My Professional Life

I am a driven, motivated, and multifaceted professional...blah, blah, blah…(this is my story, you can read about the value I created, man-hours saved, cost savings, etc. on my resume) I am very grateful for my career.

All of these experiences provide me with a unique set of skills to draw upon as a UX researcher.

It has been, and continues to be, awesome, amazing, and fantastic! 

UX Researcher Lena DeSantis

I started working as a contractor at the NASA Johnson Space Center in December 1999.

The bulk of my career at NASA was in the Usability Testing and Analysis Facility (UTAF). I also supported the Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility, the International Space Station (ISS) Trash & Waste Integration Group, the ISS Plug-in Plan, and the Program Integration Office for NASA's Human Research Program.

NASA testing

Evaluating a wrist-mounted display to be used by astronauts during a planetary extravehicular activity (EVA). The initial proof of concept was to display procedures to the crew and navigate with voice commands. We tested the system with Legos. We had the test subjects assemble a Lego system using the pictorial directions provided by Lego and we created text-only directions, using the wrist-mounted display and voice commands to navigate through each set of procedures. The voice command system had difficulty interpreting the commands from the women test subjects.

NASA Safety Meeting

Before every evaluation with human test subjects, we had a test safety review. This safety review was for an emergency egress test. The scenario was the crew is in the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) waiting to be launched and there is an emergency requiring them to egress. We were testing how far out of the hatch each test subject could step. There was going to be a gap between the rocket and the tower. We needed to know if the crew could safely egress in an emergency. We had to test both the tallest men we could find and the shortest women. The shorter people had more difficulty safely egressing.


I was part of the Desert Research and Technology Studies (DRATS) team in 2005, 2006, and 2007 conducting time-motion studies to identify parts of the process to improve efficiency for EVA operations and evaluating hardware and software systems to increase efficiency when astronauts are conducting EVAs. Through this series of tests, performed at Meteor Crater and Cinder Lake in Arizona, I learned to expect the unexpected when taking an evaluation out of a lab setting and into the “real world” and to be flexible when responding to those unforeseen situations. It has also helped my imagination when assessing what could go wrong during an evaluation and creating contingency plans for them.

NASA has used the buoyancy of water to simulate microgravity since the Apollo days. This evaluation gathered data on how the maturing designs for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) impacts the possible ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) scenarios, specifically assessing handrail installation by the astronauts for egress during an EVA. The safety diver on the left is using one of the handrails to maintain his position. The test participants were either astronauts or engineers qualified to perform work in the EVA suit in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL). The Usability Testing and Analysis Facility (UTAF) also used this test as an opportunity to validate a new Maneuverability Assessment Scale (MAS), the diver in the center of the picture is holding the ratings scales used to gather subjective data.

NASA Water Tank

PHS Concepts marked a new chapter in my life.

New rules to learn, old muscles to stretch (reviewing general assembly and piping and instrumentation diagrams), and new countries to visit. I was contracted to Bechtel who was building a liquid natural gas plant for Chevron in northwest Australia.

PHS Strairway Specs

The Chevron Safety In Design requirements document covered the physical ergonomic requirements for maintenance access, stair and ladder dimensions, etc

PHS Stairway Concept

We used Smart Plant Review to view a 3D representation of the LNG plant. We would conduct virtual walkthroughs of the plant. They were conducted in a conference room with a multidisciplinary team of piping engineers, operators, maintenance engineers, systems engineering specialists, and human factors engineers. Catching the issues like the one on this platform (entrance off the staircase is too narrow), allowed for changes to be made in the design phase before fabrication of the module.

Fabrication Yards

The rubber met the road when we performed a walk down of the module as it was being constructed in the module fabrication yards in Malaysia, China, and Indonesia. Deviations we identified during the 3D model review were not always present once the equipment was in place. My primary task was to criticize and point out errors in the construction of the module. People take pride in their work and diplomacy was employed to talk to the engineers about the issues I uncovered. I also recommended fixes to the engineers to make the issue comply with the requirement or get closer to compliance if full compliance was not possible.  


The handwheel circled in the picture is in the wrong orientation. It needs to be rotated 90 degrees for better access.

The justification for the incorrect installation was that the piping and instrumentation diagram (P&ID) showed this orientation. This was an error that was not caught during drawing review and the construction workers installed it per the drawing.

The human factors team did not review the P&ID drawings and training materials were developed to mitigate this error and empower the workers to bring up these issues to their supervisors.

Training reduced further incidents of obviously incorrect installation. 

I had the opportunity to go to the Great Wall of China during my first trip to module fabrication yard in Tianjin, China in May 2015. It was 51 degrees F and drizzling rain the entire time I was there. I had a wonderful time! It was an experience I will never forget. 

Visiting the GreatWall of China

In 2015, I was on business travel for over 100 days.

I visited Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Spain, Netherlands. I visited vendors in New York, Colorado, and Louisiana. However, the price of oil dropped and as a consequence, the contractors working on the Australian LNG plant were laid off, including me. 2016 was both the worst year of my life and the best. I came out stronger on the other side.

In 2017, I started working for Schlumberger.

Schlumberger User Interview

Contextual inquiry at a well site: having the senior operator explain to me what tasks he is doing. With the complex activities occurring at a well site, it is impossible to get good observational data through silent, non-intrusive observation. 

Schlumberger User Interview 2

Asking the field engineer to explain how he documents job execution at the well site. It was important to understand the process he used with the legacy system, to find out what worked well for him and what didn’t. Communicating this contextual information back to the design and development team was an essential step.

User Testing in Norway

On site usability testing in the Bergen, Norway facility, the SME is explaining the information architecture of the new job planning software and the new categories of information to the test participant.

The new system is an improvement to the legacy software application and also complies with API Spec Q2 requirements to standardize the expectations for execution of upstream services like well construction, intervention, production, and abandonment.  

Norway Troll

On my last day in Bergen, I was able to take a trip into the city and snap a pic with a troll. He was a very fine fellow.


© 2019 Lena Desantis. All rights reserved