actually kind of a an interesting example of you know really considering the human in the midst of um you know this this assistive technology absolutely and i think what's continually mind-blowing to me about this kind of research and this kind of work with prosthetics is just the idea that now we're trying to capture neuronal signals and use that to translate them into basically motor function or remembered motor function in some cases that allows somebody to have better access or more utility and mobility than they maybe had in a specific prosthetic so one thing i do want to break down here is explain the problem space just a little bit more because that blurb is pretty dense but it was something that i i had to take a bit of a step back to really understand what they're what they're researching at this stage so to define the problem space a little bit we're looking at lower limb amputees who are wearing a typically a passive prosthesis so passive meaning there's no kind of pneumatics in it they're not taking any kind of extra neuronal signals this is a typical prosthetic that is literally there to help you you know be able to move but it's it's only powered by you and your own biometrics now here what we're really dealing with when we talk about this is there's often a decrease so postural stability so maybe you're not able to stand correctly upright or it's it's a little bit lopsided which can cause different kinds of impingements that your sister would definitely be aware of i definitely thought of her as we were going through this because they do a whole physical therapy take on the training side but anyhow so they they're looking at the fact that people with lower lower limb prosthetics typically have different postural stability issues that come up over time but you also have this compensation that you start to make so if you can imagine if you were standing on like let's let's say for argument's sake you had a one high heel on and one regular shoe on if you can imagine the the difference in height you might experience over time that can like cause different kinds of limb issues as well as like joint pain because you're you're maybe having a lot more pressure on one side versus the other well in this case this is a similar idea that because there's a difference in elevation or a difference in kind of your normal leg versus what's going on with a prosthetic you can end up with both this tough time standing and keeping your posture correctly uh but also getting a lot of joint issues so this this can really lead to a lot of just different body imbalances and it's partly lack due to the lack of in this case of degrees of freedom that your ankle actually allows you um fun kind of anecdote here this is something that i uh kind of discovered over the past couple of months during covet as i fell back in love with specific bands and things like that and one of the bands that i was really interested in for a long time when i was a kid the band got in a big car accident or a big tour bus accident and actually the drummer lost his leg in the accident so now he has a prosthetic and a big thing that he talked about was coming back to being able to play the drums and rigging systems that would allow him to do so it required some the modification of ankle prosthetics so like thinking of how that kind of movement and actuation allows you actually to do these finer mo motor skills at the same time that's what's really allowing you to balance and keep yourself upright in some ways so it in terms of solutions so how we could combat this this research team from cambridge really started focusing on well okay there's prosthetics that exist on the environment today what could we do to potentially help people um over and above what's out there now so what they've kind of come up with is adding both like a pneumatic actuator if you will to a prosthetic that is also taking into account neuronal signals through emg so it's able to actually give you a little bit more stability and control based on kind of the information you're able to provide it as you kind of move around or change your position while using this thing pretty that's a lot to kind of think about there i know we've i've kind of like gone through a lot of this stuff but elise from your perspective is there anything human from the human factors perspective that would be really important to think about in a problem space like this um i think you know kind of like what i alluded to a little bit earlier just the dynamic movement that that is typically natural with you know how people are moving um you talked a little bit earlier about how some of the passive prostheses don't don't really accommodate a lot of that and you know we see that as a result we see the compensation right and so typically if we're kind of making up for something or something's not quite fitting then we see an overcompensation in some way whether that be like a workaround on a website or in this case something very physical with like the compensation in your body and so i think you know with this just like really understanding some of the nuances with with how you're getting that feedback um that you know something like a passive prosthesis doesn't fully account for so um i think understanding just how you know where we're using that feedback there's that internal cycle that's going on when we're trying to like account for something as simple as just standing upright especially on like different surfaces so i think that's that's one area um where you know understanding the human side of it coming from that human factors perspective is so essential and just kind of understanding um how to better you know support this for for someone what what are your thoughts it's kind of funny so over the past couple of days really i've spent a lot of time kind of diving back into the user experience research side of kind of my tool kit if you will and something that kept coming up that i haven't thought about and i it feels like years is the biometrics and biomechanics that it is part of human factors so that's really where this paper drew me was that that this whole thing has really got to be based off of and i'm assuming and hoping prosthetic design is based off of you know taking into account best practices when it comes to when you're assessing a patient and you're looking at kind of giving them some sort of prosthetic replacement take into account general rules and biometrics but also like you know me very well you know i've always