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Dr. Kevin Hamilton: Instructor, Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/12/09

What positions have you held with Kwantlen? What work have you performed here?

I have been a faculty member with Kwantlen’s department of Psychology for approximately 15 years, teaching and conducting applied research in an area known as Human Factor’s Psychology. During that time I have been involved in a number of department and institutional initiatives.

A little over 10 years ago I headed a committee responsible for developing the first applied academic degree, namely the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Psychology (BAA).  This degree focused on workplace psychology, community service, research methods, and data analysis.  The BAA was designed to provide employability skills including those necessary for further graduate training.  Later I headed a committee that initiated Kwantlen’s Office of Research and Scholarship and our current Institutional Research Ethics Board (IRB).  From 2008 to 2011, I served as Department Chair for Psychology, during which time our first formal program review and strategic plan were completed.  Currently I serve on Kwantlen’s IRB and on the Senate Task Force for Academic Rank and Advancement.

How did you gain interest in Psychology? Where have you acquired your education?

I became seriously interested in Psychology while completing a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto.  Prior to studying at York I completed an Honours BA at the university of Prince Edward Island with a double major in Philosophy and English. In secondary school I was enrolled in a pre-engineering program.

At York, I studied with Dr. Daniel Cappon, a physician who investigated human behaviour and health in the context of the built environment, architectural design and building interiors.  While completing this degree, I was a teaching assistant for a professor in the Psychology department, who conducted Human Factors research, and was later introduced to Dr. Barry Fowler a Psychologist who worked in this same area with the School of Exercise and Sports Science.  Dr. Fowler specialized in extreme environments and human performance.  My doctoral work with him examined cognitive impairment associated with deep sea diving – inert nitrogen narcosis.  My comprehensive area focused on biological rhythms and shiftwork. As part of my doctoral studies, I was employed as a research assistant  and helped manage some of Dr. Fowler’s research contracts with Defence Canada.

Following my Ph.D., I was awarded a Post Doctoral Research Fellowship, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC). In this capacity, I became further involved with Defence Canada for 2 years studying spatial disorientation effects associated with pilots training on flight simulators.

Where have you gone to work prior to joining Kwantlen.

In 1989, following my Post Doc, I began work as a Defence Scientist at the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM) in Toronto.  DCIEM is a Human Factors Lab and in this position I was engaged in a number of projects concerned with the performance of military personnel in a variety of extreme and unusual operational environments.  Here, I developed considerable expertise in Environmental and Human Factors Psychology.

After approximately 7 years I left Defence Canada and moved to Vancouver to take a job with Hughes Aircraft as a Human Engineer, helping to redesign Canada’s air traffic control systems.  The project was called the Canadian Automated Air Traffic Control System (CATS) and focused largely on workstation and computer interface design and large scale evaluations.  As CATS neared completion, I was hired by BC Research Inc. (BCRI) as a Senior Ergonomist.  At BCRI I was involved with several Coast Guard and US Army projects, again focused on performance in extreme operational settings.  In 1997, I moved to Kwantlen to help teach in what was to become a new Applied Psychology Program.

What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?  If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

In addition to the work I’ve already described, I have had a number of Honours students at Kwantlen and have supervised their theses in areas including Post Traumatic Stress in firefighters; computer interface evaluation with online learning; GPS integration in aircraft cockpits, and, most recently, hazard recognition training with coastal tree fallers – the most at risk profession in North America for accidents and fatalities.  Currently I am helping WorkSafeBC looking at the use of 3D degraded imagery in hazard recognition training.

Since you began studying psychology, what controversial issues seem pertinent to you?

Working in applied research, I have seen several instances of people’s and organization’s agendas getting intertwined with how information is collected and reported.  I learned that ‘politics and science’ can frequently become intertwined.  As a researcher, I firmly believe that we need to be very cautious of such influences and that we should strive to be as objective as possible, regardless of research outcomes.  In my view, the best approach is to let the science speak for itself.

How would you describe your philosophical framework for understanding psychology?  Have your philosophical frameworks changed over time to the present?

I suppose I would say that I try my best to strive for a philosophical perspective that is broad, all inclusive, and as objective ‘as possible’.  Human Factors research utilizes a systems approach in trying to understand the complex relationships between human beings, their behaviour, the tools they use and the environmental contexts in which they work and live.  These relationships are the result of a multitude of variables interacting.  Identifying relevant variables, their relative contributions to system output, and how they coexist dynamically, I believe is the key to really beginning to understand how things work.  However, developing this kind of perspective is ongoing and rooted in accepting that we must continuously change how we look at things.  Science in itself is but one system of comprehension, founded on assumptions which have their own logic and reality.  I am intrigued when modern physicists argue that what we used to consider inarguable realities, such as time and causation, may in fact be mere mental constructs – lenses through which we view the world and ourselves in it.  That James Lovelock, the reputed NASA scientist, in his mid-nineties decided we need to re-think everything and consider earth is one living organism is indicative of the value of fostering ever changing and broader perspectives. The universe and understanding what’s in it and how it works may be out of reach for mere human cognitive capacity.  But the privilege of being able to contemplate such matters is a gift beyond compare.  Perhaps the Taoists had it right when they said that as soon as you begin to use language to differentiate thought, real comprehension becomes impossible.  In answering your last question – “have your philosophical frameworks changed over time” – absolutely – and I am excited by the prospect that they will continue to do so!


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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