HSL Research

Research Images from Past and Present

The HSL's goal is to improve the understanding of human physiological and cognitive capabilities to optimize human-system effectiveness and to develop appropriate countermeasures and evidence-based engineering design criteria. Our research is interdisciplinary, utilizing techniques from:

  • artificial intelligence
  • biomechanics
  • biostatistics
  • cognitive psychology
  • human factors
  • manual and supervisory control
  • sensory-motor physiology
  • signal processing
  • state estimation


A Sample of Current Research Topics

  • Tom Abitante’s research encompasses ways to better understand and improve upon astronaut exercise physiology in order to mitigate risk for a long duration manned mission to Mars.  Topics include: improving or augmenting the exercise countermeasure regimen to combat musculoskeletal deconditioning and improving upon the models of energetics of locomotion to assist in optimizing a planetary EVA.  
  • Nick Anastas’ research relates to mitigating the NASA identified "risk of Impaired Control of Spacecraft/Associated Systems and Decreased Mobility Due to Vestibular/Sensorimotor Alterations Associated with Spaceflight."  He uses virtual reality to create an immersive experience in which individuals can perform various balance training tasks. Through the study of these "vestibular exercises," he evaluates ways to mitigate the negative vestibular alterations normally experience during spaceflight.
  • Richard Fineman researches new ways to quantify and visualize human biomechanics and performance to aid clinical decision making. Richard has developed new metrics for human coordination and balance that aim to better disambiguate between clinical populations, specifically low vs. high walking speed older adults. Richard has also applied these metrics to develop novel ways for quantifying spacesuit assembly fit. 
  • Aditi Gupta investigates human-exoskeleton adaptation. Her research seeks to understand the individual cognitive and neuromotor factors that underlie a person’s ability to adapt and learn to use a lower-extremity exoskeleton during walking. By (i) putting people through a series of baseline tests which quantify their cognitive and neuromotor performance and (ii) measuring their adaptation timeline to an ankle exoskeleton, she is attempting to understand what underlying factors are related to individual exoskeleton adaptability. This knowledge can be used to inform training paradigms and exoskeleton design.
  • Eric Hinterman researches how to make oxygen on Mars for astronauts as a part of the MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment) team, a collaboration between MIT and JPL to convert the carbon dioxide atmosphere on Mars into usable oxygen. MOXIE will fly to Mars in 2020 aboard NASA’s next Mars rover. The team’s research interests include dynamic modeling of MOXIE, testing of flight-like hardware in Mars-simulant vacuum chambers, and figuring out how to scale MOXIE up to a full-size oxygen production plant that could support a crew of astronauts on Mars.
  • Akshay Khotakonda is a researcher for the MIT BioSuit. His research considers material selection (active and passive) and mapping the Lines of Non-Extension on the body (regions of minimal skin strain). The Lines of Non-Extension inform the patterning of suit fabric and can be used to minimize the energy expended in suited movements.
  • Seamus Lombardo investigates the effect of spacesuit glove fit on astronaut performance. He is formulating methods to effectively quantify fit and assess how it relates to both motor and cognitive task performance in an effort to improve spacesuit glove design. As the glove is a key element for astronauts during EVA, improving the understanding of fit will allow astronauts to improve performance when conducting complicated manual tasks. 

A Sample of Past Research Projects