Dr. Li Fan

Dr. Li Fan

Research Fellow
Cognitive Human-Machine Interaction, Fraunhofer Singapore

Research Interest

  • Data-Driven Human Fatigue Management
  • Human-Computer Interactions
  • Interface Evaluation
On-going Project Research
Integrated System for the Future Air Traffic Management Work Place and Human Factors Evaluations of Conflict Resolution Aid in Future Air Traffic Control

1. Tell us about your role at Fraunhofer Singapore.

I am a part of the Cognitive Human-Machine Interaction team here at Fraunhofer Singapore. Currently, I am developing competence model for SMRT trainees, instructing undergraduates on their final year projects, and writing research proposals. I major in Human Factors, so I focus on developing tools to understand human behaviors and extracting expert knowledge via interviews and lab-based experiments.

Last year, I instructed FYP students conducting experiments and analysing human behaviors (eye movements and EEG data) in evaluating humanoid robot design. Moreover, we achieved some eye movements and EEG data-based algorithms for detecting workload and user preference.


2. What are your motivations for getting into engineering or your field of research?


Back in 2010 as an undergraduate, I watched documentary films about aircraft accidents and was deeply upset that statistically more than 80% of aircraft accidents were caused by human error. That inspired me to major in human factors, a study on how people interact with tasks, equipment or technologies and with the environment at large. The goals of human factors are to reduce human error, optimise productivity, enhance safety, comfort and quality of life.


3. What are you working on at the moment and how do you think you’ll make a difference?


I am focusing on developing a non-technical skills model, which combines task analysis and performance evaluation to assess situational awareness, decision making, communication and so on.  

Human performance is greatly affected by non-technical skills. According to historical reports, the defects of non-technical skills rank top 10 in causal factors of maritime accidents. While comparing with technical skills, they are seldom investigated due to the lack of objective tools. Our project proposes a novel non-technical skills model which extends the concept of Quality Function Deployment to task and human performance analysis. The proposed model can objectively assess non-technical skill based on human performance.


4. In your opinion, what changes are needed to attract future women engineers?


Truthfully, I didn’t like engineering when I was younger because I was afraid that I had to do manual work, work with machines and wear uniforms. It wasn't until I discovered that a number of engineering works are transdisciplinary and colorful that I truly took an interest in engineering. Raising the awareness of new trends and types of engineering could help attract women into the field.

Transdisciplinary engineering today requires creativity and collaboration instead of pure physical strength which makes it possible for women to excel in current engineering fields. Moreover, I believe that scholarships targeted for women can attract possible future engineers.


5. What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a woman thinking of starting a career in engineering?

I believe that interest is the best teacher. Find the field that interests you most and love the one you have selected. However, we might not be able to explore all fields and find the one we are most interested in. In such cases, we should learn to love the one that has been selected for us. Keep an open mind and use every job as an opportunity to learn something new so that we can grow both professionally and personally.


6. What are the benefits of working in engineering?


One benefit is having a great resource of highly-skilled colleagues that are very quick to help or even collaborate with. There is equal opportunity for women in engineering and because we are general small in quantity, it is easier for women to be distinguished in their fields and rise up to leadership roles.


7. If you could choose any project in the world, what would you most like to work on?


I would like to explore the human brain dynamics differences between reading fiction and research articles. It would also be great to discover, using human factors, ways to get you motivated to study, especially something you do not have a vested interest in.