What is Human Factors?

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

HFE 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 department at Tufts. Students from both the School of Engineering and School of Arts and Sciences can choose to major in HFE.

Human Factors Engineers hold a variety of jobs in many different industries. HFE started 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. 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, 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 overall, the program at Tufts, and what HFE majors do after graduation, read our FAQ.