been on a very like personal medicine kick or personal nutrition kick but i would hope that there are systems in place that allow you to do some very custom and very specific prosthetic designs based off of the person you're dealing with because i would imagine every kind of case is a little bit different because of individual differences accidental differences whatever it may be so i totally agree taking into account both the human the human themselves and kind of how they experience things but uh the underlying kind of neurophysiology that's going on that's helping you stand upright and that's really what this is leveraging yeah which is really hard to think about yeah and just kind of building on that point too um you touched a little bit on the individual differences so my um thesis a little bit of my background with research deals with accessibility and one of the i mean it's such a rewarding area to to pursue in human factors but it's also incredibly challenging because you have such a a variety of individual differences that you're dealing with and so this case study i thought did a really good job in laying out you know in this case there was one person who was involved and so they kind of laid out a lot of the the physical attributes with this person but you know moving forward it you know the the types of amputees that you may be um working with to support this i think you know can really play into some you know really interesting differences um the other thing that you know kind of came to my mind when i was reading through this is um i i actually teach an intro to human factors course through cal state long beach and i i get a lot of physical therapy students who come through you know students who are going through for kinesiology and you know there's the portion in the class where we cover ergonomics and then you know there's a lot of others other aspects in the course that you know focus more on the the software and web design and you know those areas um and i think it's you know very relevant to focus on the interfaces that we're working with but this is just such a great example of how much of a component you know the physical element of the human being and the physical characteristics are just as important in the field of human factors and then also not just human factors but really taking a multi-disciplinary approach and working with the expertise of other people like in this case physical therapist to really come to a holistic solution for someone and really you know in this case you know getting back some of their their stability and mobility absolutely yeah and i think that is something i often forget because i i feel like i've spent most of my career engrossed in digital software systems or like ui design but there is so much to be done like from a physical product design standpoint and this is one of those areas where i think it's super important because like you mentioned this particular study is focusing on one person to get the ball rolling for this particular type of prosthetic that's related to like ankle injuries or ankle amputees so you would have to be able to retrofit it to a variety of types of individual differences but on top of that to kind of dive into the the really what's happening here of in terms of technology this has got to be fitted with sensors as well that can't be uncomfortable for somebody so really what this is doing at the end of the day so believe it or not human neural control is highly adaptable to any context you're in i mean that goes back to thinking about like neuroscience and neuroplasticity and the thought process here from the research perspective was that maybe we can leverage some of that ability of the the brain to grow and kind of adapt to new changing situations like no longer having access to a specific limb could be used to help train and take signals and then push them as viable ways to control prosthetic or provide a prosthetic with more information if you will so in this case what we're really doing is they're picking up these emg signals that are readily available through you know prior experience or training in this case and then they're using that as a way to recognize specific patterns to allow for the pneumatics in the actual prosthetic to work work and give people a little bit more stability is really the focus here so this gets again away from the passive model of typical prosthetics and now we're moving to something that's going to eventually be more autonomous as the hope of this early stage research so to talk a little bit about what we've done or what they've done here is the way the way that this was tested is there was a specific training time which you could imagine for something like this where if somebody's had a prosthetic for a long time has dealt with you know postural imbalances or these kind of different joint issues that crop up from having to stand too long on something that feels unbalanced uh they would need to go through a specific training protocol to be able to understand like how to use the new prosthetic what it means to when you're like trying to teach the basically the machine learning behind this to gather signals and do actions for you so really what they did is they kind of just gave people a little bit of time to explore the prosthetic itself and then they did during this free exploration to help kind of reinforce training what they did is they had people kind of at like do motions while standing up to get the prosthetic to actually fire and what it would do is actually show you on the screen like basically how much force you're putting in is making the prosthetic react to your force input um which is part of like the neural signal transmission that it's grabbing and from there they really just focus on a couple of different specific tasks after training so looking at load transfers so this is a little bit of that what does it feel like in terms of being able to move back and forth to keep your balance on top of limbs being more synchronized so being able to have that very stable and equal like not equidistant but equal mass distribution across two limbs and then also like sit stability and standing tasks so standing up for a period of time and being able to feel stable without having to necessarily keep hold of something apparently these are all very specific to the physical therapy realm and these are things you would actually be rating but those that's kind of the the big test protocol here is giving some people very specific training so they can get used to this emg style of a prosthetic and then getting them used to the tasks they would complete so they can see if over time you actually get a benefit from using something like this

