One Festa fellowship has made a difference at a national level, working at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Pittsburgh.
Dan Ivancic found this opportunity as a graduate student in the human-computer interaction and integrated health systems programs.
Ivancic’s main focus at NIOSH is adapting the the current practices used to train miners.
“I’m working on a 360 degree virtual reality enclosure,” Ivancic said. “It recreates experiences of going into the mine to rescue people.”
So far, Ivancic has worked to make the training as realistic as possible, looking at different control schemes for the device. This includes looking at the interface, incorporating a head tracking system in the software and testing to decide whether to use controllers, he said.
“It’s interesting from a technical standpoint because not many of these programs exist,” Ivancic said. “It’s nice to know we’re improving training and giving more general knowledge about how these simulations work.”
Through his fellowship, Ivancic is able to test the skills he learned in the classroom and leave a lasting impact.
“What I enjoy most about this whole experience, besides the cool stuff I get to work with, is that I get to do something in the real world that is going to persist once I’m done with it,” he said.
Quality education and experience
Ivancic heard about the opportunity at NIOSH through his advisor and director of the HCi program, Damian Schofield. He said that having Schofield as a professor made him value the quality of his education in human-computer interaction.
“I really enjoyed the program and I learned a lot of valuable information,” Ivancic said. “I like Damian as a professor and tell other HCI students to take as many courses with Damian as you can. They might be more work, but it’s worth it.”
Thanks to the real world experience he’s gained through his fellowship, Ivancic can better plan for his future after he graduates the program in August 2012.
“It gives me a better idea of what I can do with my degree and how I can fit into an organization,” he said. “It showed me there’s a need for HCI experts and that sometimes gets overlooked.”
Ivancic graduated with his bachelor’s degree in psychology and cognitive science from SUNY Oswego. He stayed to pursue his master’s degree because the human-computer interaction program matched his interests.
“Something like this is right up my alley,” he said. “Rolling admission made it possible for me to start, even though I was looking to see if I could start a job without grad school.”
After graduation, Ivancic hopes to continue working in information technology.
“I wouldn’t mind being in IT or working at any company where I can do some interface stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I feel like I can do, and it’s definitely due to the HCI program.”