Getting to know Dr. Paul Munya, one of ARL's newest PhDs

February 19, 2015

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • Educational opportunities: "We are fortunate to work for an organization that is willing to invest in its own"
  • Dr. Munya is responsible for providing HSI support to program managers of weapons systems at TACOM in Warren, Michigan
  • Making contributions to ensure our men and women in uniform can successfully accomplish the missions while deployed and return home safely to their families

Dr. Paul Munya, an engineer from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate's Tank Automotive Command field element in Warren, Michigan, recently received his doctorate in Industrial and Systems Engineering, majoring in human– machine systems engineering.

Born and raised in the Western Province of the Republic of Kenya in East Africa, Munya was the third youngest of seven children. His early years were a typical small-town farm life— taking care of animals and crops—and also where he developed his passion to pursue a good education.

"My alma mater was Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in the capital of Nairobi—this is where I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering," said Munya. "Then, in 1999, I immigrated to the United States and enrolled at Iowa State University in 2001— this is where I obtained my master's degree in Systems Engineering."

Munya was just getting started. In the fall of 2004, he enrolled in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Ph.D. Program at North Carolina A&T State University, majoring in human–machine systems engineering. He also conducted research on technologies and tools that could be used to support the Warfighter decision-making by reducing cognitive overload in battle-command situations at the Army Research Office at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. It was there where he was first introduced to ARL.

"I interacted with past and present ARL personnel through workshops and symposiums that were hosted by the center. During one such visit to the lab, I took the opportunity to discuss with Dr. Don Headley about HRED research and programs and the opportunities available for graduates, and he strongly encouraged me to consider joining ARL," said Munya. "At that time, that seemed a very abstract objective; little did I know years later, this would come true!"

Munya completed his Ph.D. course work and was preparing to write and defend his dissertation when he got a job offer to work in Santa Clara, California, as a senior specialty engineer with the Ground Systems Division MANPRINT, Future Combat Systems Program. After working for a defense contractor for a couple of years, Munya joined ARL in the fall of 2010.

"My research work had equipped me with the knowledge and background in designing weapons systems, and the future combat-systems program was an ideal platform on which to put the theoretical research into practice," said Munya. "Though FCS was a major program with many different facets, I learned a lot about human–systems integration [HSI] in weapons-systems design during my time on the project. In the usability lab, I learned how to apply all sorts of HSI tools such as eye-tracking software, Pro-E design software, JACK human-figure modeling, and performing engineering evaluations."

At the TACOM field element, Munya is responsible for providing HSI support to program managers(PMs) in combat support and combat service support and of weapons systems to include armored fighting vehicles, main battle tanks and artillery systems.

"Specifically, I provide human–systems integration support for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Bradley AFV, and the Stryker AFV. HSI support mainly involves attending vehicle system/subsystem design meetings and serving as the PM's point person in making sure that requirements that address the Warfighter are included and adhered to by the contractor," said Munya. "To use the MANPRINT adage, my brief is to make sure the vehicle/weapons system is designed to fit the Soldier. Though this may sound very mundane, it's anything but that. Most engineers will design the equipment first and then leave it for the Soldier to try and fit in because in the short-term thinking it helps them reduce the design costs. In the long run, however, vehicles designed without proper HSI guidelines often result into performance degradation, injury, or death to the Warfighter. This leads to poor mission execution and equipment loss or damage.

"Taking corrective action to fix these problems on fielded equipment is more costly to the Army," Munya continued. "PMs are now sensitized to the importance of doing this right from the beginning and we are seeing a lot of efforts to get HSI engineers involved in the engineering design process very early on (pre-milestone B). To ensure due diligence is done by the contractor, I perform HSI assessment on the programs as part of any major decision-review process upon request by the PMs. The HSI assessment is also submitted to the Army HSI directorate who briefs the ASA (ALT) on the assessment outcomes."

Lamar Garrett, chief of HRED's Maneuver and Mobility Branch located at the Edgewood Area in Maryland, said Munya's accomplishments are a true reflection of his dedication and willingness to increase his job performance.

"Although I have only been Paul's supervisor for a short time, I have known him and I'm familiar with his work in the area of human–system integration and I would see him at MANPRINT conferences. We are fortunate to work for an organization that is willing to invest in its own," said Garrett. "I am confident that Paul will continue to do great things for our organization. Educational advancement is key to enhancing our abilities to do our jobs, in an efficient manner, which ultimately increases our performance and growth within the organization."

When asked what he enjoys most about his job, Munya said: "What I find most rewarding about my job is the fact that in some way I'm making a contribution to make sure that our men and women in uniform can successfully accomplish the missions to which they are deployed and come back home safely to their families. I try to think beyond an abstract computer model or engineering drawing to the Soldier out there on a battlefield in unfamiliar terrain who must spend most of his/her day in an AFV, for example, in very extreme conditions. Yet even in such conditions, he/she must be vigilant, see first, hear first, and respond decisively.

"If I can contribute to make sure that the equipment is properly integrated to reduce cognitive overload; his [Soldier's] vision blocks are properly located so that he does not suffer fatigue which may lead to errors in judgment; that acoustic treatments are included in the vehicle design to reduce the interior noise so he can be able to detect hostile sounds—then I consider that I have done something that will help him/her accomplish the mission successfully and go back home to their families safely," Munya said.

Outside work you might find Munya on the soccer fields coaching minor-league soccer for his son and daughter or maybe at his writing club where he enjoys creative writing.

"I enjoy spending time coaching my son and daughter and running around the fields with them. I'm not sure we will win any championships anytime soon, but it's a really fun experience and it helps me keep fit, too! I also enjoy creative writing and I'm member of a writers' club where we write stories (fiction mostly) and share with each other for critique. The idea is to improve the technique and be a published author. I guess I haven't gotten past the first stage yet but look out for that novel (yeah right)," said Munya.


Last Update / Reviewed: February 19, 2015