The journey into space is as much psychological as it is physical. For astronauts, their environment is a small spaceship where they work, sleep, and eat with the same coworkers every day in a dangerous, high-stress space for months or years at a time. As an industrial organizational psychologist for NASA, it’s Dr. Kelley Slack’s job to psychologically prepare the newest class of astronauts for space travel. She spoke of her experience at this year’s River Cities Industrial Organizational Psychology Conference.

psychology“For astronauts, it’s not just about learning the mechanics and how to operate the equipment. They’re in a unique working environment. They’re stuck in a very confined space with the same people for a long duration. They have to be psychologically prepared just to stay sane,” said Dr. Bart Weathington, UTC Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and UC Foundation Professor in the Department of Psychology.

The conference, hosted by the UTC Department of Psychology, centered on the current trends in the field on training employees. This year’s event featured presenters from professional organizations and other colleges including, Appalachian State University, Boston University, and University of St. Thomas. Presentations covered a wide range of topics, including e-learning, leadership training, and the hiring process.

Several UTC students presented their own research and were involved in special sessions on how to find a job after graduation and tips on getting into graduate school.

“This conference offers a stellar opportunity for students. They get to go to a national-level conference locally. They don’t have to travel and pay for a hotel. They get to attend to conference, learn from the presenters, and go home at night,” Weathington said.

The conference will return to UTC on October 24 -25, 2014 with the theme, “Perspectives on Personality.” For more information, visit the conference website.

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