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National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
Board on Human System Integration
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

BOHSI Member Spotlight
From the June 2012 BOHSI Newsletter
Thomas Sheridan, Ph.D., NAE
Ford Professor of Engineering and Applied Psychology Emeritus
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this issue we place the spotlight on Thomas Sheridan, a long-standing BOHSI member who was also a founding member of the Committee on Human Factors (COHF), BOHSI's predecessor
What are your current areas of research/interest?
My interests are in modeling of human-automation interaction and human-system integration broadly in aviation, highway vehicles, rail systems, health care and industrial plants.
What led you to this field?
During the Korean War I was lucky to have been assigned as an R&D officer at the (then) Aeromedical Lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, where the field of human factors more or less beginning. As an experimental subject I rode the centrifuge and ejection seat test track, did some parachuting, and helped design personal equipment for fighter aircraft. After my service I was able to put together a doctoral program between control engineering at MIT and experimental psychology at Harvard.
What has been the biggest change in human-systems integration during your career?
I witnessed the whole evolution from knobs-and-dials interface design, though use of borrowed engineering models to characterize of human control, communication, and decision making, and finally to computer interaction and cognitive interaction.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of BOHSI?
An absolutely splendid bunch of people, both members and staff. It is just plain fun to dig together into the issues of the day.
What is the most important thing you would like to see human-systems integration achieve in the next 10 years?
Find ways to employ technology to help people understand complex design and policy tradeoffs, not only in technology but also in the social and political spheres.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Probably God and Golem Incorporated, the last book and Pulitzer prize winner by the father of cybernetics Norbert Wiener. He emphasizes the social perils of computers and automation technology.

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