and so from here the interesting part to me is really i can hardly believe that this is the first attempt at something like this specific to the ank to an ankle uh prosthetic anyway but it's really trying to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of this direct emg control so getting us a little bit closer and further farther away from passive control where there's no kind of smarts if you will or no interaction with your neuronal system in an existing prosthetic and really trying to push the mark forward for these prostheses they get a little closer to eventually autonomous prosthetics where you may have something like a big machine learning system behind it with a lot of data to pull from you that it's interacting with you before um so in terms of context it did we did see a lot in terms of what the paper has to show we see that through training you do get a lot more kind of enhanced standing and better posture and you're able to actually handle these load transfers much better over and above what a passive prosthetic prosthetic was allowing this person to do which is amazing considering this is such a kind of like outlandish in some ways technology that's showing even through just a little bit of training that you can see these massive improvements that could lead to just better mobility in general yeah i thought it was interesting they said on the first day of training you know because they had a series of days that this this lasted right they said on the first day of training they already saw improvements which i like that really stood out to me because a lot of times when whenever i've seen you know someone getting used to a prosthetic it takes you know a good amount of time it's a little different and um you know just after that first day they saw improvement on you know stability and performance which is um you know pretty optimistic i would say for you know how this transfers you know to in the future absolutely yeah i think what made me kind of most blown away by the results is the the relatively like short transfer from training so that makes me hopeful at least that something like this is not going to take very long to get used to because it when it's stuff like this is in a research lab i mean we both have been grad students we know like where kind of products in some ways start where it's it's it's not what it's going to be in the end product in some ways it could be even rudimentary so if it's if it's this easy to use at this stage and we're talking about like using emgs to drive a machine that is basically giving somebody mobility back that's incredible to me and one thing that i is probably very interesting from the physical therapy and the biometric side that i have not never really thought of until now i mean something that i spend a lot of time on especially recently is mobility so like taking time to do exercises to re-correct some of my posture change some postural things well in this case even if people were able to do that that's great but if you're an amputee you may need something like this to actually help you keep that maintenance when you're trying to stand or when you're trying to walk or if you need to hold something under load so getting technology closer to what we resemble is like our physical form or like the the bones and their the bones and the mechanisms in the ankle it's just incredible that we're able to start doing this with machines basically yeah absolutely and i mean you you bring up a really good point too about the intuitiveness of it you know again you and i talk a lot about you know interfaces and design and kind of in that element and the intuitiveness of of those interactions but it's just as valid for something that's a physical tool that's you know working with our bodies in some way so i thought that was a really um interesting point um the other thing that was interesting there's you know obviously a lot of quantitative you know data that's included a lot of analysis um you know with that data that's you know cited in the paper uh but one of the you know qualitative observations that um also stood out to me in the midst of this is that the participant after working you know with this for for a couple days um you know some time frame like that he said he was able to you know expand the focus from the individual limb to the whole body which i don't think was something that was as of affordance you know with the the um the passive prosthetic and i think that that also further emphasized emphasizes that point that you're making with the intuitiveness you know if it's able to you know really work with your whole body you know you're not having to focus on this new element but really start you know almost folding it into like you know the representation of of your body as a whole um you know to then interact with the world around you well that's kind of interesting right because like bringing it back again to a little bit of my understanding of some some prolific pts that are out there like i i was just listening to something by kelly starrett who is a big guy in the in the physical therapy and crossfit world um and he was actually talking about because he had a full knee replacement recently and by by getting his knee fully out of pain he could actually and focusing on the mobility of the brand new knee which is a completely insane concept to me but basically being able to focus and get that one part of his body that no longer worked correctly um it allowed him to actually kind of feel like he had a more holistic system and it was able to really use his body the full potential that he didn't have while his like knee was a mess for about seven years so something like this here kind of lends itself to a similar idea and it's it doesn't really surprise me that we're hearing from the qualitative side that yes if i'm able to actually you know do things like be a little bit more stable when i'm standing or experience load and be able to handle it maybe i can focus on different postural aspects or different ways that my like let's say my knee is tracking um on that side that i do have the prosthesis so it's a it's it's awesome to see that this is really trying i think technology like this and ideas like this are really pushing the envelope to try and get people