My name is Chrissy Chubala, and I am a Defence Scientist in Maritime Decision Support at Defence Research & Development Canada’s Atlantic Research Centre. My job is to guide and assist in the development of tools that will help naval personnel make better decisions during mission planning and execution, from the perspective of cognitive psychology. This involves a consideration of human factors, human-computer interactions, team dynamics, and basic cognition.
My training in psychology (PhD, Cognitive Psychology, University of Manitoba 2017) has provided me with both concrete and abstract forms of knowledge that help me in my current role. The concrete skill sets of experimental design and statistical inference are directly applicable to my work, although the constraints and goals of applied research are different enough from those of academia that some relearning and rethinking has had to occur.
Thankfully, the more abstract forms of knowledge provided by my training have positioned me well for this transition. My training in psychology taught me versatility, creativity, and lateral thinking. I have the ability to learn about a new topic very quickly, to creatively apply my existing knowledge and skill sets to new scenarios, and to find connections between seemingly disparate ideas or fields of study. With these abstract skills in hand, I have been able to adapt my more concrete areas of expertise to the requirements of the job.
What I enjoy most about my current position is the level of structure it provides, the direct sense of impact that comes from conducting applied research, and the ability to collaborate and exchange ideas with a very diverse group of scientists.
I receive specific problems to solve but I am free to explore them in any manner I see fit; this provides me with some structure around which to focus my efforts, but enough flexibility to follow my interests. Moreover, the ability to see the direct effects of my research on the lives and work of others is rewarding in a way that my academic career in experimental psychology was not. Finally, I get to work with interesting and brilliant researchers from all areas of study, from physics to chemistry to computer science. Not only do I get to learn new things I would otherwise know nothing about, but my own unique perspective and expertise are a valued part of the whole and I get to teach as much as I learn.