Retired Air Force Maj. Brian Shul leaves legacy of survival with his passing

“Leaving your jet in the jungle is not heroic. I’m a survivor.” That sentiment is one that Retired Air Force Maj. Brian Shul expressed often in the years after being shot down during the Vietnam War. Sustaining devastating burn injuries in the crash, he recovered and continued to serve his country, piloting secret missions in the Cold War while flying the SR-71, the world’s fastest aircraft. He told his story often as part of his encore career in which he continued to inspire. Telling his story was among the last things he did. He died of a cardiac arrest in… Read More

A2PEX project leads latest edition of IHMC newsletter

How long can you sustain attention in a cognitively or physically demanding situation where a lapse in focus due to boredom or fatigue could have life-or-death consequences?  That’s the question at the heart of a cooperative research project between the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) now under way.  The project is the cover story of the latest issue of our newsletter, available here. Assessing and Augmenting Performance in Extreme Environments (A2PEX) aims for real-time assessment and augmentation of Airmen cognitive performance in long-duration missions in extreme environments.  The goal is… Read More

STEM-Talk: Dr. Mark Shelhamer talk about human spaceflight and missions to Mars

Mark Shelhamer was set upon a path that would take him from “nerdy band kid” to the chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program by his Uncle Stanley.  “One of the smartest people I knew, even though he was not highly educated,” Shelhamer says. “He had been a surveyor in a coal mine. He was ‘the cool uncle,’ so he made it cool to be interested in science and math.”   Uncle Stanley also gifted 10-year-old Mark with a Radio Shack 150-in-1 Electronics Kit. The idea that he could wire up a radio in a few minutes and listen to… Read More

IHMC supports veterans’ transition to civilian work through SkillBridge program

The transition from military to civilian life comes with challenges, including how to translate that experience into the civilian workplace. The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is proud to be part of a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) program to help close that gap. SkillBridge is a DoD program to give military personnel civilian work experience in the last 180 days of their service career — a bridge from one world to the next. This spring, IHMC renewed its commitment to the program becoming a SkillBridge worksite. The DoD covers salary and benefits while in the program, which… Read More

Team crafts tool to track neurological function in divers for Office of Naval Research

An IHMC team has wrapped up a three-year project refining an underwater eye-tracking tool to detect the early signs of neurological hazards in divers. Neurologic decompression sickness, hypoxia, hypercarbia, and Central Nervous System (CNS) O2 toxicity, all are hazards of working in undersea environments. Small eye-movement cameras, known as video-oculographic (VOG) systems, have been used extensively for clinical assessment of eye movements, a quantifiable marker of neurologic function. In a project supported by the Office of Naval Research Undersea Medicine Program, the IHMC team modified the Pupil Labs ocular camera system into a waterproof form that fits in the U.S…. Read More

Bayou Texar project recruited residents for watershed monitoring

Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition research also includes small scale efforts in local efforts.   One such example is work by IHMC Research Scientist David Fries, who is using Bayou Texar as a test bed for a project to enlist residents in tracking the bayou’s health. It is a timely project that complements ongoing efforts to improve the waterway, which includes a nearly $6 million grant, announced by the City of Pensacola in November 2022.  With two grants totaling $100,000 from the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program Community Grant Program, Fries launched a citizen science initiative with… Read More

STEM-Talk: Dr. John Ioannidis on flaws in COVID-19 response

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. John Ioannidis wrote an article in March 2020 questioning government statistics about the fatality rate of COVID-19. The backlash was swift and brutal, and John’s reputation as one of the most influential scientists in the world took a beating.    Here, John makes his second appearance on STEM-Talk to discuss his extensive research into the pandemic. Episode 151 is available now on our podcast page, as well as in popular podcast apps and on YouTube. John talks about his most recent peer-reviewed paper that looked at the age-stratified infection fatality rate… Read More

Triumph Gulf Coast funding supports IHMC purchase of cutting-edge gene sequencer

IHMC is purchasing a new NovaSeq X Plus genetic sequencing device that will help elevate the Institute’s footprint as a regional hub of excellence in human performance research.  IHMC will be among the first labs in the country to have the newest version of this device, which allows for next-generation sequencing capacity to better understand genetics, genomics, epigenetics, and transcriptomics.   “The information contained in our genes and how they are activated and regulated is extremely important in understanding risks of disease, along with differences between individuals and the responses of each person to a treatment or exposure to stress,” says… Read More

WATCH: 2023 IHMC Robotics Open House

Everyone likes company — and IHMC is no exception.   More than 350 people came through our doors for 2023’s Robotics Open House. The family-friendly event allowed IHMC researchers to share some of what they do with students and families.  We had a great time showcasing our work in robotics, virtual reality experiences, human performance research projects, data visualization, and more. If you couldn’t be there, here’s a little of what you missed.  For students to get an IHMC experience, we have two upcoming opportunities: Science Saturday on April 22 for students in grades 3-6, and summer Robotics Camp June 5-8… Read More

IHMC researchers to help build testing environment to improve operator awareness.

