“I’ve always been a human factors engineer,” says Yalda Ebadi (Industrial Engineer Ph.D. student). “At age nine, I designed a study to find out which of my behaviors made my parents angry or happy. Now, I’m doing something similar with users of cars – in this case, designing questionnaires to discover what features of a car make drivers feel satisfied and ensures their safety.”
Yalda is one of several students funded by the Institute of Diversity Sciences through seed grants that support multi-disciplinary and equity-inspired research. As part of a research team of engineers and psychologists, Yalda is asking whether automation technologies in cars increase or decrease the risk of accidents among teen drivers and those with ADHD.
Through her affiliation with the Institute of Diversity Sciences Learning Group, Yalda’s advisor, Assistant Professor of Engineering, Shannon Roberts, partnered with Associate Professor of Psychology, Jen McDermott, to tackle this research question by bringing together psychologists and engineers. For her part, Yalda is looking for how automation features in cars (cruise control, for instance) affect drivers’ ability to anticipate hazards on the road. Yalda designs driving scenarios, runs experiments with participants, and then codes and analyzes research data. She also trains undergraduates to help with the research. She says, “My favorite part is designing driving scenarios because it allows me to be creative and to see what is most efffective.”
While Yalda studies driving behavior in Dr. Roberts’ Human Performance Lab, Dr. McDermott’s graduate student, Abigail Helm (Ph.D. student, Psychological & Brain Sciences), tracks driver attention. Yalda has found this multi-disciplinary research experience to be very valuable. As she put it:
"When Professor Roberts asked me to join this research team, I was very excited not only because this topic is the focus of my dissertation research, but because it gave me a chance to work with a diverse team of students and faculty in psychology, and see their point of view on what is going on in a drivers’ brain as they drive. This was a great experience for me. As an industrial engineer interested in human factors research, I have always wanted to work with psychologists."
The Institute of Diversity Sciences offers yearly seed grants (up to $12,000 per project) for multi-disciplinary teams to research solutions for greater equity and access, and to help faculty train and mentor diverse STEM students.
To learn more about Yalda’s team research project watch this short video.
If you are a faculty member who wants to learn more about our seed grants, please visit our funding page.
If you would like to support equity-inspired research and students like Yalda, please consider making a gift.