What is Human Factors?

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) and the related discipline of Engineering Psychology (EP), is the study of how people interact with different objects in their environment. Human Factors Engineers consider the physical and mental capabilities, limitations, and aspirations of humans to design and improve products and systems. The overall goal of HFE/EP is to design and build products or systems that are easy, safe, and enjoyable to use.

The Study of Human Factors

HFE/EP is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates aspects of engineering, psychology, computer science, cognitive science, kinesiology, and others. The Mechanical Engineering and Psychology departments co-host the Human Factors Engineering and Engineering Psychology programs at Tufts. Students from both the School of Engineering (HFE) and School of Arts and Sciences (EP) can choose to major in HFE or in EP.

Human Factors in Industry

Human Factors Engineers hold a variety of jobs in many different industries. HFE has some of its roots in the military, and there are still many jobs in HFE that relate to military work. For example, a military HFE project might be to redesign a certain type of pack so that it fits both male and female soldiers or to design the systems/methods through which a soldier might interact with a swarm of surveillance drones. There are also a lot of HFE jobs in medical devices, where safety is a top priority. Similar to the military, a big part of medical HFE is considering the physical and mental state of the user, as well as specific environmental concerns. For example, ER nurses are under a considerable amount of stress in their day to day work, and their attention is often split between triaging patients, responding to alarms, and interacting with other ER staff. Another big industry for Human Factors Engineers is computers and technology more broadly, either as UI/UX developers for software companies, or working on human-computer interaction for robotics.

If you are interested in learning more about HFE/EP overall, the programs at Tufts, and what HFE/EP majors do after graduation, read our FAQ.