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Research Projects

Rice University
Postcompletion Error
LESTER Web Portal
Design and Transfer

University of Texas at Houston

Medical Error

NEEMO Habitat Analysis
HSIS Web Application
Wireless Headsets

Baylor College of Medicine
EMR Form Evaluation

Postcompletion Errors
Fall 2001 - Spring 2005
My first year project and masters thesis focused on postcompletion errors (Byrne & Bovair, 1997). These are errors of omission, which occur at a step coming after the completion of the main goal. An everyday example is forgetting your original in the photocopier after retrieving the copies. Because they are robust and potentially harmful, I was interested in ways to remediate their occurrence through a simple design solution. Based on work by Altmann and Trafton (2002) and others (e.g., Sutcliffe, 1995), I examined the effect of different cues (reminders) appearing on the interface at the postcompletion step. I found that an effective cue must be visually salient, just-in-time, and specific in meaning (shape, location, etc.) to completely eliminate errors at the postcompletion step. Taking away any of these qualities decreases the effectiveness of the cue, with specificity or meaningfulness perhaps carrying the most weight and salience the least. This work demonstrated the difficulty of cueing and also how sensitive users can be to visual design.

Learning Science and Technology Repository
Summer 2002 - Fall 2003
My personal involvement in this project grew out of a class assignment in which our team of three was asked to conduct a usability evaluation of an online learning science and technology repository (LESTER), which is cosponsored by Microsoft and Rice University's educational technology research and assessment cooperative (ETRAC). We conducted interviews with potential users on campus and did some basic user testing of the existing site to identify problems. Based on the groundwork done in class, I then took off on my own and developed page designs. Working with the developer, I put together the graphical elements, logo, CSS stylesheet, and basic HTML templates for main pages. However, the developer eventually decided to use an existing Rainbow portal software he was familiar with, which eliminated many of the layout and design suggestions I made. Nevertheless, it was a great experience learning to work on my own as a usability consultant and designer.

Action-based Task Analysis for Medical Devices
Summer 2002 - Fall 2003
The purpose of this Army sponsored project was to develop a simple yet reliable usability evaluation method for volumetric infusion pumps, based on Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA; Annett & Duncan, 1967), the idea of distributed representations (Zhang & Norman, 1994), and Norman's (1988) Action cycle. HTAs were first constructed using product manuals, consultation with nurses, and firsthand use of the devices. The internal/external distribution of information was then considered at each possible interaction step to identify error "affordances" (Reason, 1990). General usability and error predictions from these task analyses were compared against experimental data collected with nurses.

Fall 2003
For this project we analyzed limited video from the fifth NASA Extreme Environments Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission. Since the quality of the video was limited by the conditions of the habitat, video analysis was conducted manually (without software such as Noldus Observer). Crew usage of the habitat was tracked over time, with the main purpose of demonstrating that even limited video can benefit habitat design. After compiling the data collected from the video, I was able to develop a few design concepts for a redesign of the NEEMO habitat, taking into consideration the physical limitations. Our findings were important because they offered evidence of the value in tracking crew usage of a habitat. Such information would benefit long-duration space missions, allowing engineers to design better habitats that support the crew and mission objectives.

Human-Systems Integration Standards
Spring, Fall 2004
The objective of this effort was to take a longstanding NASA Human Factors document, update it, and place it on the web as a web application to facilitate future updates. My own role in the effort was to develop a user interface for the application based on users' needs (collected through interviews and questionnaires) and conduct user testing of the application after. Throughout the project I worked closely with the the developer, to whom I developed all of the graphic files, the CSS file, and page templates in HTML. A .pdf of two front page design concepts is available for download here.

Wireless Headsets
Spring 2005
To determine human factors requirements for a wireless update to the onboard crew communications system, I developed a test plan to study existing wireless headsets. Other members of the lab had already identified and procured several popular off-the-shelf models with desirable features. My objective was to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each through user tests and put together a report for the design group who would develop a product concept. I tested the headsets with NASA employees for both short-term and long-term comfort and determined the HF requirements. Finally, I drew a few rough concept drawings to communicate my ideas to the design group, which can be seen here.

EMR Forms
Fall 2005-
As part of my dissertation, I am working with a colleague at the Baylor College of Medicine Family Medicine Clinic on another medical human factors project. I have been asked to help evaluate third-party data entry forms for the electronic medical records (EMR) system they are actively using. After a thorough evaluation of the existing form (checking existing records, user interviews, questionnaires, user tests), I will put together a redesigned form based on findings from our lab at Rice and general design guidelines. Finally, I will verify that the new form has improved usability of the system with further user testing and generate general guidelines to be used by the Baylor IT group in future form design.

Design and Transfer
Fall 2005-
For my dissertation I am investigating ways to facilitate the transfer of routine procedural knowledge across computer interfaces, through careful control of the visual design. That is, ways to shorten the learning curve (and reduce the possibility of transfer errors) on a novel interface for a static task by manipulating the visual layout, colors, etc. Findings from this work would be useful in guiding the design of upgrades to an interface (such as in the EMR project), so that the least possible disruption is made to skilled users of the old interface. I will be testing concepts from unpublished research done in the CHIL regarding visual interface design.


Page last modified October 2, 2005