Expertise: Measuring the impact of environmental conditions on cognitive function.
Backstory: Usha Satish has broad experience using the research tool Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) to study how wide-ranging variables impact cognitive function and real-world productivity, from drugs and alcohol to sleep deprivation to head injuries. In 2006, after completing a study on how various medications for seasonal allergies and rhinitis affect cognitive function, she was sought out by SyracuseCoE to see if her methods might be effective for a forthcoming study on the impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint on indoor environments. Satish collaborated on the project, using SMS to evaluate the impact of VOCs on productivity and decision-making and expanded her area of research interest in the process.
Sound Bite: “Studying the impact of indoor air quality wasn’t originally on my radar, but it wasn’t out of the realm of imagination either,” says Satish. “Whether I’m looking at different levels of alcohol, antihistamines that cause drowsiness, or VOCs—they all have the potential to impact thinking capacity.”
SyracuseCoE Connection: In 2007, SyracuseCoE awarded nearly $300,000 for a two-year project led by Satish in collaboration with researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories to study the implications of low levels of carbon dioxide on people’s decision making and perceptions of indoor air quality. In 2009, SyracuseCoE awarded nearly $300,000 for a two-year project led by Satish in collaboration with the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study the impacts of daylighting on human decision making and productivity. Satish was a co-investigator of the 2014 COGfx study, leading the cognitive testing and analysis component. “The SyracuseCoE is a wonderful organization for showcasing the research treasures we have in Upstate New York,” she says.
Current Project: Satish is collaborating with Syracuse University engineering professor Jianshun Zhang and King + King Architects to evaluate whether building renovations at Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse, New York, impact student learning. Data from SMS taken before and after the renovation under controlled conditions will be used to assess the impact of the built environment on student performance.