Jahinaya Parker '22, an undergraduate in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, was one of two College of Engineering undergraduate students chosen as “Rising Researchers,” for the spring of 2022. The Rising Researcher award recognizes exceptional accomplishments of UMass Amherst undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, and creative activity.
Parker has dreamed of being an engineer since middle school, when she read a book titled The Way Things Work and fell in love with system design.
Fast forward to her junior year at UMass Amherst, she learned about the human aspect of design in her Mechanical and Industrial Engineering 460 class, Human Factors Engineering. This course inspired Parker to seek out research opportunities geared toward user design. She ultimately accepted undergraduate research assistant positions in two labs: the Human Performance Lab with Shannon Roberts, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and the Learning Lab, with Jennifer McDermott, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences.
In summer 2021, Parker began working on two studies examining how drivers engage and adjust to automation over time. For the NeuroDRIVE study, involving adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parker reviewed previously collected data and prepared a literature review and methods section of a manuscript, on which she is first author, for submission to Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior. For the TeenDrive study, focused on adolescents who recently received their licenses, she administered a series of computerized tasks to participants and coordinated drives in the Realtime Technologies driving simulator in the Human Performance Lab, as well as assisting with collecting both technical and behavioral data on measures of cognitive and social processing. She will assist in writing a manuscript for submission in the future.
Parker has also worked on a cybersecurity study, which aimed to examine the effectiveness of training programs and in-vehicle warning message systems in improving drivers' behavior during vehicle cyberattacks. She oversaw participant recruitment, data collection, and some data analysis. Parker is currently assisting in writing two papers for submission to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting and the Human Factors journal.
In spring 2022, Parker got involved in yet another research project, the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Design Study, a simulator study examining the efficacy, trust, and acceptance of drivers using promising HMIs identified in the literature scan.
Parker describes her passion for research and scientific discovery: “On the grand scale of things, you are the original inquirer—asking and answering questions that no one has asked before. There is so much room for originality and for you to leave your mark on science.”
To further develop skills needed for research, Parker has taken a graduate-level course, Research Methods for Engineers. The end product of the course was a research study of her own design, “Vaccine efficacy and student comfort at the University of Massachusetts Amherst during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall 2021 semester.” Parker has submitted her study to the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers Undergraduate Student Technical Paper Competition.
Roberts, who serves as Parker’s academic advisor and research supervisor, says Parker “has shown herself to be an incredibly thoughtful, thorough, engaged, and persistent undergraduate researcher.” She emphasizes how extraordinary it is that Parker already has three publications under her belt—two of which have her listed as first author.
After graduating from UMass, Parker will pursue a PhD at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, conducting research to develop an adaptive user interface for vehicles with varying levels of automation.
“Without the immersive hands-on research experience I’ve had at UMass, I wouldn’t be curious about these topics or on my way to graduate school,” she says. “This experience has changed my life for the better.”
“There is a place for everyone in STEM, it just takes some exploring to find,” she adds. “I wish I knew that when I was a freshman.”
Zeynep Alptekin '23, an undergraduate in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, was also named a Rising Researcher.
The majority of this article was originally published on the UMass Amherst Rising Researcher Site.