Human Factors/Applied Cognition Concentration

Daniel Gartenberg, 2015

Daniel Gartenberg


  • What exactly is Applied Psychology and Human Factors?

  • Applied Psychology is taking what we know about how the brain works and making technology to make people’s lives better.
  • What got you interested in Human Factors Psychology?

  • I have always liked to help people and that aspect of Psychology in general. I saw human factors as a way to help people on a larger scale in a way that catered to my strengths. For example, I am more technically minded so Human Factors was a good match for me.
  • Did you always know you were going to continue your education in a Graduate Program?

  • Well, I wasn’t totally sure, but I always had it in the back of my mind due to my experience working in research labs as an undergraduate. When I was younger I was always trying to invent stuff around ideas in psychology. For example I made an iPhone alarm clock application related software to sleep improvement that was picked up by the Apple app store in 2009.
  • Why did you choose Mason to start your graduate work?

  • I was working in a language and cognition lab at the University of Wisconsin, where I did my undergraduate work, and a post-doc student in my lab noticed my interest in applied technology and recommended I apply to GMU’s HFAC program. There aren’t a lot of Applied Psychology graduate programs out there, people don’t really know what it is, but GMU’s is generally known as having one of the best Applied Psychology programs.


  • What advice do you have for students who think they want to go to grad school for HFAC?

  • The good thing about HFAC graduate studies is there are a lot of career pathways you can take.  For example, you can do research things like human-robot interaction, driver distraction, and in my case, sleep and fatigue and work towards a Ph.D.  Or you can focus more on the design aspect and user experience side of things, and get a master’s degree.
  • Tell me about your company, Fly Fleet.

  • After winning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design competition at GMU with former professor Robert Youmans, we had the confidence to start working on Fleet. We made the software, published scientific articles on its usage, and were even featured on the Today Show. Fly Fleet’s core mission is to alleviate anxiety when you’re embarking on an air travel experience, essentially making flying fun.
  • We then decided to host our own design competition to help graduate students who are in the same position that we were in. Our winners of the 2016 design competition were just announced this week – a talented team of designers out the Berkeley School of information.  Students from the winning team included: Edward Yip, Divya, Garg, Kimberly Bourque, Nimarit Walia, Rishi Jethi, and Riyana Basu (pictured below). 
  • Berkeley design team 

  • How does the app, “Fleet Air Travel Guide & Airport Directory”, work?

  • The main purpose of the app is to make flying an anxiety-free process. First, we determined key intervals of travel for the app to automatically refresh information sent to you via notification. The closer you get to your flight, the more updates it gives, refreshing at 1 day, 6 hours, 3 hours, 1.5 hours, 1 hour, and 10 minutes before your flight. When you’re at the airport, it’s tracking what you’re doing, where you’re at, and what the delays are like for ticketing, check-in, security, etc. Only about 1/100 people will actually send crowd-sourced feedback, but luckily there are simple ways of detecting how crowded the airport is by using the number of ingoing/outgoing flights and GPS information from user phones.
  • What was the most challenging part of creating it?

  • It takes a lot of time updating the app through multiple cycles of usability testing, and then using the results from those tests to make changes. So far, we’ve gone through about 6 design cycles, and now with over 60,000 app users, we are still in the process of making improvements by increasing the viral dimension of the app.  It can also be challenging to keep the team morale up when we run into roadblocks. Our team consists of six people: Melissa Smith (COO), former GMU professor Rob Youmans (Advisor), GMU Alumnus-Peter Lee (Chief Creative Officer), GMU Alumnus-Jordan Higgins (Chief Digital Officer), Octavian Geagla (Chief Technical Officier), and Vincent Mamo (IP attorney).
  • What’s next for you?

  • I recently received federal funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Aging to conduct basic research on a new way of detecting sleep stages and a new way to improve sleep overall.  I’m specifically looking at using mobile technology to detect heart rates and correlating that information with the user’s sleep stage. As for “Fleet”, our next update will assuage lonely travelers that get unexpectedly delayed or stuck at an airport. Family and friends will be able to send you credit towards stores/restaurants that are in your near vicinity, and later down the line, they will hopefully be able to book a hotel for you.


iPhone Apps Developed by Daniel: 

                                                                         Fleet Air Travel Guide & Airport Directory




We report the latest delay information sourced from other travelers as well as official airline updates. Delayed? We’ll connect you with the best local shops and restaurants to help pass the time. Share your flight information profile at the press of a button (hi, Mom!).



Sleep 2 peak



This tool allows you to discover what sleep schedule and what periods of the day are associated to your peak mental and physical state. By using sleep-2-Peak, you will become aware of alertness variations beyond what you can feel and you will discover how powerful your schedule choices can be to boost your performances naturally.  This task uses a variation of the Psychomotor Vigilance Task used by sleep researchers, and we recently validated the efficacy of the task in a sleep restriction study.




                                                Proactive Sleep App



This app gives you personalized information on how well you are sleeping with the Sleep Diary, and comes with other features designed to promote proactive and healthy sleep.  These include setting your alarm to any song in your iTunes, listening to soothing music to help you fall asleep, writing in a sleep and/or dream journal, and playing a stimulating game to help with your wake-up process.  The application encourages proactive improvements to your sleep habits and every day tasks like waking up in the morning.  Now all you have to do is set your alarm in order to learn more about your sleep patterns.