Category Archives: graduate school

2012 PhD and MS positions

A PhD and an MS position are available in the Project54 lab at the University of New Hampshire. The lab is part of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at UNH. Successful applicants will explore human-computer interaction in vehicles. We are looking for students with a background in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, or related fields.

The Project54 lab was created in 1999 in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Safety to improve technology for New Hampshire law enforcement. Project54’s in-car system integrates electronic devices in police cruisers into a single voice-activated system. Project54 also integrates cruisers into agency-wide communication networks. The Project54 system has been deployed in over 1000 vehicles in New Hampshire in over 180 state and local law enforcement agencies.

Research focus

Both the PhD and the MS student will focus on the relationship between various in-car user interface characteristics and the cognitive load of interacting with these interfaces, with the goal of designing interfaces that do not significantly increase driver workload. Work will involve developing techniques to estimate cognitive load using performance measures (such as the variance of lane position), physiological measures (such as changes in pupil diameter [1-5]) and subjective measures (such as the NASA-TLX questionnaire).

The PhD student will focus on spoken in-vehicle human-computer interaction, and will explore the use of human-human dialogue behavior [6-11] to guide the design process.

The work will utilize experiments in Project54’s world-class driving simulator laboratory which is equipped with two research driving simulators, three eye trackers and a physiological data logger.


The PhD student will be appointed for four years, and the MS student for two years. Initial appointments will be for one year, starting between June and September 2012. Continuation of funding will be dependent on satisfactory performance. Appointments will be a combination of research and teaching assistantships. Compensation will include tuition, fees, health insurance and academic year and summer stipend.

How to apply

For application instructions, and for general information, email Andrew Kun, Project54 Principal Investigator at Please attach a current CV.


[1] Oskar Palinko, Andrew L. Kun, “Exploring the Effects of Visual Cognitive Load and Illumination on Pupil Diameter in Driving Simulators,” ETRA 2012

[2] Andrew L. Kun, Zeljko Medenica, Oskar Palinko, Peter A. Heeman, “Utilizing Pupil Diameter to Estimate Cognitive Load Changes During Human Dialogue: A Preliminary Study,” AutomotiveUI 2011 Adjunct Proceedings

[3] Andrew L. Kun, Peter A. Heeman, Tim Paek, W. Thomas Miller, III, Paul A. Green, Ivan Tashev, Peter Froehlich, Bryan Reimer, Shamsi Iqbal, Dagmar Kern, “Cognitive Load and In-Vehicle Human-Machine Interaction,” AutomotiveUI 2011 Adjunct Proceedings

[4] Oskar Palinko, Andrew L. Kun, “Exploring the Influence of Light and Cognitive Load on Pupil Diameter in Driving Simulator Studies,” Driving Assessment 2011

[5] Oskar Palinko, Andrew L. Kun, Alexander Shyrokov, Peter Heeman, “Estimating Cognitive Load Using Remote Eye Tracking in a Driving Simulator,” ETRA 2010

[6] Andrew L. Kun, Alexander Shyrokov, and Peter A. Heeman, “Interactions between Human-Human Multi-Threaded Dialogues and Driving,” PUC Online First, to appear in PUC

[7] Andrew L. Kun, Zeljko Medenica, “Video Call, or Not, that is the Question,” to appear in CHI ’12 Extended Abstracts

[8] Fan Yang, Peter A. Heeman, Andrew L. Kun, “An Investigation of Interruptions and Resumptions in Multi-Tasking Dialogues,” Computational Linguistics, 37, 1

[9] Andrew L. Kun, Alexander Shyrokov, Peter A. Heeman, “Spoken Tasks for Human-Human Experiments: Towards In-Car Speech User Interfaces for Multi-Threaded Dialogue,” Automotive UI 2010

[10] Fan Yang, Peter A. Heeman, Andrew L. Kun, “Switching to Real-Time Tasks in Multi-Tasking Dialogue,” Coling 2008

[11] Alexander Shyrokov, Andrew L. Kun, Peter Heeman, “Experimental modeling of human-human multi-threaded dialogues in the presence of a manual-visual task,” SigDial 2007

Summer course to introduce tools of research

Click image for source

This summer I’ll be teaching ECE 900 Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar. The seminar introduces graduate students to the general tools of research. Students gain practical experience with framing research questions, setting goals, and proposing hypotheses. We also discuss ideas on how to read, write and review research publications, and on how to give oral presentations about such documents to different types of audiences. Finally, we explore best practices for success in graduate school.

A key outcome of the seminar is a research proposal. Proposals address the steps required to complete the research requirement of students’ graduate degrees (MS or PhD).

Interested? Please take a look at the facts below and/or send me email with questions and suggestions.

Who is this course for?
While ECE 900 is a requirement for UNH ECE graduate students, the course is open to graduate students from all UNH departments. I certainly hope non-ECE students will join us this summer.

Will the course be online?
Yes. Students resident at UNH can participate in person, remote students can participate online (no in-class meetings required).