back to a much more mobile state that probably 10 years ago felt like a pipe dream but this is something that has continued to grow and i feel like i've seen more and more of it over the past two years on the podcast than i've ever seen it before um so the to kind of wrap this up the biggest takeaway i saw here was that this is just the the running ground this is where things kind of get started because the the desire it seems like is to really move towards not just emg control not just like direct control of a prosthetic but for it to actually have autonomous control based off the environment that you're in and kind of like taking in your neuronal signals con in context of where you are and what you're doing to help the prosthetic again make you feel like it's much more of your your own limb like like you may never have felt before so it's a it's an interesting line of research of course it's very much in the beginning stages but it's an incredible kind of read and it's uh for a for a research paper it's not as bad to go through some of the analysis and statistics so i definitely encourage anybody listening or watching live to check out the paper we leave that kind of stuff in in our descriptions and whatnot um elise any kind of like final conclusions or things you want to say or takeaways for the story uh you know i think it just goes to highlight the the amazing work that we can really do when we're working across different specialties here you know physical therapy engineering human factors all kind of coming together to you know work through this innovative um you know problem set right and then you know really taking that dynamic internal feedback loop that we're using our understanding of some of the different uh musculoskeletal systems within our body to you know make headway on something that's very new so agree with you it's um you know it's an exciting start to i think a lot of interesting research that's going to come down the line absolutely i'm so glad that you were here to talk about this story with me because it does have such a cool connection to human factors to physical therapy to also like product design in general it's something that i never think about and of course the underlying neuroscience to it uh so thanks as always to all of our patreons this week for selecting our topic and thanks to our friends at for this news story this week if you want to follow along we do post the links to the original articles in our slack and our discord uh when we find them so you can join us there for more discussion all right so speaking of patreons i want to give a huge shout out and thank you to all of our patreons and especially to our honorary human factors cast staff michelle tripp without your support across all the time that you guys have been around with us we could not do this podcast um without you it's it's not as fun to do and we just really appreciate what you've been able to allow us to do such as you know come back to streaming and do much more video production type of stuff in the background and get a chance to do stuff like cover conferences and bring content to everyone at making human factors much more accessible um just to throw out some extra patreon perks that we have or patreon options that we've thrown out there um so we have a 50 a month tier that is really just a i really enjoy the show tier it's more centered on there's no extra kind of uh perks or anything to this one it's just if you want to help out the show for one month or however long you're able to support great that's awesome uh as a new kind of option here we do have a show sponsor tier which is basically a tier that allows somebody to put ad space on our uh podcast so you're able to you know get your message out there about a product company whatever it may be uh for a one-time fee this is a one month only type of thing uh where we only do it once and that's kind of the end of that one uh so be sure to check out our patreon and if there's any way you can support us great if not we have plenty of ways that you can still help us and help the show grow outside of that all right so one one other set of features that we do have that we've started on and nick has been working really hard on this is the human factors news roundup so it's a new feature on our podcast or our pod page website so at human factors you can see a roundup of all the weekly news that he gathers during his uh twitch office hours on tuesdays and then there's some stuff that just doesn't make the show because we let our patreons kind of pick the story for the week but there's a lot of cool stuff that comes up throughout the weeks especially now that tech is like really booming again so definitely check that out through either our website or through any of our social media channels you can check that out anywhere uh last but not least we do have a merch store so you can always if you really love the podcast you can check that out there's a lot of kind of silly stuff that we've put on there such as the the worst review we've ever got onto t-shirts and stuff like that so you can check that out at your leisure all right elise this is my favorite part of the show it's probably the most fun because we can give a little bit back to the community but this is it came from so we're going to switch gears and talk about it came from reddit this week i think all the stories are coming from reddit so this is the part of the show where we search all over the internet in this case specifically reddit to bring you topics the community is talking about and where we think we might be able to give a little bit of input so at least how this goes is we just read through these and i'm gonna hand it off to you after i read the first one and let you kind of give your take on it so first up how do you handle a user interview when your interviewee talks too much so this is i this is from the user experience some reddit from i am just here to exist i love your name hey guys i just had my first user interview and it took longer than i expected while i'm glad he was elaborating with each of his answers he was taking too long and i hesitated to interrupt him this resulted in skipping usability skipping usability tests for the sake of time how do you handle or lead an interview should i just allocate more time to my interviews so elise i think this is a perfect question for you because you have a lot of i mean a lot of experience doing user interviews doing usability testing and dealing with and structuring