Human Factors Area Brochure

Graduate Program
Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Area
Department of Psychology
NC State University, Box 7650
Raleigh, NC 27695-7650

Dr. Anne McLaughlin
Program Coordinator
HFAC Area website

Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Psychology
Students in the HFAC Program may choose to concentrate among several areas of research for their PhD degrees. At NC State, the Department of Psychology has adopted a scientist-practitioner model of graduate education. Human Factors (also known as Engineering Psychology) includes such topics as the design and evaluation of products, systems, and environments; human perception and performance; information processing; environmental stress; and safety and engineering principles. Success also requires the development of research skills and a broad knowledge of psychology.

The Human Factors and Applied Cognition program emphasizes close contact between faculty and students, with an emphasis on research training gained via apprenticeship relationships. There are usually about 30 students in the program. Many affiliated faculty members are drawn from various disciplinary areas and other departmental programs. The program emphasizes the application of fundamental and applied research to the solution of practical problems.

Many students supplement human factors courses with courses in computer science, safety, statistics and research methods, and industrial-organizational psychology. Human Factors at NC State involves both the Department of Psychology and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Courses in the ISE Department generally emphasize the engineering side of human factors, as well as topics such as biomechanics. Psychology students in the program are free to take courses in both departments.

Research Facilities
The Department is currently housed in Poe Hall, a modern building on NC State’s North Campus. The following laboratories are directed by the faculty:

APPLIED COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY LABORATORY : Includes testing rooms and equipment for the display of visual stimuli and the recording of assorted behaviors, such as response time. The Applied Cognitive Psychology (ACP) laboratory is devoted to studying human attention and cognition, with applications of cognitive principles to human factors in healthcare and transportation.

COGNITIVE ERGONOMICS LABORATORY : Computers and a variety of custom-built equipment allow research to be conducted on risk perception and communication, information design, human-computer interaction, and visual search. Video equipment and a variety of computer software, including editing, database and statistical programs are available.

ERGONOMICS AND AGING LABORATORY : A number of individual computer stations and video equipment are available to test older and younger adults on a variety of applied cognitive topics such as medication adherence, human computer interaction, and product-usability evaluation. Statistical and video-editing software are available.

LEARNING, AGING, COGNITION & ERGONOMICS LABORATORY : Consists of on-campus and off campus space for testing the abilities and limitations of older and younger adults. An area is reserved for Research Assistants. Software is available for programming, designing stimuli, and statistical analysis.

USABILITY RESEARCH LABORATORIES: Part of the Learning and Research Center for the Digital Age (LRCDA) located in D. H. Hill Library at NC State. The URL consists of state-of-the-art usability equipment capable of collecting video, audio, and recorder data in real-time for observation and analysis of user-performance test sessions. It is managed by the Digital Library Initiatives Department and the Learning Technology Service of the NC State Libraries. In the new Hunt Library, the Usability Lab on the fourth floor is equipped with a workstation and software for capturing and analyzing human-computer interaction to assess software, interfaces, and other technology products. Morae software is available for screen capture and remote viewing. Video capture is made possible by point/tilt/zoom cameras located on two walls.

The Department of Psychology admits only those students who plan to complete the PhD. All doctoral students complete at least three courses (9 credits) in statistics and/or research design, as well as a one-credit orientation course, a two-credit ethics sequence, and some distributional courses. NC State requires 72 hours for the PhD (54 hours for the doctorate, if entering with a previous masters degree).

Area course requirements include:

Overview of Human Factors Psychology (PSY 541)
Visual Perception (PSY 500)
Physiological Psychology (PSY 502)
Cognitive Processes (PSY 508)
Learning (PSY 704)
Ergonomics Performance Assessment
Area Seminars or Area-taught courses (PSY 710, etc)
Research Hours (PSY 893)
HFAC Colloquium (HFAC section of PSY 820)

HFAC students are also expected to:
Take a minimum of one additional course or seminar in two of the following content areas: perception, physiological psychology, cognitive processes (or human information processing), developmental psychology, lifespan development, or ergonomics. Other courses (to meet university requirements or to satisfy individual educational needs) are a matter of agreement between the student and their Graduate Advisory Committee. Human Factors students are also expected to develop applied research skills by work in industry, government, or other institutional settings either prior to or during their stay in the department. (This may involve part time placement during the academic year or summer, or be satisfied by previous work experience.)

Primary Area Faculty

Jing Feng, Associate Professor of Psychology, PhD, University of Toronto. Professional Interests: human attention and cognition, with applications of cognitive principles to human factors. She conducts research to investigate attention across an extended visual field, individual differences and age-related changes in attention and spatial skills, as well as the effects of cognitive training.

