ISE Seminar Series

Why Human Factors is the Linchpin for AI Success

Catherine Burns.

Catherine Burns

Professor, Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo

Fri. May 3, 2024 | 12-12:50 p.m. | 20 Knox Hall


The current conversation on AI ranges from aspirational opportunities to devastating consequences. I will argue that the successful use of AI is quite unlikely unless human factors are considered broadly in the design and application of AI. From general arguments, I will use some recent, and to some degree ongoing, research projects in my lab that demonstrate the problems that arise when human factors are not considered in AI design. I will also show some successful approaches to AI design using various human factors methods. Overall, I hope to encourage human factors students and professionals to engage deeply in the design of AI, as their approaches are very badly needed for AI to be a successful technology.


Dr. Catherine M. Burns is Professor in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Canada and Associate Vice President, Health Initiatives at the Office of Research at the University of Waterloo. In her past administrative roles, she has been engaged with institutional and tri agency funding programs, research partnerships, Waterloo’s equity in research action plan, and research computing. Catherine was the founder of the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology at Waterloo and led the centre from a faculty to an institutional centre over 8 years. In 2020 she chaired Waterloo’s Health Initiatives Task force to develop a health strategy in response to Waterloo’s 2025 Strategic Plan. In her role as AVP, Health Initiatives she is responsible for advancing Waterloo research in health and health technology. Catherine holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Human Factors and Healthcare Systems, has contributed over 300 publications and is the co-author of seven books and the PI on an NSERC CREATE training program in biomedical technology and entrepreneurship which has trained over 40 graduate students from various faculties across campus. Catherina is well known for her work in Cognitive Work Analysis, Ecological Interface Design and the development of decision support systems. She is a Fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Catherina’s resent research projects have been exploring the design of early warning systems for the detection of sepsis, the design of predictive diagnostic systems for glaucoma detection, and clinician driven tools for dementia assessment.

Event Date: May 3, 2024