these kind of events to avoid some of these pitfalls so what help could you provide here um a couple things so first is just planning and buffer time like anything that you plan you can run it through with one of your co-workers or colleagues and it's just gonna fly by like a breeze it will take longer with actual participants like you know whether you're doing a usability evaluation and doing it with technology and it like something happens that you just have to like figure out on the spot or your participant is talking along just always build in that buffer time no matter what because it will usually take longer um than you originally anticipate um though dry running it definitely helps make sure that you've got your questions locked down you're really targeting the things that you care about um and everything you know is you've got that timing expectation down um the other thing that i kind of like to keep in my hip pocket is having like a cutoff point in the interview itself so i tend to structure my interviews so that like the highest priority topics tend to be towards the front so if it's starting to go long then if i drop off a couple questions it's not the end of the world because in my mind the usability test absolutely credit like if you've got that person coming in like you that should be a priority in that in that session and so coming in with kind of your your topics and mind prioritized so that if you have to cut off time and you can't get to everything because your participants talking so much then um you know you you have that as an aid going into it so you can still get to some of the important parts with that session um the third thing that i would say is um sometimes when i have had i have had experience with this situation i've had it quite a few times um but i think one of the things that helps is you know sometimes when people talk a lot part of it i think is stemming from

making sure that you are hearing them and so if you have non-verbals that are trying to rush them through that might actually add to the problem um so i like to use tactics where you know i repeat back things to them i kind of roll it up is you know is this correct and you know the more that they feel like they're being heard sometimes not always but sometimes i have found that as the interview goes on the participant kind of eases into it and and has less to elaborate on so those are a couple initial thoughts that you know come to my mind just based on my experience what about you blake yeah that's that's the best advice i could like ever give right just be strategic about what you're going to do and be ready for the thing that you tested inside with colleagues or whatever kind of testing process you went through to kind of go out the window as you start to really bring users in i think one thing to learn from something like this is maybe it would maybe now you know from your first user interview let's say if this was this was the case that maybe it just needs to be shortened um or like ali said making sure that that those upfront three to five questions are you know really worth the time because i the thing that i'm a little bit concerned in this case about is i don't know that i would have sk would have felt comfortable skipping the usability test and i think sometimes in the moment you have to pivot this is not going to be a super popular from a very scientific perspective but i mean if i saw that i was going through user interview questions and i'm hitting let's say that 45 minute mark and i just don't have the bandwidth to really push the usability test i'm gonna leave questions unanswered in in the case to get that usability test done because i feel like that's going to be another avenue to really gather feedback and depending on what your usability test looks like this could be an awesome candidate for it especially if you're doing some kind of think aloud protocol so i i think being able to just quickly think on your feet and adjust uh what you're doing in the moment is the best kind of advice that i could give um now if you're in a very strict scientific context i totally understand you really can't get around you know making your interviews not have all the questions answered or at least asked but in this case it sounds like it was in a much more applied setting because they ended up skipping the usability test all together so just pivot with what you're doing and that can give you the best way forward i think but at least your your insight was really invaluable here because that strategic thinking about how you're planning these things out and being prepared for basically anything to happen when you actually sit down to do these interviews or usability tests is really important to think about all right so let's jump into the next one here so we've got one called entering the hf field so this is from the skeptic at from the human factors subreddit i was gonna say the human factors cast subreddit but that's not the thing all right so hello all i have a question regarding entering into the human factors field i understand that the field is large with a lot of different requirements specializations but generally speaking for those in the field what would you say is the most important thing in landing a human factor's job i personally have a background in psyc and an m.a in clinical mental health counseling i initially planned on entering the clinical field of mental health but since realized that this is not where my passion lies currently i work in sort of a research support role i would love to work in a setting where i can assist in human factors in the human factor side of things that involve ai and or other forms of technology with all that being said what has been your experience in landing your first human factors job do you think pursuing a human factors masters or phd degree is necessary or are there better ways of landing a job thanks all right so at least there's a couple of questions in here um i you might be able to tell why i picked this one because i felt like this was analogous to somewhat of your story um but so let's go through these one by one together and we'll kind of knock them out so for those in the field what would you say is the most important thing in landing a human factor's job let's start there so there's just so much in this post blake um the most important thing i would say know your stuff um and like have a really good foundation of the methods in particular um you know if you don't have a good