Assistant Professor Shannon Roberts of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department has received the Stephanie Binder Young Professional Award, sponsored by the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society - Surface Transportation Technical Group (HFES-STTG). The award was established to honor the late Stephanie Binder’s memory and her impact on the field and the HFES-STTG, while also conferring an annual tribute to a young professional who demonstrates outstanding contribution to transportation human factors.
Before her untimely death in 2011, Binder was a human factors engineer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and played a vital role in the department’s efforts to combat distracted driving.
Roberts, who heads the Roberts Research Group, is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering with a focus on the field of Human Factors Engineering. She is also the co-director of the Arbella Human Performance Laboratory, which is a leader in the area of driving automation systems as well as young driver training related to distracted driving. Her research program aims to study the relationship between drivers and their cars in hopes of shaping this interaction in such a way that traffic fatalities are reduced.
“I achieve this aim by, first, building a foundation of knowledge about what effects drivers’ behavior and, second, using this knowledge to improve drivers’ response through feedback, warning, and training systems,” says Roberts. “My research is innovative because it takes a forward-looking step towards understanding how personal, technological, and environmental characteristics can and will change driver behavior and, consequently, traffic safety.”
Roberts adds that “My research is transformative because it results in scientifically validated feedback, warning, and training systems that improve drivers’ behavior.”
In the process, Roberts has contributed to the human factors research community with an invited book chapter, eight peer-reviewed journal articles, and 14 peer-reviewed conference papers. Many of her journal articles have been published in high impact venues, such as Accident Analysis & Prevention.
Roberts has been invited to present her research at 18 venues, both nationally and internationally. Recently, for example, she presented her ongoing research on driving automation systems at the University of Leeds and at the SAFER - Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers University.
Throughout her short tenure at UMass, Roberts has been awarded seven research grants or contracts from both federal and private funding agencies, including the highly coveted Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative from the National Science Foundation, and the Armstrong Award from UMass, which has an acceptance rate of 4 percent.
Roberts has demonstrated her commitment to the transportation human factors community through service on many HFES committees and student chapters, as well as other transportation groups. Roberts’ engagement with students won her the Industrial Engineering Faculty of the Year Award in 2018, as voted by the undergraduate students in the MIE department.
As part of her student engagement in human factors, Roberts advises, mentors, supervises, and funds three human factors graduate students on both research and professional development in order to obtain their Ph.D. Degrees in Industrial Engineering.
Roberts has also mentored 13 undergraduate researchers doing human factors research projects in the Human Performance Laboratory, and she has advised 16 other undergraduate students from freshman through senior year in order to ensure they make significant progress in the Industrial Engineering program. (January 2020)