Dr Jennifer Tichon

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Senior Research Fellow

PhD (University of Queensland)

Experienced researcher in the fields of human factors and cognitive ergonomics. Jennifer has specialized in the psychological impact and training outcomes of immersion in computer-generated environments, including simulation, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for over 15 years. Projects have investigated the role of stress in dynamic heavy industry work environments and the ability of VR/AR to replicate hazardous worksites and improve operational performance under degraded conditions. The significance of her work has been recognized with multiple invitations to collaborate internationally including with the US Airforce Research Laboratory: Human Effectiveness Directorate and the Safety and the Virtual Environments and Object Modelling laboratory at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  Collaborations with Australian industry (Rail/Mining/Construction) have assessed VR and simulation in the provision of both cognitive and technical skills training particularly to improve safety and reduce accidents involving heavy machinery.

Collaboration with the Interactive Communication and Ergonomics of New Technologies (ICE-NET) laboratory at the Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy resulted in new knowledge of the issues involved in immersion and training in computer-based environments and the fundamental factors which influence learning within these contexts. A theoretical book chapter on these issues published in collaboration with the above colleagues has been cited in key texts including The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality (2014) and The Oxford Handbook of Research Strategies for Clinical Psychology (2013). Her research has been used by industry in the development of vigilance training of military personnel, in the development of driver performance courses and been cited in a national review of human factors research in the mining sector.

Jennifer has been awarded an Australian Research Council research fellowship and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Electronic Healthcare. She is a reviewer for the Ontario Ministry of Labor’s, major grants Occupational Health and Safety Research Opportunities Program in Canada, and has served on various conference technical program committees including for SimTecT Health and the EAI International Conference on Games for Well-Being.

Projects

Additional information

Selected Projects:

2019-20  Limitations of manuals to convey knowledge and understanding of vehicle technologies and innovations

A great range of new smart technologies have been introduced to light vehicles to increase safety. They range from rear view cameras to intelligent speed adaptation and autonomous braking. Government safety authorities have highlighted the importance of reading and understanding operations manuals for vehicles in order to understand and appropriately operate technologies. Research has demonstrated problems with this for example when using collision avoidance technology drivers were unsure what the alert symbols meant and whether the alarm was a false alarm. Despite recommendations from governing bodies and car manufacturers to refer to your manual, only 40% of drivers report reading their manual and of those only 5% read most of the manual. This project is investigating the readability of manuals and literacy levels required to understand them.  Additionally the type and breadth of information drivers would need to comprehend to operate safety systems optimally, whether information is missing or provided in too much detail and an analysis of diagrams as either supporting or undermining the educational purpose of the manual.

2019-20 Variation in driving controls and in-vehicle information systems: Impact on fleet drivers

There have been many advances in vehicle technologies that aim to increase safety in cars. However, these technologies are only available in certain models, some vehicles have several safety systems and often manufacturers use different names for the technology and provide different interfaces with which the driver must interact. These issues complicate the already limited methods available to learn, and become confident, in using new technologies without ‘practicing’ on the busy road environment. This project investigates these issues further from fleet driver’s perspectives and assesses the development of a mobile training application to build new automatic processing for new sets of controls.

2017-2019 Part-task training for safe operation of elevated work platforms (EWP) controls

This research funded by the Construction Training Centre is reviewing EWP operations on worksites and initial license training programs. It aims to implement new policy and training programs. An innovative commercial product, a portable touch screen simulator, to aid on-site training in the use of different control panels across the range of EWP models and types will be developed. Results have practical significance for injury and fatality reduction to improve productivity in construction and other EWP industry users.

2012-2014 Reducing driver cognitive distraction on worksites

This research funded by the Australian Research Council and the Construction Training Centre addressed one of the chief dangers on modern construction sites: distraction. Momentary lapses in concentration by distracted drivers can lead to serious accidents that damage property, delay work progress, and threaten the safety of the operator, passengers, and others in the immediate vicinity. This research designed, and tested, cognitive training programs for heavy equipment operators designed to help them combat the dangers of cognitive distraction (when thoughts wander) on the job, and increase their ability to focus their attention on the task at hand.

2015 Virtual Reality Induction Training: Impact on Hazard Identification

Funded by the Australian Institute of Mining & Construction, this project was commissioned in response to the fact that despite extensive investment into WH&S initiatives, construction and mining workforces remain at high risk of injury. Internationally, virtual reality (VR) has been identified as a method to improve safety training and reduce injuries; however, objective evaluation of VR for this use is lacking. This project compared PC-based interactive VR training and non-immersive PowerPoint training approaches to delivering safety induction training in construction and mining sectors. Such training is suitable for widespread dissemination to a workforce that is often in remote areas, and would contribute to increased safety awareness and injury prevention.

2008-2014 Improving Efficiency and Safe Workplace Operations in Heavy Industry: Training Problem Solving and Decision Making through Immersive Simulation

Funded by the Australian Research Council and the Construction Training Centre this project focussed on problem solving and decision making as critical workplace skills in high-risk heavy industries.  Motivated by successful simulator training of cognitive skills in aviation and defence, civil construction has introduced simulators to increase safety and respond to labour shortages demanding faster training. This project undertook human factors research specific to civil construction to ensure the validity and efficacy of simulator training designed to prepare plant personnel to respond to construction site hazards.  Results also contributed to basic knowledge on cognitive skills acquired through training in virtual reality.

2009-2010 Investigation of affective intensity and perceptual processes in the training and objective evaluation of complex cognitive skills

Funded by the United States Air Force this project investigated training approaches designed to ensure personnel keep a clear head in times of crisis. Simulators are popular for stress training, however methods for evaluating their use rely heavily on subjective self-reports. This project commenced the development of more objective and reliable methods of assessment. To achieve this it examined the relationships between emotional intensity and cognitive learning and the impact this has on facial features, perceptual processes, physiological response and electromyographic activity. Participant’s performance in driving and flight tasks were examined in which these measures were tracked and assessed.

2010 A review of Virtual Reality (VR) as a medium for safety related training in the minerals industry

Funded by the Coal Services Health & Safety Trust, a literature review examining the evidence to support the use of virtual reality for safety related training in the minerals industry, summarizing issues associated with the use of virtual reality for such training and the development of a detailed list of recommendations on how best to usitlise VR training in the field of mines rescue was developed.

2005-2008 Training for critical thinking and decision making under stress associated with workplace accidents and disasters

Funded by the Australian research council and RailCorp, NSW this project was commissioned to respond to ongoing concerns around workplace accidents for both employees and employers alike. In the two years prior to this project Railcorp had lost 7437 workdays to accidents, resulting in physical and mental distress for the employees, and considerable financial loss to the company. This project tested the effectiveness of employee training in critical thinking and decision making. In particular, the use of virtual environments were investigated as a means of simulating physically and mentally stressful situations in order to deliver and assess such training to improve employee response in the event that accidents occur.