The goal of this research is to systematically examine the efficacy of formal mentoring programs on undergraduate students seeking research participation and experience at a University research laboratory.  To this end, the University of Central Florida will serve as an REU Site Host to welcome a group of 10 underrepresented undergraduate students from various 2-year College and University institutions across the U.S.  Over the course of a year-period, we will provide the necessary research expertise, resources, and mentoring programs to develop a sustainable change in the various areas of Cognitive Neuroscience and Engineering Psychology.  The UCF-REU summer research program will offer these underrepresented undergraduate students a unique opportunity to foster their knowledge and research skills in various areas of Cognitive Engineering, Neuroscience, and Applied Psychology.  Students who will be admitted to join this REU site program will complete a series of activities such as a participation in a formal Research Methods course that has been taught by the P.I. every summer for the last 20 years.  In addition, a series of workshops, weekly meetings, class discussion, and laboratory activities will also be completed. Students will learn how to conduct a literature search on various aspects of cognitive neuroscience including language processing and acquisition among monolingual and bilingual speakers, the impact of human factors issues related advanced automation technology in aviation systems, the impact of in-vehicle device usage on driver distraction and road rage research, attention and visual search, and aging and health issues from our various laboratories located in the Psychology Department. All REU accepted students will learn various neuroscience techniques such as EEG, ERP, and fNIR analysis and eyetracking analysis methods. Students will team up with a group of UCF undergraduate students who are currently working on active research studies as part of this REU program.  In addition the students will also have an opportunity to present and discuss their research in an open forum using a PowerPoint presentations, as well as in an open interactive conference type meeting during the UCF Undergraduate Research academy using interactive poster presentations with other undergraduate presenters from UCF.

This REU Site program at UCF and the translational research in Cognitive  Engineering, Neuroscience, and Applied Psychology will impact a total of 30 students over the course of 3 years, especially those under-represented students, first generation college students, disabled, low SES, and minority students by providing them an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and training in cutting-edge STEM related areas.  The aim of this REU site is to provide a formal mentoring and educational experience where undergraduate students will have a unique opportunity to participate in experimental research directly tied to our societal needs in the areas of surface and aerospace systems safety, medical, military, and health application systems.  All students will attend a series of mini-workshops within each laboratory and tailored to their specific skills, needs, and requirements. Similarly, these students will learn how to design experimental studies using ePrime and Matlab software to build their own studies, participate in a Cognitive Neuroscience workshop and learn how to acquire and precisely record EEG brainwaves from the human scalp, code the electrophysiological data using event related potential (ERP) triggers to plot various averaged ERP waveforms (e.g., N200, N400, P300, P600, etc.) as a function of their research questions.   EEG Lab and ERP Lab, software, EEG data acquisition using the Brainmasters technologies systems, MATLAB EEGLAB software to computer averaged EEG and ERP Waveforms, analyze the data and present their findings in a small forum with UCF and students’ faculty participation.  We will encourage students from schools with limited research opportunities such as 2-year colleges, as well as students from underrepresented groups to apply. Students who complete such REU site opportunities are more likely to be admitted into graduate programs in their respective fields, become successful in seeking job opportunities in STEM related fields in academic environments, private industry, and government institutions. They will also be more likely continue to impact their scientific filed through their published research, conference presentation, and teaching/research activities.

The proposed research will also build upon previous research efforts conducted at UCF.  Below is a detailed description of faculty mentors background, research projects, and laboratory facilities.  The broader impact of the proposed work consists of several research efforts that will enhance undergraduate student’s knowledge and skills in cognitive-neuroscience and STEM related fields. Students who complete this REU program are more likely to be admitted into graduate programs in their respective fields. We have assembled a group of stellar faculty members to mentor the NSF candidates. A detailed description of each research project that the NSF REU site will chose or matched based on student-mentor research interests is presented here.

Research Environment

The research environment at the University of Central Florida (UCF) site is well suited to support the proposed research projects.  The University of Central Florida, as a major metropolitan research institution with close to 65,000 students, provides a broad array of support services for its students. In addition to the library and computing services, the University offers various services that promote students’ social, physical, psychological, and recreational well-being. REU students will be made aware of support services at the University during their initial orientation meeting (both orally and by receiving written materials), and by reading the UCF REU Website, as well as the University’s main web page.  The proposed research studies will be carried in each of the P.I. and Senior Personnel laboratories.  The Psychology building contains a number of experimental laboratories where the P.I. and senior personnel have designated research laboratories space to conduct their ongoing and proposed research studies.  The Psychology department also maintains a number of conference rooms that are equipped with video-communication systems in order to facilitate face-to-face meetings between distal collaborators.  There are a number of other the investigators in the Psychology department (The Transportation Research Laboratory, the Center for Applied Human factors in Aviation, the Applied Cognition and Human Factors program, of which the PI and Senior Personnel are members) at UCF that have, and continue to work on research studies in similar domains (e.g., driver distraction, automation and workload in aviation systems, Design and devaluation of Unmanned Aerial and Combat vehicles, Human Automation interaction, simulation and Training, usability engineering, evaluation of social networks, etc. ) and using similar tools (e.g., virtual reality, Flight simulators, driving simulator, EEG, fNIR) to those in the proposed research.  As a result, the intellectual environment at UCF is well suited to support STEM project.  Additionally, UCF is the home of the Institute for Simulation and Training (IST), a variety of military laboratories, government institutions, and private industries, s such the US Army Research Institute, Navair Orlando, Siemens, Harris Corporation, Navy Research Lab, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Lockheed Martin, which all have close ties with the Psychology department and the P.I.  This relationship will provide a very fruitful collaboration in exposing NSF REU Site students to some of the STEM career paths and choices.   The P.I. and senior personnel have over 10,000 square feet in designated research laboratories and conference rooms equipped with the necessary computers, digital media capabilities, instructional technologies, learning materials, support tools, and state of the art library. The Psychology Department is housed in the new 65,000 square foot Psychology Building (main campus of UCF), which contains faculty and student offices, research laboratories, simulation rooms, lounges for students and teachers, and multiple conference rooms, a full-staffed clinic, a 400-capacity auditorium for classroom instruction, conference meetings, etc. and an atrium for organizing posters displays, social events, and various other gatherings.   Computer Services and Telecommunications provides central support services for administrative data processing, instruction and research computing, telecommunication networks, e-mail, telephone, information technology training, user help, and microcomputer technology to the university. Public access labs are available for faculty and students. Most labs are open 7 days a week with extended hours. Access to Internet and campus information services is available to all students through Pegasus accounts that are provided to all REU students.   

