The University Record, September 27, 1999

Human factors specialist to direct UMTRI

By Jane R. Elgass

The appointment of Barry H. Kantowitz as director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has been announced by Fawwaz Ulaby, vice president for research. Kantowitz, who also will be professor of industrial and operations engineering, will join the U-M in November.

Kantowitz most recently has been chief scientist of the Battelle Human Factors Transportation Center in Seattle, Wash., after holding academic and administrative posts at Purdue University.

“Barry is internationally recognized as an exceptionally talented leader in transportation research,” Ulaby said. “He is respected as an outstanding technical research leader in the area of cognitive ergonomics and enjoys prestigious standing in the transportation and human factors communities. At Battelle, Barry brought leading-edge research contracts to the Center, including one in human performance modeling, one of the most challenging areas in human factors. Of great significance,” Ulaby added, “is his ability to mentor young scientists, many of whom have established strong careers in the behavioral and transportation fields, due, in part, to his influence.”

Robert Ervin, senior research scientist and interim director of UMTRI, said: “We have great expectations for Barry’s stewardship, given the rare blend of his talents. He is an excellent scientist, a savvy manager of sponsored research and a natural educator. We especially look for him to enrich the relationship between UMTRI and the wider University—building on the best of our collective traditions.”

Kantowitz and other human factors researchers study and work to optimize the relationship between systems and people as much as possible, with systems ranging from such complex entities as a 747 airplane to the less complex automobile.

“Cars, however, now are starting to look more like airplanes,” Kantowitz notes. “Human factors specialists try to make the interface between driver and vehicle as good as it can be, so the system helps rather than hinders the driver.”

Kantowitz said he was attracted to the U-M post “because UMTRI is the premier institute of its kind in the country. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be asked to lead UMTRI, to be a part of a great university. For me, this is ‘coming home’ after my 18 years at Purdue.”

Kantowitz was director of Human Factors Graduate Training at Purdue University in 1977–87. He also was assistant, associate and then professor at Purdue, starting in 1969. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in psychology from the City College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and Queens College of CUNY, respectively, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in experimental psychology with a minor in computer science/industrial engineering.