understanding of the toolkit um and the critical thinking that comes with you know the analysis side of this then like that's square one like start there and gain that but the other thing too is um is is the personality side of it you know human factors a lot of times especially in school you know after having gone through a master's program myself they they only just skim the surface of the personality side of things you know we work with a lot of different personalities engineers you know developers um program managers different stakeholders users and then our own team members and and so that ability to communicate um in sometimes very tense situations you know when you're kind of betting heads against someone who may not agree with the recommendation you're providing um and then how you know paired with your ability to think critically about situations not take you know what the user says you know at face value um and then set up very you know methodological you know studies um and evaluations like those three things i think are really going to set you up for success going into a human factors job specifically in the applied field absolutely i think those are really really great points to drive home there's two things i want to say to this part of the question and i'll probably bring them back around for the specific job uh the biggest thing for me from my from my personal experience is when you're looking for landing a job and it sounds like you have a background in something that's similar to human factors or like is rooted into it so the psychology part so i definitely think you want to like pick up something like designing for people which is a newer kind of textbook about human factors that actually lisa's loaned me recently and really understand what human factors and human factors engineering is because it although it's not unlikely in my case it was i had never heard of human factors until i went to masters my master's program for it so if you haven't had any experience then do your homework and kind of understand the baseline methodology and what you're doing as a human factors professional and then practice being interviewed that's that is probably my biggest takeaway for the the most important thing for landing a job is practice the interview and like seek out because there's a lot of great content especially for people in the ux realm both in the ux design side the ux research side for how to interview for companies where they throw you very amorphous and difficult situations where you have to think your way out of the the box for same thing with like developers but i don't know that content is great for human factors people but i definitely recommend looking up stuff like ux researcher interview techniques and things like that just to get you primed for it and last kind of parts of this question i have and our audi our continuous audience is going to like yell into their headphones i'm sure because i say this all the time but i really cannot stress how much your network can be very important here because getting that first job is very hard and for me personally without the network that i had i don't think i would have gotten the first internship or the first internship that led to a job or any of that stuff even though like i have a background and a strong background in human factors so that's just stuff to consider as we go forward uh all right so let's hop to the next part of this question uh so what has been your experience in landing your first human factors job and this kind of curtails into the next part so let's do both of these together um so along with that what was your experience landing your first human factors job and do you think it's worth pursuing human factors masters or phd or can you go and get a job without it

uh so i know your favorite answer on the show is it depends shocker you did not i i did i did um but i mean that's kind of my gut reaction here i so i can very much relate to this post because all my undergrad i thought i wanted to go into counseling so yes my background was in psychology but i took a lot of social psych classes um the work experience that i had in undergrad was much more focused on setting me up for success in the counseling realm and much less on the research side of things and so when i got to my final year in school i was like oh uh i i actually don't want to do this full-time and now i don't know what i want to do because you can't work with a bachelor's in psychology so you know yeah so i i took a year off and and really took a step back and did my own research of you know and i heard about human factors actually from my dad who is on the you know engineering project management kind of side of things with medical devices and he worked with a human factors consultant so that's how he heard about this field and worked with him very closely and came to you know be pretty familiar with with what human factors is and just you know because of my personality and recommended i look into it so i like blake said you know with the books i went and got books on human factors um i crashed courses i was living next to uc san diego at the time and literally just looked up online like courses that were kind of related to human factors they didn't really have a big program at that time it kind of developed after i you know left the area but literally would go and sit in on on classes to just like hear about some of the basics and what they were talking about and just did my own research um but at the end of the day you know for me going and getting that masters was so critical for me in being set up for success in this field um there are bachelor's level programs there are um you know thing resources out there that can help teach you but the masters especially and i would say i mean we can debate between masters and phd you know i think that's a separate conversation but for me the master side gave me the applied you know practice of what it is that we do and also to your point with the networking gave me the network to set me up for success so i i don't know that i would have personally felt comfortable like you know trying to jump into the field of human factors on my own um you know i'm sure people do it there are a lot of resources out there hfes for example has a ton of resources online that can really um you know start someone down the right path um but me personally i i found that having that masters going into this really set me up for success yeah and i think you you've definitely