Meet: Richard Mogford
Ames Research Center
Who I am and what I do:
I manage a project called "Human Measures and Performance." This
project does a variety of human factors research to make systems used
by pilots and air traffic controls more "user
friendly" and safe.
Areas of expertise:
It is good to have some background in the area of human factors (also
called engineering psychology). To manage a NASA project, you also
have to know about things like scheduling, planning, budgets, safety,
risk management, and reporting. NASA has detailed guidelines on how
projects should be managed.
How I first became interested in this
I became interested in human factors when I worked at a head injury rehabilitation
center. When personal computers first came out, I started trying to adapt
them for use by disabled people to help them communicate. When I went
back to university, I found that there was a whole area of human factors
devoted to aviation and I decided to focus on that.
What helped me prepare for this job
I took courses in experimental psychology (cognitive psychology, perception,
experimental design, etc.). I also did several research projects
in an air traffic control training facility and became more familiar
with research techniques and the jobs of pilots and air traffic controllers.
My role models or inspirations
The professor I worked under in graduate school knew a lot about experimental
psychology and I helped him do several projects for the government
on interesting topics, such as the visibily of ocean navigational buoys.
My education and training
It is very good for this kind of work to have a masters or Ph.D. degree
in human factors or experimental psychology. Practical experience is
I got my masters degree in pschology and worked for 10 years
in clinical and counseling types of jobs. When I went back to school
for my Ph.D., I focused on human factors psychology. I then worked
for the Federal Aviation Administration in New Jersey doing various
kinds of research and testing, then moved to NASA about five years
What I like best about my job
I like being able to solve practical problems that make systems that
pilots and air traffic controllers use better and safer. I enjoy helping
others to do this work by managing the tasks and funding, and helping
them to do their jobs.
What I like least about my job
Sometimes it takes a long time to get things done and to see the effects.
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
I suggest spending some time around people who do human factors work
and doing some kind of summer internship or work experience to learn
more about it.