Chance Meeting Sets First Generation Student Up For Human Factors Degrees

A wrong turn on a campus tour helped set Ryan Lange on a path to earn his B.S. and M.S. in Human Factors at Embry-Riddle.

M.S. in Human Factors student Ryan Lange
M.S. in Human Factors student Ryan Lange in the mountains with his dog (Photo: Ryan Lange)

Support from his family and the Eagle community helped Ryan Lange set a course for success – and lay the foundation for first-generation students to come.

As the first in his family to go to college, Daytona Beach student Ryan Lange (‘20, ‘21) started with little to no idea what degree he wanted to pursue, let alone whether he could even afford an education.

“My parents have always supported my love for learning,” he said. “Whenever there was something that I wanted to do at school, they were always behind me.”

From the Gaetz Aerospace Institute to Embry-Riddle

A childhood love for airplanes followed Lange all the way to high school, when he chose to attend the school that had an aerospace academy – the Gaetz Aerospace Institute. Throughout his classes, a favorite teacher introduced him to the field of human factors and inspired him to become a scientist. Naturally, Embry-Riddle was his next step.

During a campus visit with his family, Lange recalls getting lost in the College of Arts and Sciences and stumbling across a group of professors from the Human Factors department. The next couple of hours were spent talking with several of the faculty, who gave Lange and his family a personal tour of the department and labs.

What is the Embry-Riddle Discover Scholars Program?

The first-ever Discover Embry-Riddle program launched during Lange’s sophomore year, beginning as an experimental pre-orientation during the summer. Around the same time, he was invited to serve as the founder and acting president of the newly formed First Generation Student Association. Since then, both organizations have combined their efforts to promote a common goal: providing resources and support for first-generation students.

In Lange’s experience, students in this group are highly motivated by their passions but often struggle at first to find an identity for themselves, adding that “if they can combine their passions with their education, they will have a formula for success.”

Watching these organizations evolve into year-round programs providing access to weekly themed meetings, free field trips, exclusive scholarship opportunities and more has given him a great sense of pride.

“We’re all about the resources and the community,” Lange said. “If we can give students a place to learn and a place to make friends, we have done our job.”

What Do Human Factors Engineers Do?

The future looks bright for Lange, who scored an internship with NASA last summer. What started as a three-month remote internship turned into the opportunity of a lifetime when his colleagues took an interest in his research with Embry-Riddle, which involved the efficacy and standardization of alerts across different spacecraft.

“NASA had been trying to accomplish similar work for quite some time, so this was the perfect opportunity to collaborate,” he said. “We formed a research partnership and both teams have been working together since.”

Lange earned his bachelor’s degree in Human Factors Psychology in December and, thanks to the accelerated program, is set to graduate with his M.S. in Human Factors this fall – but he’s not done yet. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. while continuing to work with NASA and conduct research that further supports the “human side” of spaceflight.

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