Psychology and aerospace might seem to be an odd career discipline combination, but Dr. Patricia Ververs, recipient of the Avionics Magazine Emerging Leader Award, has combined these two disciplines into a distinguished and prosperous career.
“There has always been a tight knit relationship between human factors and aviation, since the aircraft accidents of World War II lead to the development of the field of human factors,” she said. “At the time, psychologists analyzed the accidents looking for the reason that perfectly good aircraft were being flown into the ground. In many cases the answer was a poorly designed human-machine interface that contributed to the accident.”
“As a student of human factors I became very interested in the design of avionics systems, how information is conveyed to the pilot and how the interaction with the system could be improved to reduce pilot errors,” said Ververs, a technology fellow in the Human Centered Systems Group in Honeywell’s Advanced Technology group in Columbia, Md.
“As women we need to be mentors to our youth early in their education, serving as role models and allowing the next generation of engineers to see women in the leadership positions.”
Currently, she is the technical lead for the Honeywell Enhanced Vision Systems program designing and evaluating next-generation avionics displays for Honeywell’s advanced cockpits. She is the U.S.-based staff scientist on the European Union’s SESAR program for Head-up and Head-down Synthetic and Combined Vision Solutions and the Human Factors lead on the Boeing team for the FAA SE2020 program.
Since joining Honeywell in 1998, Ververs has led programs in the areas of High Speed Research, Flight Critical Systems Research, Aviation Safety Program’s System Wide Accident Prevention, Advanced Primary Flight Displays and Improving Information Intake Under Stress/Augmented Cognition and Neurotechnology for Information Analysts. She was the Project Manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Army Augmented Cognition program focused on developing real-time cognitive state assessment techniques for the dismounted Soldier and the Project Manager for the DARPA Neurotechnology for Intelligence Analysts program aimed toward improving image throughput by intelligence analysts through the creation of a neurobiologically based image triage system. Ververs served as the Synthetic Vision System Integrated Product Team lead for the DARPA Sandblaster program developing technologies to support helicopter brownout landings.
“The highlight is when I get to introduce a new technology to a pilot flying the most advanced aircraft of today and they love the new design and ask when they will be able to fly with it,” she said. “Demonstrating new technologies, especially those that I helped to create, to those with a passion for flying is always the highlight for me.”
She holds six patents on alerting and notification, display design and workload monitoring and has filed more than dozen more patents in the areas of display design and the human-machine interface.
“My main advice (to someone considering a career in this field) is to work hard and love what you do. Seek out mentors, academicians and/or professionals that you aspire to become and learn all that you can from them. Surround yourself with smart people where you will always continue to learn and grow in your discipline,” Ververs said.
“As women we need to be mentors to our youth early in their education, serving as role models and allowing the next generation of engineers to see women in the leadership positions of engineering.”