David Schuster

David Schuster

Associate Professor





Current Research Activities

I am conducting research to  understand how people and machines work best together. I work to make machines work better with people by informing design. I work to help people work with machines better by informing training. There are many domains where this work is relevant, and I focus on complex ones, including cybersecurity, robotics, and healthcare. Cybersecurity professionals depend on automated tools to perform their jobs and must make critical decisions that impact security. Therefore, successful defense against cyber-attacks depends on human decision making. My research identifies ways of thinking that predict successful threat response. Broadly, I ask how cybersecurity professionals can be more effective, how cybersecurity teams can best work together, what training strategies can be employed to develop novices into cybersecurity professionals, and how individual, end-user behavior affects cybersecurity outcomes. In robotics, my research asks how people and robots can build shared understanding. In healthcare, I focus on the impacts of training and teamwork on cognition and outcomes, such as safety.

Research Connections to Current Events

Cybersecurity is a large-scale and multifaceted problem. At the time of this writing, Microsoft recently announced a vulnerability in their Exchange mail server software allowing unauthorized access. A few weeks prior, Solarwinds reported a hack that allowed outside access undetected for months. The difference in these events shows how everyone is affected: Exchange is a product widely used by small and medium businesses, and the Solarwinds hack affected the US government as well as businesses. The similarities show that this problem is getting worse: Both events left organizations exposed for weeks while hackers enjoyed undetected access to data on companies, governments, and individuals. Meanwhile, the COVID pandemic has further increased our dependency on information technology in all aspects of our lives. With my work, I hope to improve cybersecurity for everyone by helping us understand the roles that human cognition and decision making play in maintaining security.

Personal Connections to Research

I have always been interested in why people think and behave the way they do, which led me to major in psychology. Separately, I have always been interested in technology and its impacts on society. My doctorate in psychology, and specifically in applied experimental and human factors psychology, brings together these two interests. Throughout my research career, I have found that these issues have become more relevant as the introduction of new and disruptive technology has become a regular occurrence. I find it inspiring to be able to apply science to new problems involving people and technology.

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human-systems integration, human factors, cognitive engineering, safety, cybersecurity, healthcare, human performance, robotics