Faculty Expertise

Dr. Mouloua is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Applied/Experimental and Human Factors Psychology doctoral program at UCF.  He has over 25 years of experience in the teaching, practice, research, development, and evaluation of complex human-machine systems. He has edited 8 books, published 20 book chapters, 117 refereed journal and proceedings articles, and 25 scientific and technical reports papers.  Dr. Mouloua has also made over 250 presentations at national and international conferences co-authored with his undergraduate and graduate students, and 37 other invited lectures and colloquia. Dr. Mouloua edited/co-edited 8 books and volumes related to Human Performance in Automated Systems, Aging and Human Performance,  Computer Human Interaction for Management of Information Technology, and Human Factors in Simulation and Training.  Automation Technology in Advanced Cockpit Systems,   and Human Performance In addition, Dr. Mouloua received both the prestigious Jerome Ely Award (1997) and the Tidewater Award (1998) from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. He also received the Outstanding Past Conference Chair Award (2004), and the Recognition of Service Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (2008).  It is noteworthy to mention that Professor Mouloua and his students were named the North American Champions in an open competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2011. At UCF, Professor Mouloua has been recognized with 3 prestigious research awards (Distinguished Researcher Award, 2001; RIA, 2002 and 2009).  In addition, he has secured over $1 Million in research funds.  Finally, Dr. Mouloua, was also the recipient of a UCF “Twenty Years Service” award (20014) and the UCF International Golden Key and Honorary member award (2011). Dr. Mouloua’s research was selected as one of the top 30 best articles published in the last 50 years by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (2008), and he was also awarded a distinguished visiting professorship at the University of Technology of Compiegne in France in 2008.   Furthermore, Dr. Mouloua has chaired over 20 doctoral dissertation and 8 Honors in the Major committees, was a member of 60 doctoral dissertation, 9 Masters, and 18 HIM thesis Committees. As a director of the Applied/Experimental and Human Factors Psychology doctoral program, Dr. Mouloua has numerous administrative duties requiring a large amount of advising and mentoring activities.  Some of these activities include the oversight of 50 doctoral students who are part of the PhD program in A/E and HF psychology.  Dr. Mouloua has also advised over 100 graduate students over the last 10 years. As part of his administrative duties and leadership role in the program, he conducts monthly meetings, oversees weekly brown bags, supervises research meetings, organizes open houses to recruit the best graduate students for the program, conducts for program assessment for the department and college, participate in external reviews and accreditations committees, develops program bylaws and strategic plans, hires and mentor new faculty members, etc.

As a dynamic graduate program director and active undergraduate teacher of core research courses, Dr. Mouloua is extremely well qualified to undertake the task of directing the proposed UCF REU Site.  His current administrative position and past experience in directing 5 sponsored national conferences will serve him very well in managing the various acadmiic, research, management, and logistics aspects of the proposed REU Site.  During his career at UCF, Dr. Mouloua has mentored a substantial (over 2500) number of undergraduate students who conducted empirical research with full IRB approvals approval. UCF.  He is currently advising about 30 undergraduate research assistants working on various research projects such as the role of attention and working memory capacities in predicting distracted driving, selection and training of unmanned aerial vehicles’ operators,  the effects of cockpit system automation and reliability levels, and communication interruption on pilot performance and workload, psychophysiological correlates of language processing among monolingual and bilingual speakers, the effects of assistive technologies on older drivers performance and workload. The REU researchers will have the choice to join of these projects as well as any of the other interdisciplinary projects led by our REU faculty mentors as described in this proposal.  Finally, Dr. Mouloua has served his department very well in the last 24 years and his excellent teaching, research, and service contributions to UCF and the Orlando community has recently resulted in 2 of his high-school mentees from Orlando Science high School advancing to the regional competition, 1 high-school student from Paul J. Hagerty advancing as a finalist in the 2017 Intel ISEF ( May 14-19, 2017, Los Angeles, CA), and 3 of his UCF students becoming National Champions and top 3-champions in the Northern American Continent among a team of 300 competitors, and top 6 teams in the world among 3600 competitors (Washington, D.C., June 6, 2011).   Dr. Mouloua and his students also frequently participate in the yearly UCF graduate Research Forum, the undergraduate showcase, and the Summer Research Academy scientific events.   Several of his undergraduate students have also received research awards in these university-wide research competitions.  In the last 4 years, 2 of his undergraduate researchers received the Order of Pegasus award which is the highest academic Award given to a UCF student.  In addition, 10 of his undergraduate students received   the First or Third Prize for Best undergraduate paper and presented at the UCF Undergraduate Student Conference, Palm Bay, Florida, and November 20, 2015.