Undergraduate Research Program

Spencer Onstot

Major: Community Psychology/Society, Ethics & Human Behavior
Mentor: Dr. Deanna Kennedy, Associate Professor of Operations Management, School of Business

Contact: onstot2@uw.edu

Current research project: Prediction of Mental Model Shifts


Spencer is a graduating senior with degrees in Community Psychology and Society, Ethics & Human Behavior from the University of Washington, Bothell. Having gained research experience in a variety of disciplines, Spencer is working with NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) and the U.S. Army Office of Research, analyzing communication among astronaut training teams in HRP’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) campaigns. His research pertains to teamwork, communication, and making sure team members have a shared understanding of a task.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My research partner, a Masters student in CSSE, created an AI that can predict whether team members are all on the same page before beginning a task. The only problem is that it has to be an expert to predict well, and we only have 6 currently coded tasks from the HERA campaigns. That is definitely not enough. This is where I come in: I am making an Agent-based Model that simulates the HERA tasks and feeds the AI model the output. Now, the AI can have 10,000+ tasks to use when predicting! This is essential for the prediction to be accurate and predicting whether everyone is on the same page before engaging in a task is relevant to classroom teams, research teams, construction teams, corporate teams, medical teams, or any other project team!



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved at the end of my freshman year. I was curious in research and one day randomly browsed the UW Bothell website to search for any open faculty research projects. Coming from a Psychological background, this project on Teamwork looked interesting. I then reached out to the Primary Investigator, Dr. Deanna Kennedy, and there was an open position still available.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
If a research topic looks interesting, most likely your major can relate to it in some way. I am a Psychology student, my advisor has a background in Operations Management, and I am working with a CSSE graduate student. These diverse backgrounds are actually helpful when engaging in research.