Hello, my name is Steven Chong. I’m currently a senior, working with Dr. Carryl Baldwin and her graduate students in Humans Factors psychology lab. Currently, I’m helping her grad students Dan Roberts and Dani Barragan with their project on how mind wandering affects driving performance. In the Human Factors lab, we have two driving simulators, a desktop simulator, where it’s basically like a driving game on a computer (with an actual steering wheel and pedals), and a high-fidelity simulator. The high-fidelity simulator is a replica of a typical sedan: dashboard, car seat, air conditioning, and radio. Inside the simulator are three huge computer monitors to simulate the participant’s field of view while driving in the cab to give a more realistic experience. Also, the cab rotates as you turn the steering wheel. It’s really cool to see in-person, and there should be a picture of it on the main page of the Human Factors website.
On a weekly basis, I attend Dr. Baldwin’s lab meetings, where we talk about upcoming conferences and project updates. I read articles to familiarize myself with the literature and to be aware of the trends that emerge. I also help run participants through the mind wandering study. Furthermore, I’m teaching myself how to use MatLab, which is a program that can perform experimental tasks and analyze the data thereafter.
Being in the OSCAR program, and consequently being around grad students, has taught me a lot about work ethic and maintaining a balanced life. I’ve noticed that there is a huge difference in terms of responsibility and accountability between being and undergraduate and graduate student. For instance, not only do grad students have responsibility in terms of the courses they are taking and an internship/job, but a ton of them are also conducting their own experiments. Surrounding myself with plate jugglers has taught me how important it is to be organized. There are so many things to keep track of that it’s easy to be overwhelmed if you don’t have a clear game plan. But with that being said, because so much persistent work is involved, sufficient rest is important too. Whether it’s hanging out with friends or pursuing other hobbies, it’s really important to get away from those stressors so that you can recover for the next wave of work. Work hard; play hard.