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Information for Students

Raleigh, North Carolina
Department of Psychology

Title: Human Factors and Ergonomics (MS, PhD)
Est: 1966
Accreditation: HFES
Granted last 3 years: MS 8, PhD 4
Part-time: yes
Distance learning available: no
HFES student chapter: yes
Program: Emphasis on cognitive/perceptual aspects of human factors such as identifying design principles for effective visual displays; evaluating important factors during safety decision making processes; human-computer/technology interaction; understanding how cognitive aging impacts adoption of new technologies; and developing procedures for effective information transfer in the context of complex systems and hazardous products and environments. Students gain broad knowledge through a structured program that also allows individual specialization. Our goal is to produce HF professionals, equipped with a broad range of methodological tools, who are able to deal with a wide variety of problems in diverse settings. Although each student will also specialize in a limited topic area, such depth is expected to enhance, rather than substitute for, breadth of training. Additional outside courses may be taken in a variety of fields, including design, computer science, statistics, and industrial/organizational psychology. The psychology and industrial engineering ergonomics programs cooperate in curricula offerings. Although specific requirements differ, students from both programs take many courses together. Occasionally, psychology students work on research with ISE faculty members. Students in both psychology and ISE cooperate in running an active NCSU Student Chapter of HFES.
Contact: Christopher B. Mayhorn, Human Factors and Ergonomics Psychology Coordinator, North Carolina State University, Department of Psychology (Box 7650), Raleigh, NC 27695-7650; 919/513-4856;,
Catalog: (free)

Deadline: January 15
Fees: $55. The NCSU Human Factors and Ergonomics Program requests a supplementary data sheet in addition to the university application and a departmental questionnaire. The university encourages online application; the supplementary data sheet and questionnaire are available from Student Services, Department of Psychology, NCSU, or online from our forms Page (see main psychology Web site).

GPA: 3.0 (special consideration for nontraditional students; course-by-course review)
GRE: 500 v, 500 q, 500 a
Other: Recommended: Undergraduate major in behavioral, biological, physical, or computer science, engineering, or mathematics. Successful applicants usually have a solid background in mathematics/statistics, experience in conducting research, a broad range of coursework in the sciences, experience in using computers, and at least one course in some area of experimental psychology.
Research: medium
Work experience: low
Letters: high
Interview: low

Students applying last year: 42
Accepted: 9
Entered program: 5
Openings/year: 4-5.

Residents: $3,148/semester
Nonresidents: $9,172/semester

% receiving: 50 (of full-time students). Historically, program students have had great success in finding a local ergonomics-related co-op or internship positions with organizations. Most students are continually employed (part-time) after their first year.
Amount: Typical TA = $12,500 for 1/2-time, typical RA = $12,500 for 1/2-time
Available: TA, RA; both usually include health insurance and tuition waivers, if certain conditions are met and the student carries a specified number of hours.
Apply: with application

MS: 36 units, oral defense of proposal and thesis, thesis research, no languages or practical experience required, 2-3 years
Nonthesis option: no
PhD: 36 units (if MS at NCSU), 54 (if MS completed elsewhere), written and oral qualifying exams, oral defense of proposal and dissertation, dissertation research required (plus thesis, if not completed during previous MS program), no languages or practical experience required, 3 years

Required courses (units): HF in Systems Design (3), Visual Perception (3), History and Systems of Psychology (3), Ergonomic Performance Assessment (3), Human Information Processing (3), Statistics I and II (6), Cognitive Processes (3), and a graduate seminar/special topics course in either Human-Computer Interaction (3) or Warnings and Risk Perception (3) or similar course
Electives: Tests and Measurements (3), Human Factors and Aging Seminar (3), Organizational Psychology (3), Psychological Survey Operations (3), Advanced Problems in Perception (3), Skill Acquisition Seminar (3), Nonparametric Statistics (3)
Required courses outside department: 3
Elective courses outside department: 3
Offered: summer (research credit and statistics courses only)
Class size: 5-10

Research facilities: More than 3200 square feet of laboratory space. Perception Labs: three visual "alleys" for studying visual spatial performance, equipment for measuring basic visual functions, a Laser-Badal optometer, apparatus for generating a variety of 2D and 3D displays; auditory localization studies are conducted in a large room with modifiable acoustical characteristics; an adjacent control room houses digital systems for creating/modifying stimuli; an anechoic chamber is available through cooperation of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The Human Information Processing and Ergonomics Labs provide a wide variety of experimental, computer-driven displays and test configurations; additional individual testing cubicles are planned. A scaled-facility power plant control room and a controlled environmental chamber are available through cooperation of Nuclear Engineering and the College of Textiles, respectively. Stress and Performance Lab: isolation test room, Coulbourn polygraph, and several computers that run the Wright-Patterson Criterion Task Set as well as other cognitive tasks. Eyelink II eyetracking system. Various multimedia-based instruction and scientific visualization equipment at the Friday Institute at NCSU's nearby Centennial Campus. Individual labs are equipped with computers, including new MS Windows machines and an assortment of Macs. Clusters of additional computers are available for general word processing, data analysis, etc.
Teaching: Teaching assistantships are typically 20 hours/week. Some TAs assist Introductory Psychology faculty with clerical duties and tutoring; others may conduct lab sessions for the undergraduate Methods/Statistics courses. Advanced students may be assigned to independent sections of courses in their areas of specialization, during either regular semesters or a 5-week summer session.
Current research: How cognitive aids can improve medication adherence; how credibility is associated with particular design cues on Internet Web sites; the effectiveness of highlighting cues, such as color and blinking, at attracting attention on a computer display; the costs/benefits of using such cues; factors that influence warning effectiveness; people's perception of risk and hazard; visual information display design; using technology such as interactive video games to assist older adults' maintenance of their cognitive processes; and the use of mental models in evaluating team training. Because of the university's convenient access to Research Triangle Park and to agencies/organizations such as the SAS Institute, IBM, HumanCentric Technologies, and EPA, students are involved in various research projects in many applied settings.

Active: 13 men, 13 women
First-year students: 4
Mean scores: MS/PhD students: GRE 560 v, 600 q, GPA 3.54

Barry H. Beith, PhD 1988, North Carolina State U.; HCI, workload, training
Douglas Gillan, PhD 1978, U. of Texas at Austin; perceptual and cognitive components of information visualiation and information presentation; perception of objects, space, and motion; assistive technologies
Katherine W. Klein (Emeritus), PhD 1976, Wayne State U.; individual differences and performance, survey techniques, stress
Sharolyn A. Lane, PhD 1988, Old Dominion U.; visual display of complex information, human information processing, team training
David W. Martin, PhD 1969, Ohio State U.; attention, mental workload, mental models of decision making in risky environments
Christopher B. Mayhorn, PhD 1999, U. of Georgia; aging, HCI, safety
Anne C. McLaughlin, PhD 2007, Georgia Tech; aging, training, feedback, video games
Donald H. Mershon, (Emeritus), PhD 1970, U. of California, Santa Barbara; spatial judgments, vision, audition
Robert A. St. Amant, PhD 1996, U. of Massachusetts; HCI, intelligent user interfaces, artificial intelligence
Lori F. Thompson, PhD 1999, U. of South Florida; reactions to emerging technologies, computer-supported cooperative work, employee surveys
Eric N. Wiebe, PhD 1996, North Carolina State U.; HCI, visual displays, cognitive ergonomics
Michael S. Wogalter, PhD 1987, Rice U.; warnings, risk perception, HCI, information design.

[Updated May 2012]