Chapanis graduated from Connecticut College for Women (now the University of Connecticut) and completed his graduate training at Yale (1942) before being commissioned in 1943 as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and trained and appointed as an aviation research psychologist. Chapanis was the first research psychologist assigned to the Aero Medical Laboratory (AML) at Wright Field, Ohio.
There he became one of a handful of early human factors engineering professionals who researched user-interface problems with air force equipment and developed design solutions during World War II. Chapanis’s applied
experimental psychological research work at AML included examinations of pilot errors, testing luminescent materials for cockpit displays, developing anoxia demonstration charts, and especially doing significant work on night vision and dark adaptation issues as well as on other human-machine interface issues for operators of advancing military systems being put through their paces in
the second world war.