Student Opportunities

Graduate studies

The laboratory director, Thomas Stoffregen, is a member of the graduate faculty in both Kinesiology and Psychology. Thus, graduate students can do their research in the APAL while pursuing the Ph.D. in Kinesiology or in Psychology.

Dr. Stoffregen supervises graduate research within the framework of the Ecological Approach to Perception and Action and the Ecology of Human-Machine Systems. We maintain collaborative research programs with colleagues in other countries (e.g., France, Japan). Graduate students often have opportunities for international travel and collaboration. We also maintain close ties with ecological psychologists at other universities and in industry, who may serve as either informal or formal advisers for student research at UM. A graduate student interested in the Ecological Approach to Perception and Action will have the opportunity to pursue a variety of research projects at UM and/or in affiliated labs.

Specific research interests include: Postural control; Motion sickness; Virtual environments; Multisensory control of action; Perception & exploitation of affordances.

Graduate training options

Prepare for careers in academic research, government, or industry. We offer:

Scholarships and graduate assistantships are routinely available to HFRL students.


The doctoral program in Psychology is offered through the Department of Psychology. Students may pursue in graduate training in Perception and Action and/or Human Factors/Ergonomics as part of a Ph.D. in Psychology

Ph.D. in psychology


The School of Kinesiology offers M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Perceptual-Motor Control and Learning, which comprises research in APAL.

Ph.D. in Kinesiology with an emphasis in perceptual-motor control and learning

M.S. in Kinesiology with an emphasis in perceptual-motor control and learning

Human Factors/Ergonomics

Human Factors/Ergonomics (HF/E) is an interdisciplinary area of study focusing on how human performance and behavior are influenced by design factors in the performance environment. The University of Minnesota offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Human Factors.

Graduate study in Human Factors

Undergrade opportunities

Opportunities exist for qualified undergraduates to work in the APAL as research assistants. Students can participate in many phases of research, from the design and assembly of apparatus to data collection to data analysis and manuscript preparation, to presentations at scientific meetings and conferences. Undergraduate research can be done on a volunteer basis, or for course credit. Many of our undergraduate research assistants have received financial support for their work through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). The main avenue for undergraduates to enter the lab will be through the Honors Program in the School of Kinesiology. However, qualified students from any background or program are welcome. Interested students should contact Dr. Stoffregen.

The Ecological Approach to Perception and Action

and its environment and the relation between perception and action. It is a general theory of the perception and control of behavior; general in the sense that it aspires to describe, explain, and predict perception and action by all animals in all situations, at all ages.

Ecological psychology has its origins in the work of James and Eleanor Gibson, who emphasized direct perception via the detection of higher-order stimulus variables, as opposed to a reductionist, constructivist-representational account of perception. The ecological approach focuses on the perception and control of behaviors that occur naturally, that is, outside the laboratory. In particular, the ecological approach focuses on aspects of the animal and the environment that determine the success or failure of behaviors. The unit of analysis is the animal-environment system. Thus, the ecological approach is a systems-based approach to the perception and control of action.

For more information:

Gibson, J. J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Gibson, J. J. (1986). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Michaels, C. F., & Carello, C. (1981). Direct perception. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Stoffregen, T. A., & Bardy, B. G. (2001). On specification and the senses. /Behavioral and Brain Sciences/, /24/, 195-261.

International Society for Ecological Psychology

The Ecological Approach to Human-Machine Systems

The ecological approach to human-machine systems involves the application of principles from ecological psychology to human-machine interaction. Human factors is a system-based discipline, which seeks to understand, explain, and design the fit between humans and machines. Human-machine systems are a subset of animal-environment systems, and so can be understood within the general framework of the ecological approach. This works at two levels. First, the ecological approach provides a theoretical perspective from which to describe and explain perception and action within human-machine systems. Second, the ecological approach provides a theoretical basis for the design of human-machine systems that will promote adaptive performance.

For more information:

Flach, J. M., Hancock, P., Caird, J., & Vicente, K. J., (1995). Global perspectives on the ecology of human-machine systems. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hancock, P., Flach, J. M., Caird, J., & Vicente, K. J. (1995). Local applications in the ecology of human-machine systems. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.