made some key points here so the getting your first job in human factors i think in this very specific case and i'm having to generalize because of course i don't know this specific person but the way that they've set what they've told us their background is so they've got a bachelor's in psych and then uh ma in clinical health so from my perspective unless you have you've had classes or you've done the work to go and understand human factors in a very pretty deep level from a methodology standpoint at least getting some kind of education is going to be helpful now there's it's really only since i've been working for the past few years that i've discovered there are bachelor's programs now that are focused on human factors uh a good mutual friend of the show has a bachelor's in human factors and he's a great human factors engineer doesn't have a masters doesn't have a phd and can do the job just as well as anybody else that i know but the the key differentiating factor there is he has a background in specifically human factors i'm a big proponent of doing whatever makes sense for you uh like elise i i found myself personally all right in my case in grad school i felt like i was ultra privileged because the lab that i worked in gave me my first internship job which have to be connected with a nasa lab and then later on i went to an actual internship at a nasa lab and continued doing my thesis under funding from front from cal state as well as nasa work as well so on top of that like i had already just by going to school and being a part of a program gotten more experience than i could have ever done just by myself so the the master's program from that pure perspective for me was beyond worth it and then the the fact that i had worked uh in this lab was a part of this particular program that was the intro to my first internship to job opportunity so again without the program the network i couldn't have gotten to where i was um and i think ultimately too from somebody who had just a psych background with a half a minor in philosophy i couldn't really do anything for human factors with just that i didn't know anything about human factors i was working in a rat learning lab when my professor who was going to be my phd mentor told me about human factors was like you really should go do this i know you like aviation blah blah blah because i was a failed aviation engineer and so that's how i kind of got my way into human factors was just through the master's program do i think that you have to have a master's or a phd to do it not necessarily but i don't know personally where you're going to get the kind of content you need to be able to understand the baseline methods and show that you can apply them that's the biggest kind of thing that might be holding it back here all right so elise any kind of wrap up thoughts for that one are you feeling feeling good about your answers there i think i'm feeling pretty good on that one very cool all right so i think that that is going to wrap up the show for this evening uh thank you everybody for sticking around with us i know it was a little bit of a later evening tonight getting the show together for those that joined us live on stream elise thank you so much for coming and hanging out and doing this podcast uh we r nick and i really appreciate it i'm glad that you were okay with sitting here with me at eight at night to go through some of these topics talk about prosthetics and give some advice to the crowd um and so as always you guys can find us all over social media at human factors cast you can visit our official website and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest ahf news get things like the human factors cast news roundup if you want to support the show you can always become a patreon that really helps the show but there are plenty of ways you can help outside of that so if you want to help support the show but you don't want to do so monetarily you can leave us a five star review on any of your podcast mediums if you're watching us live or if you're on any of the streaming platforms you can subscribe or give us a thumbs up or drop us a heart whatever it may be it helps the algorithm let other people find the content and always you can find all the links to our socials and our website in the description of each podcast episode be it on the podcast uh medium that you like or the streaming service that you might be watching us on so as for me i have not been nick rome i am blake ironsdorf you can find me streaming on twitch on sundays at 9 30 to 10 30 a.m on pacific coast time and you can find me across social media at don't panic ux or in our slack or discord at blake uh elise thank you so much for joining us where can listers go and find you if they want to get in contact with you learn more about prosthetics thank you so much for having me on the show uh if anyone has any questions for me you can find me on linkedin uh full name is um in the show notes and then you can also find me on slack i don't know my tag but i'm probably the only elise on there because it's such a weird name um but anyway thanks for having me in the show it's been a lot of fun absolutely so that'll be at e-l-y-s-e for anybody looking for in slack or discord all right so thanks again everybody for tuning in hanging out with us thank you to all the people that came and hung out while we were streaming nick for coming dropping by as well why he's on vacation so thanks for tuning in to human factors cast and elise you know what time it is until next time it depends

Elyse HallettProfile Photo

Elyse Hallett

Guest Host / Field Correspondent

As a recent Master's graduate student in Human Factors, I am passionate about improving the quality of life for people by targeting the areas they themselves deem most important. This can be through the domain of healthcare, by helping the professionals who help patients through effective interventions that ultimately enhance the efficiency of procedures and reduce the stress within the operating room. This can be through the domain of accessibility, by improving the usability of tools that end users ultimately rely on to perform certain activities on the computer. This can be through training, by running simulations of certain complex systems (e.g. the National Airspace System). Whatever the domain, the goal is still the same: To be an advocate for the end user by shifting the spotlight away from technology and focusing once more on who will actually be using it.