How many credits?
During the academic year ECE 900 is offered both in the fall and spring. Material covered in the spring builds on that covered in the fall. Similarly, the summer course will run in two consecutive sections, each four weeks long. Section 1 will cover material covered in ECE 900 in the fall, while section 2 will cover the spring material. Students will earn 2 credits for completing each section, for a total of 4 credits for the summer.

What are the prerequisites?
Graduate standing.

Is there online material from previous years?
Yes, e.g. fall 2010 and spring 2011.

ECE 900, Section 1 (fall material): June 11-July 6, Tuesdays and Thursdays 12-2 PM
ECE 900, Section 2 (spring material): July 9 – August 3, Tuesdays and Thursdays 12-2 PM

How should graduate programs collect recommendations?

Around this time each year I spend a considerable amount of time writing and submitting graduate school recommendations for students who have worked in my lab. How should graduate programs collect these recommendations? 

Here is a list of suggestions:
  • Use online forms.
  • Allow one-click access to forms (don’t require login).
  • Require students to provide recommender personal information.
  • Ask for recommender information that matters (e.g. recommender’s website) and leave out information that hasn’t mattered in 20 years (e.g. fax).
  • When evaluating applicant attributes, select a small number of relevant questions (e.g. is this applicant likely to complete a PhD?).
  • Allow uploading, and then reviewing, recommendation letters.
  • Confirm receipt of recommendation.
  • Carefully test the recommendation system (online or otherwise) and fix bugs before using it.

Interested in the details? Read on 🙂

Please don’t make me create another account! The review process usually starts with an email from the graduate program’s recommendation system. I like systems that allow a single-click access to the review. I really don’t like being asked to create an account in order to submit a recommendation – this is cumbersome and I really don’t see the point.

You need my website, but not my fax. The next step is for the reviewer to submit or confirm personal information, such as institutional affiliation. Ideally this information is not very detailed and has been completed by the applicant when requesting the recommendation. How detailed should the personal information be? Well, having to fill out my mailing address and fax feels like a waste of my time! Let’s face it, no one will ever fax me anything. On the other hand, I really like programs that ask for the reviewer’s website. Isn’t this how today’s professionals are supposed to present themselves to the world?

Keep it short. Next, graduate programs usually ask for the reviewer’s assessment of different aspects of the applicant’s abilities, such as his/her intellectual ability. E.g. reviewers are asked to assess these abilities on a 5-point scale. I think it makes sense to focus on a small number abilities that are of importance to the program. E.g. a program might ask a reviewer to assess the likelihood of an applicant becoming a productive researcher. Long lists of abilities might seem reasonable, but I personally prefer being in essence asked if the applicant is likely to complete the graduate program. After all, that is what really matters.

Let me upload the recommendation as a file. To get detailed information about an applicant, programs ask for letters of recommendation. I like programs that allow the reviewer to upload the recommendation letter as a document. Some programs require typing/pasting in the recommendation into a webpage field. This is cumbersome.

Can I see that one more time? Having uploaded the file, or for that matter typed/pasted in the recommendation, it is important for reviewers to be able to review what they entered. Many reviewers write recommendations for multiple students, and if they are like me, they want to confirm that they didn’t accidentally upload the wrong recommendation 🙂

Confirm receipt. Once the recommendation is submitted, it is nice to receive a confirmation email from the program. This gives me the peace of mind that the review is complete and can also be useful if the student is curious if the review has been submitted. Also, it allows me to delete all correspondence related to this program.

Let me also describe three cases that I encountered when the recommendation process reflected poorly on the graduate program.

How dare you try to submit a recommendation before logging out from the previous session? Yes, in effect this was the message I received when trying to enter a recommendation. I think I closed the browser window after completing one recommendation and then started a second one in a new window. However, just closing the first one wasn’t enough; I was supposed to have logged out first! Some recommender I am when I can’t even do that 😉

Path dependent content is not good. One recommendation system first collected my personal information and then asked me to respond to two short questions. After responding to the questions I moved to the next page and was asked to finalize/submit the recommendation. What about a recommendation letter? I thought that perhaps I just missed the page/field/something where I could submit the letter so I clicked “back” and, lo and behold, I found myself on a page that allowed uploading a letter. Next, I noticed I needed to edit one of the short answers. Clicking back from the recommendation-letter-submit page didn’t get me to these questions but to the personal-data-collection page! Once on this opening page, I could click “next” to get to the short responses (but again, not to uploading the recommendation letter). Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I wonder how many applicants have missing recommendation letters. And how are applicants evaluated? Does this graduate program unfairly reject applicants based on the lack of recommendation letters?

Don’t make me email you a (buggy) PDF form. One graduate program requested filling out and emailing a PDF form. This is cumbersome compared to having to go to a website. To make things (much) worse, the contents of PDF form’s fields that were filled out by the student (e.g. the student’s name) did not show up properly. I asked the student why he sent me an empty form and he informed me that if you click on a field you see its contents (until you click on another field). Everybody loses in this process – the graduate program looks backward and careless, the student initially appears incompetent and the reviewer has to send emails back and forth to understand the process. This program should very seriously consider a web-based solution.