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New Program in Human Factors

September 15, 2005 — The University of Utah is now offering students an opportunity to earn a certificate in “human factors” in addition to their undergraduate degree in psychology or other fields, according to Frank Drews, who directs the new program.

The field of human factors “is concerned primarily with the performance of people functioning in a task-oriented environment interacting with equipment and-or with others,” says Drews, an assistant professor of psychology. “For example, human factors would be central to understanding how people make errors in a manufacturing process, that is, how perceptual and-or cognitive factors directly contribute to mistakes.”

He adds that information obtained from human factors research is applied “to the design, operation or use of products or systems for optimizing human performance, health, safety and-or habitability.”

Drews specializes in two areas of human factors: The identification of the safety risks of using cellular telephones while driving, and patient safety, which includes better design of patient monitors. Other examples of human factors research are the advanced design of cockpits to improve safety in commercial aircraft, and development of emergency response information systems to improve safety in power plant operation.

The new human factors certificate program began during the current fall 2005 semester.

“The certificate provides students, in addition to their undergraduate degree, with training in the growing field of human factors to expand their marketability,” Drews says.

Students most likely to be interested in the human factors certificate would be those majoring in psychology, mechanical engineering, nursing, electrical engineering, bioengineering and computer science.

Those interested in the new program should contact Drews at (801) 585-1977 or by e-mail at