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Engineering prof to study NASA's crisis communication

Just how well do mission control crews communicate during a crisis? That's a question two UW-Madison faculty members will be trying to answer over the next three years.

Barrett S. Caldwell

Barrett S. Caldwell (large image)

Barrett S. Caldwell, an associate professor of industrial engineering, and Assistant Professor Mary Waller of the School of Business have received a $460,000 grant from NASA to study how patterns of communication change during a critical event. Their primary goal is to identify factors that create communication bottlenecks. The researchers will then determine ways to help the mission control crews communicate more efficiently.

Mary J. Waller

Mary J. Waller (large image)

Caldwell and Waller will examine "intergroup" communications of mission control crews at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The research will assess the efficiency and communications patterns of crews during three cycles of flight: ascent, orbit and entry.

Caldwell specializes in computer-mediated information flow and task performance; team coordination and communication in complex systems; human factors and sociotechnical systems engineering; indoor environmental quality; and productivity.

Waller's research interests include performance and behavior of work groups, management of intergroup coordination, "routinization" of behavior in organizations, and managerial cognition.