My graduate school career was spent studying human factors in the MIT Human Systems Lab (then called the Man-Vehicle Lab). My Ph.D. focused on cognitive ergonomics, specifically human-automation interactions. My M.S. focused on interface design for EVA path planning.

Ph.D. thesis:  Analyzing the Effects of Dynamic Task Allocation on Human-Automation System Performance (February 2015)

Committee:  Dr. Chuck Oman (MIT), Dr. Kevin Duda (Draper Laboratory), Prof. Thomas Sheridan (MIT)

In my Ph.D. research I used quantitative analysis of human-in-the-loop experiments and mathematical modeling to investigate changes in operator flying performance, visual attention, mental workload, and situation awareness when transitioning between autopilot and manual flight control modes. This area of research is critical because there is little knowledge about how operators react to control mode transitions, particularly the reversion from autopilot to manual control that can occur during safety-critical situations. I developed a framework for classifying dynamic task allocation between the human operator and the automation along three dimensions–the decision authority, the trigger, and the task allocation. I also investigated the implementation of dynamic task allocation in operational aerospace systems through a literature review and hierarchical task analysis of nominal approach and landing in a Boeing 767.

I conducted a human-in-the-loop experiment in which subjects flew control mode transitions in a fixed-base lunar landing simulator. I quantified subjects’ visual attention on the displays with an eye tracking system, and analyzed this data to understand how they re-allocated their visual attention during the control mode transitions. This experiment helped to understand the outward changes in operator attention, but it only let me speculate about the underlying cognitive processes that drove these changes. To test these hypotheses, I developed a human performance model in Simulink that described how operators made estimates of the system states, corrected these estimates by attending information from the displays, and used these estimates to control the vehicle. I extended an existing visual attention model to add a parameter hypothesized to influence visual attention—the uncertainty in operators’ estimates of system states between visual fixations. I found quantitatively similar results between the model’s predictions and corresponding experimental measures, supporting the hypothesis that the operator’s attention is influenced by the uncertainty in system state estimates.

My Ph.D. dissertation was awarded the 2016 Stanley Roscoe Award for Best Doctoral Dissertation by the Aerospace Human Factors Association.

My abstract and a copy of my Ph.D. thesis.

Master’s Thesis:

An Integrated Traverse Planner and Analysis Tool for Future Lunar Surface Exploration (June 2010)

Advisors:  Prof. Jeffrey Hoffman and Prof. Dava Newman (MIT)

For my Master’s thesis I developed a comprehensive traverse-planning tool for future planetary exploration, called the Surface Exploration Traverse Analysis and Navigation Tool (SEXTANT). The main innovation of this project was using a method for determining the shadowing on the lunar surface to calculate the thermal load on an astronaut or the power usage and generation of a rover. I also integrated SEXTANT with an astronaut personal assistant system developed by NASA Ames Research Center.

My abstract and a copy of my S.M. thesis.

Journal Paper:

Peer-Reviewed Conference Papers:

Conference Papers:

Conference Posters and Abstracts:

  • Johnson, A.W., & Kaderka, J.D., “Pilot Visual Scan Patterns during Lunar Landing Mode Transitions,” Poster presented at the 2014 NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX, February 2014.
  • Johnson, A.W., & Kaderka, J.D., “The Effect of Vehicle Control Mode on Operator Attention During Mode Transitions and Failure Detection,” Poster presented at the 2013 NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX, February 2013.
  • Wen, H.Y., Johnson, A.W., Duda, K.R., Oman, C.M., & Natapoff, A., “Investigating Human-Automation Task Allocation in Lunar Landing Through Simulation and Human Subject Experiments,” Poster presented at the NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Houston, TX, February 2012.
  • Johnson, A.W., Hoffman, J.A., Newman, D.J., Mazarico, E.M., & Zuber, M.T., “An Integrated EVA Mission Planner and Support Tool for Lunar Exploration,” Poster presented at the 2010 NASA Human Research Program Investigator’s Workshop, Houston, TX, February 2010.
  • Johnson, A., Dowding, J., Marquez, J., Sierhuis, M., Newman, D., Hoffman, J., & Clancey, W., “An Integrated EVA Mission Planner and Support Tool for Lunar Exploration,” Poster presented at the 2009 Lunar Science Forum, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, July 2009.

Invited Talks:

  • Johnson, A., “Changes in Operator Attention and Cognition during Manual Control Takeover,” presentation at the University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering 585 Graduate Seminar Series, Ann Arbor, MI, 12 Jan. 2017.
  • Johnson, A., “Changes in Pilots’ Attention and Thinking when they Take Over the Controls,” presentation at the Tufts University Mechanical Engineering Colloquium Series, Medford, MA, 3 Dec. 2015.
  • Johnson, A., “Dynamic Task Allocation in Operational Systems,” invited presentation delivered for Human, Remote, and Autonomous Systems in Air, Sea, and Space course at MIT, Cambridge, MA, 12 Nov. 2014. 
  • Johnson, A., “Analyzing the Effects of Dynamic Task Allocation on Human-Automation System Performance,” invited presentation at NASA Ames Research Center, 6 Nov. 2012.