Yingchen He, Assistant Professor of Psychology, PhD, University of Minnesota; visual perception, visual impairment, brain plasticity, prosthetic vision, assistive technologies, accessibility.

Christopher B. Mayhorn, Professor of Psychology, PhD, University of Georgia. Professional interests: applied cognitive aging, human factors/ergonomics, medication adherence, human-computer interaction, risk communication.

Anne Collins McLaughlin, Professor of Psychology, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology. Professional interests: applied cognitive aging, human factors/ergonomics, learning, training, and human-computer interaction.

Colleen Patton, Assistant Professor of Psychology, PhD, Colorado State University. Professional Interests: human attention and cognition, Human Automation Interaction (HAI), trust in automation.

Eric N. Wiebe, Professor, PhD, Math, Science & Technology Education, PhD, North Carolina State (Departmental Associate). Professional interests: human-computer interaction, computing in organizations, scientific visualization.

Emeritus Faculty
Douglas J. Gillan, Professor of Psychology, PhD, University of Texas. Professional Interests: human-computer interaction, knowledge acquisition and representation, information visualization, and high level perception.

Allied Faculty
Jason C. Allaire, Associate Professor of Psychology, PhD, Wayne State. Professional interests: cognitive aging as it relates to everyday cognitive functioning, intra-individual variability, and modifiability of the aging mind.

Patrick J. FitzGerald, Assistant Professor of Design and Technology, MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art. Professional interests: interface design, educational multimedia software, human-computer interaction, animated intelligent agents.

Daniel Grühn, Assistant Professor of Psychology. Dr. Phil, Freie Universität Berlin. Professional interests: lifespan development, aging, age-differences in emotional arousal, and physiological psychology.

Anthony Hall, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Ph.D., North Carolina State. Professional interests: cognitive processes, quantitative modeling and analysis.

James C. Lester, Associate Professor of Computer Science, PhD, Texas-Austin. Professional interests: artificial intelligence, knowledge-based learning environments, intelligent multimedia systems.

Brad Mehlenbacher, Associate Professor of Adult and Community College Education, PhD, Carnegie-Mellon (Departmental Associate). Professional interests: rhetoric and document design, rhetorical theory, online information design and evaluation, web-based instruction, usability testing.

Shevaun D. Neupert, Associate Professor of Psychology, PhD, University of Arizona. Professional interests: daily stressors as they relate to affect, physical health, and memory, across the adult lifespan, and statistical techniques for examining change and intra-individual variability.

Robert A. St. Amant, Associate Professor of Computer Science, PhD, Massachusetts. Professional interests: human computer interaction, intelligent-user interfaces, artificial intelligence.

Lori Foster, Professor of Psychology. PhD, University of South Florida, Professional interests: individual, team, and organizational reactions to emerging technologies; computer-mediated work behavior; employee surveys; and careers.

Regional Information
NC State University is part of the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, which includes Duke University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, as well as numerous high-tech companies including IBM, Lenovo, Cisco, Epic Games, Fidelity Investments, and SAS. Historically, there have been many opportunities for HFAC students to participate in co-op/internship positions within the local area.

Students are admitted each fall semester. Applications are welcome from students with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. A previous degree in psychology is not required, although some coursework in psychology is highly recommended. Admission is competitive and is based upon past academic performance, as well as letters of recommendation. Previous research experience is highly valued. Program faculty are also interested in learning about any special skills that an applicant may have (e.g., computer programming, experience in using computer software, design training and experience).

Applications completed by the department deadline (see department website) are given first consideration for admission and assistantships. NC State University no longer uses paper application packages; all applications are handled through the Graduate School and the on-line application system. If you need to contact the Graduate School, you may do so by telephone (919-515-2872) or by writing to:
The Graduate School
NC State University (Box 7102)
Raleigh, NC 27695-7102

Several items are required before an application is complete. In addition to the Graduate School application, these include a personal statement applicable to the program in which you are interested, transcripts of all previous academic work, and three letters of recommendation. Scores on the General GRE must be provided. (The Psychology Subject Test is not required.) The TOEFL is required for most international students. More specific details on what is needed, where to obtain the appropriate forms and/or how to submit required information can be found at

Graduate Student Support
Within the Department of Psychology, a limited number of teaching and research assistantships are available. They provide a stipend and require half-time work. Assistantship “packages” include health insurance and tuition waivers, if certain conditions are met and the student carries a specified number of hours. A few students may also qualify for special Graduate School supplements. Other forms of financial assistance, available through the Office of Financial Aid, include scholarships, grants, loans, and campus employment. North Carolina State University is committed to equality of educational opportunity and does not discriminate against applicants, students, or employees based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or veteran status.