Real-world experience leads human factors grads to success
As one of only 15 accredited human factors departments in the United States, the human factors program at Wichita State University is helping students find success after graduation by blending classroom work with real-world industry experience.
Part of the Department of Psychology since 1995, the human factors program has had a great record of placing its students at big-name companies, such as Dell, Microsoft, Sandia National Labs and Motorola.
Most recently three graduates - Doug Fox, Justin Owens and Dawn Shaikh – were hired as user experience researchers at Google. They work alongside designers and Web developers on a particular product or set of products for Google.
Fox, Owens and Shaikh were students in the human factors program’s Software Usability Research Lab (SURL), run by professor Barbara Chaparro.
Along with their time in the classroom and lab, each of the Ph.D. students worked as summer interns with Google before being hired full-time.
“Justin, Dawn and Doug were all excellent, driven students,” Chaparro said. “They seized every opportunity possible to gain as much experience in SURL and in the human factors program as possible, which made them very competitive in the job market upon graduation.”
In SURL, students take part in a variety of applied research related to human-computer interaction, web design and usability of technology in general.
In addition, they work on a contract basis with a variety of Fortune 500 companies to help them evaluate their products for ease of use, efficiency and end user satisfaction.
It’s the perfect environment, Chaparro said, for students to get valuable experience-based learning while still in school.
“My students are able to get real-world experience in conjunction with theoretical classroom experience, which serves as great training for industry work,” she said.