IHMC received nearly $4 million in grant funding as a subaward to SRI International’s “PROTEUS: Prototype Testing environment for User Situation awareness.”   PROTEUS is a rapidly reconfigurable human-machine interface (HMI) testing environment for early and cost-effective testing of human machine prototypes, specifically those designed to improve operator situation awareness and support agile adaptation to off-nominal situations.  The PROTEUS Team is a project the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is a collaboration between SRI International (prime, headquartered in Menlo Park, CA), IHMC, and SkillMil, Inc., (Menlo Park, CA). IHMC’s effort is led by Senior Research Scientist Dr. Anil Raj.  PROTEUS… Read More

IHMC celebrates National Robotics Week with open house on April 6

It’s time to get your peek behind the curtain.   On April 6, Florida IHMC is inviting the public to meet Nadia, Valkyrie, Eva, Mini Cheetah, Wasp and the humans behind them in celebration of National Robotics Week.  From 3 to 7 p.m. on April 6, 2023, researchers at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition will welcome the public and students for tours, walk-throughs and inspiration on the Pensacola campus on South Alcaniz Street. The last tour begins at 7 p.m.  The family-friendly event encourages scientific discovery through hands-on activities, challenges, and demonstrations while providing the opportunity to learn about… Read More

Experts in spatial disorientation review innovations to mitigate risks of aviation mishaps

PENSACOLA — Recently, the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition hosted a gathering of international experts in spatial disorientation, the leading cause of deadly mishaps in military and commercial aviation.   Over three days in late March, 87 members of the Spatial Orientation Modeling Expert (SOME) Workgroup shared the latest techniques to model spatial disorientation mishaps and to showcase the latest developments designed to mitigate the risk. The hope is to craft recommendations for future research on the model and designs of next-generation aerospace vehicles to improve pilot situation awareness and counter spatial disorientation.   The Principal Investigator from IHMC… Read More

STEM-Talk: Dr. Barbara Thorne, conehead termite expert, on biology, control of these highly social insects

STEM-Talk episode 150 featuring termite biologist Dr. Barbra Thorne is now available on IHMC’s website as well as popular podcast apps. In her interview, Barbara talks about the invasive conehead species, a Central and South American termite that has invaded South Florida. Barbara is a research professor and professor emerita in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland. Since 2012 she has served as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services science advisor on the state’s Conehead Termite Program. She also chairs the National Scientific Advisory Committee for the Conehead Termite Program. Barbara’s research focuses on the… Read More

Summer Robotics Camp 2023 registration opens this week.

Summer Robotics Camp is one of IHMC’s signature community outreach efforts — and it’s almost here. Registration opens this week for the summer 2023 sessions. Visit to register.  “Our students always enjoy getting to know likeminded students and spending four days learning to program Lego robots and seeing them respond to their commands,” said Dr. Ursula Schwuttke, director of educational outreach for IHMC’s Pensacola and Ocala campuses.  Robotics camp takes place in June 2023 and offers students the chance to learn the basics of robotics, coding, and problem-solving. Camp is in two sessions: June 5-8 for rising eighth graders;… Read More

Space Florida, IHMC partnership includes collaboration, research support

A partnership between Space Florida and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition has been quietly growing. Most recently, Space Florida contributed $2 million in support of that collaboration.   When construction of IHMC’s newest research building is completed in the summer of 2024, Space Florida will have office space in the new facility — additional evidence of how closely the two entities intend to work together.  “Among the topics our human performance team is exploring is how humans respond both physically and cognitively to stress and how we perform in extreme environments,” said IHMC Founder and CEO Dr. Ken… Read More

WATCH: Dr. Karen Wooley on the future of sustainable, biodegradable plastics.

Dr. Karen Wooley wants to find the next iteration of sustainable, biodegradable plastics. She’s looking to the insect world for part of the answer.   Wooley, who holds the W. T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry and is a University Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University, spoke as part of the Smart Lecture series at IHMC. If you couldn’t be with us in person, watch her lecture here.  Her lecture shared the latest efforts to support the commercial translation of carbohydrate-derived degradable plastics to harvesting of building blocks from insect feedstocks.   As scaled-up production of biomass-based biodegradable polymers grows, focus has turned… Read More

STEM-Talk: Jeff Volek on what we’ve learned in 30 years about keto, carb-restricted diets and health

Dr. Jeff Volek has been investigating how humans adapt to ketogenic and carbohydrate-restricted diets for 30 years.    On his return to STEM-Talk — available on our website and wherever you enjoy podcasts— Jeff talks about a growing accumulation of studies supporting a ketogenic diet to improve metabolic health, as well as research confirming the relative safety of dietary fat.  Jeff is a professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University. He is known for his research on the clinical application of ketogenic diets in the management of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. His first STEM-Talk appearance was… Read More

WATCH: Dr. Alexander Fleming’s Evening Lecture on geroscience and healthy longevity

People are living longer, but those longer years are often marred by multiple chronic diseases — and the exploding cost of managing those conditions — in the final and least productive years of life.   In the first IHMC Evening Lecture of 2023, Dr. Alexander Fleming talked about efforts to understand how we can extend our productive, healthy years — a concept he calls healthy longevity. If you couldn’t be with us in person, you can still learn from Dr. Fleming with our video recap. Watch it here.  Fleming is a former head of clinical review at the U.S. Food and… Read More

IHMC breaks ground on new, $30 million human performance research complex

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition broke ground today on a new $30 million project in downtown Pensacola, setting up the next chapter in the research facility’s journey of innovation and collaboration.  The IHMC Healthspan, Resilience and Performance complex will be a leading-edge lab and office building that will create a research hub, based in Northwest Florida, for advancing human healthspan, resilience, and performance with the potential to lead the field. The facility is an investment in the intellectual capital of Northwest Florida, creating a hub of excellence in healthspan, resilience, and performance research that will draw leading… Read More

STEM-Talk: Ed Weiler on the Hubble and James Webb telescopes and NASA’s search for life

Ed Weiler wanted to be among NASA’s first scientist astronaut. He made it through several rounds of selection, but in the end, he wasn’t chosen.   “Then I gave up and was happy to be an astronomer,” Weiler says.   Fortunately, he had another path that brought him to NASA. Indeed, he went on to a 33-year career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including 20 years as chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, the forerunner of the James Webb.  In STEM-Talk Episode 147, available now on IHMC’s website and wherever you listen to podcasts, Dr. Ed Weiler talks about… Read More