Student Spotlight: Student of the Year Nominee, Ben McManus

A daily routine that consists of waking up every morning at 3:30, working out for an hour and a half, then heading to his laboratory office to work on his research. This is a day in the life of Ben McManus, a doctoral student and STRIDE Student of the Year nominee from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

McManus is a psychology major at UAB’s Lifespan and Developmental Psychology program. He is specializing in becoming a transportation safety scientist. McManus is fascinated by learning more about how people interact with the various products (i.e. technologies) and objects in their environments. Through this he hopes to research human factors in traffic safety and identify the information processing abilities that predict driving performance.

“Although most of my peers were interested in psychology for use in clinical realms, I instead was fascinated by human factors and cognitive performance, and how they can impact so many real-world outcomes,” he said. “For instance, many indices of information processing abilities can predict driving safety. “

McManus is currently working on a project related to the impact of occupational demands on driving performance in surgical residents as well as the role of sleep, fatigue and stress in this relationship. He hopes to understand the question on whether or not people are safe to drive after a hard day’s work. McManus’s project is funded by the Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety. Data will be collected by running surgical residents through the experimental protocol driving simulator. His challenge is programming and developing the driving scenario that the participants will drive.

Dr. Despina Stavrinos, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at UAB, is McManus’ faculty advisor. Dr. Stavrinos is an expert in transportation research, and she has examined a variety of populations ranging from at-risk drivers to occupational populations.

“[McManus] possessed the skills we were looking for: ability to work independently off campus, responsible, reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and thorough and accurate in his approach to research-related tasks,” Dr. Stavrinos said.  

In his spare time, McManus enjoys community outreach by participating in transportation education programs and teen driving summits in the local area.