Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors—MS, PhD

A Multidisciplinary Endeavor, A User-Friendly End

Influence the next generation of consumer products, technological systems, or other user environments.

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Tech offers MS and PhD degrees in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors. This research-intensive program unites the expertise of multiple disciplines toward optimizing performance, health, and safety at the interface of humans and technology. Participating scholars include both human experts and built-systems experts, including psychologists, engineers, computer scientists, and usability specialists.

Scholarship emphasizes human attention, perception, memory, cognition, and action in the following areas:

Current Research

Departmental research pursues practical solutions to real-world problems. The human factors component of the program is concerned with the design and evaluation of technological systems, products, and work processes from the perspective of human characteristics, needs, abilities, and limitations; and applied cognitive science focuses on understanding and enhancing information processing within both human cognition and machines.

Research is under way in the domains of driving, education, finance, health care, military, law enforcement, medicine, sports, surgery, and other complex sociotechnical areas.

Current Research Topics

  • Auditory Displays
  • Cognitive-Task Analysis
  • Decision-Support Technologies
  • Emotional Design
  • Expertise
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Human-Performance Modeling
  • Knowledge Elicitation
  • Next-Generation Technologies
  • Occupational Safety
  • Risky Decision Making and Risk Literacy
  • Stress and Performance
  • Situation Awareness
  • Simulation
  • Training
  • Usability
  • Virtual Reality
  • Workload and Fatigue

Curriculum

The program’s curriculum is designed to develop scholars and practitioners capable of improving sociotechnical systems through instructional and technological design, providing a strong scientific and technological basis in cognitive science and human factors. Master’s and doctoral students enrolled in this program gain core competency in understanding human behavior, conducting human-subject research, and employing the concepts, tools, and applications of human-factors psychology.

Job Market

There is a growing need for experts trained in human factors. Opportunities are expanding in all employment sectors, including industry, government, and academia. Nonprofits and consulting firms also employ human factors specialists. Common job titles in the area of human factors include

  • Cognitive engineer;
  • Customer-experience specialist;
  • Ergonomist;
  • Human-factors psychologist or engineer;
  • Knowledge engineer;
  • Usability specialist;
  • Usability engineer;
  • User-experience specialist; and
  • User-interface designer.

Departmental Degree Requirements

Refer to the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors Program Graduate Handbook for a detailed explanation of departmental-specific MS and PhD degree requirements. The department’s independently established degree requirements include the following:

(i) Terminal master's students must do a thesis or report. (ii) Students in the PhD program without a master's degree must do a thesis. The report and thesis options require students to first write and orally present a proposal for their report or thesis. After successfully defending their proposal, they must then produce a written thesis or report and orally present their thesis or report to their committee for evaluation.

(iii) Students in the PhD program who already hold a master's degree and who wish to earn an MS in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors en route to the PhD must do a thesis. Per (i) and (ii), the thesis option requires students to first write and orally present a thesis proposal. After successfully defending the proposal, students must then produce a written thesis and orally present the thesis to their committee for evaluation.

(iv) Students in the PhD program who already hold a master's degree in human factors, cognitive science, or a highly relevant area and who do not wish to obtain an MS in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors en route to the PhD must complete a graduate research project, unless they have petitioned ACSHF Graduate Program Committee to be exempted from this requirement and have received approval. As per the thesis, the graduate research project must be first proposed, and then the final version of the project must be orally presented to and evaluated by the ACSHF Graduate Program Committee.

MS Options

In addition to the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors Program Graduate Handbook, see also the Graduate School's Master of Science requirements page.

Thesis Option

This option requires a research thesis prepared under the supervision of the advisor.  The thesis describes a research investigation and its results. The scope of the research topic for the thesis should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. The thesis must be prepared following the current procedures.  

At least two weeks prior to the oral examination, students must

The Degree schedule form (M4) must be approved before a defense is scheduled.

Students must also report the results of the oral examination and submit a final thesis to the Graduate School prior to completing their degrees.

The minimum requirements are as follows:

Course work (minimum)20 credits
Thesis research6–10 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

Report Option

This option requires a report describing the results of an independent study project. The scope of the research topic should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. The report must be prepared following the current procedures.

At least two weeks prior to the oral examination, students must

  • Schedule their examination using the Pre-defense form
  • Distribute the report to the examining committee

The Degree schedule form (M4) must be approved before a defense is scheduled.

Students must also report the results of the oral examination and submit a single paper copy of the corrected and approved report in a sturdy binder including an original signature page to the Graduate School.

Of the minimum total of 30 credits, at least 24 must be earned in course work other than the project.

Course work24 credits
Report2–6 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

PhD Plan

In addition to the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors Program Graduate Handbook, see also the Graduate School's Doctor of Philosophy requirements page.