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Mirzayan Fellow


UCR Graduate Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Julie Kang, a transportation researcher, is named a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences.

(July 30, 2009)

Julie KangEnlarge

Julie Kang

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Julie Kang, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, has been selected as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Kang, a Moreno Valley resident, will begin the 12-week fellowship in September. The program within the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the National Academies is designed to teach graduate science, engineering, medical, veterinary, business, public policy, and law students the basic skills necessary to work in the field of science policy.

Kang’s Ph.D. research is in cognitive psychology within the field of human factors or ergonomics. Her dissertation research examines different theories of visual attention and how such theories can be used for optimal design of displays in driving, such as roadway signs, head up displays, and dashboard gauges.

“It’s important think about human abilities and limitations when designing transportation systems,” she said. “Human operators are unable to process all of the visual information presented while driving – information in the vehicle and on the road. We need to better understand how people process information such as road signs and billboards. Incorrect assumptions about the operator’s abilities can lead to problems in traffic safety.”

For example, inattention may occur when drivers must divide their attention between reading a posted sign and conducting other driving tasks. Inattention is blamed for approximately one-fourth of all vehicular highway crashes. Kang is interested in investigating how to reduce cases of driver inattention through the design of traffic signs or display screens in dashboard computer systems that ease the selection of only task-relevant information.

The fellowship will allow Kang the opportunity to work with researchers in Washington, D.C., who are involved with integrating science and technology with public policy, said G. John Andersen, professor of psychology and Kang’s faculty adviser.

“Most technology involves a human operator, such as a driver in a car or a pilot in an airplane. So understanding the cognitive and perceptual limitations of the operator are important in the design of these technologies,” Andersen said. “Failure to consider these limitations can lead to accidents. Thus, the use of science in understanding these limitations and the performance of the operator is a public policy issue.”

At the National Academies Kang will work on the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences Committee on Human-Systems Integration, which is conducting research on the role of human factors in home healthcare, the relationship between threatening communications and actual behavior, and the application of basic behavioral and social science research to intelligence and counterintelligence.

Kang previously has received an Inland Empire Advancing Women in Transportation scholarship and an Eisenhower Transportation fellowship to further her research in transportation issues. She also received a travel grant from the National Rural Summit on Traffic Safety Culture Scholarship to present her research on eye movements as a predictor for crash risk.

She also has published in the 2008 Transportation Research Board’s conference proceedings papers, and the Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal. The Transportation Research Board paper, “Age-Related Differences in Dual Task Driving Performance in Foggy Weather Conditions,” examined the specific differences between older and younger drivers on two driving-related tasks.

Kang has been invited to attend a federal task force committee meeting to develop a highway safety manual.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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