Executive Director, Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology

Contact InformationCatherine Burns

Phone: 519-888-4567 x33903,519-888-4567 x30534
Location: EC4 2121,EC5 3057


Biography Summary

Catherine Burns is a Systems Design Engineering Professor and the Director of the Advanced Interface Design Lab at the University of Waterloo.

She conducts research in Ecological Interface Design, cognitive work analysis, and graphical interface design and visualization, which has been applied in military systems, healthcare, power plant control, and oil and gas refining.

Ecological Interface Design (EID) draws design principles from both ecological psychology and engineering. The goal of EID is to present the operator with all the information needed to understand how to achieve plant goals while using a transparent interface. Experimentally, EID is showing great promise as an approach to designing interfaces for systems such as petrochemical plants, power plants and in aviation. This research aims to continue to explore this framework and expand its successful implementation to industrial situations.

Professor Burns’ current projects include mobile decision support tools for cardiac nurses, supporting situation awareness in power plant operators, diabetes management tools, and supporting human-to-human and human-to-agent collaboration in uninhibited aerial vehicle environments. Her research is sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Bell University Labs, Research in Motion (RIM) and NSERC.

Professor Burns is the author of over 100 publications and also recently co-wrote a book on EID. She is the Program Chair for the Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making Technical Group of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Research Interests

  • Human factors engineering
  • Systems engineering
  • Safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Design Process
  • Cognitive engineering
  • Human error
  • Decision making
  • Interface Design and Integration
  • Usability Testing and Interactive Technology
  • Ecological Interface Design
  • Cognitive Work Analysis
  • Graphical interface design and visualization


  • 1998, Doctorate, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto
  • 1994, Master's, Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto
  • 1992, Bachelor's, Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo

Selected/Recent Publications

  • Burns, Catherine M and Naikar, Neelam, Prioritization A Double-Edged Sword?, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 10(1), 2016, 105 - 108
  • Burns, Catherine M and Bisantz, Ann M, Advances in the Application of Cognitive Work Analysis, Applications of Cognitive Work Analysis, 2016
  • Kant, Vivek and Burns, Catherine M, Engaging nanotechnology: ethnography of lab-on-a-chip technology in small-scale fluidics research, Cognition, Technology & Work, 18(1), 2016, 33 - 52
  • Mercer, Kathryn and Li, Melissa and Giangregorio, Lora and Burns, Catherine and Grindrod, Kelly, Behavior change techniques present in wearable activity trackers: a critical analysis, JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(2), 2016
  • Jatobá, Alessandro and Bellas, Hugo Cesar and Bonfatti, Renato and Burns, Catherine M and Vidal, Mario Cesar R and de Carvalho, Paulo Victor R, Designing for patient risk assessment in primary health care: a case study for ergonomic work analysis, Cognition, Technology & Work, 18(1), 2016, 215 - 231