Spencer Castro

Spencer Castro is an assistant professor in the Department of Management of Complex Systems at the University of California, Merced. His research encompasses workload measurement and modeling in human-machine systems, especially within human-computer interaction, driving, automation, and data visualization and manipulation.

Castro received a National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Graduate Research Fellowship, or GRFP, in 2015 to study mobile device interactions while multitasking. In 2019, he received a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Underrepresented and Disadvantaged Scholars at the University of Utah to model real-time cognitive workload fluctuations in applied settings. These settings included conversations while driving and monitoring autonomous aerial vehicles.

His recent multidisciplinary collaborations have resulted in peer-reviewed publications from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied to IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. He has also co-authored review chapters in The Psychology of Learning and Motivation and The Handbook of Human Multitasking.

At UC Merced, Castro seeks to embody CITRIS’s mission to tackle problems in the interest of society. For example, in his undergraduate Cognitive Engineering course, students are encouraged to develop and assess technological interactions that affect Merced’s rural community with an eye toward inclusive design. The same approach applies to his Data Analysis and Optimization course, where students wrestle with real-world data sets such as local traffic accidents.

As faculty at a minority-serving institution and a member of the Native Repatriation, Cultural Preservation, and Outreach Committee, Castro has spoken about the opportunities available in STEM careers to multiple local California tribes at career fairs and invited events. A strong advocate for minoritized groups, he was the Diversity Graduate Application Preparation president at the University of Utah, which prepares underrepresented students to apply to graduate school.

Research interests: human-computer interaction, driving, automation, data visualization, cognitive modeling.

Research Thrusts



  • UC Merced | Management of Complex Systems