Visiting Professors in London

West End fun with Drs. Eddy and Pape

I’ve been visiting with Professors from the States the past few weeks here in London, and morphing into even more of a Visiting Professor myself!

Two weeks ago, Prof. Pam Eddy and her husband Dave arrived for a week-long visit. Pam was my PhD advisor at William and Mary and she has been an inspiration, role model, and source of advice as I’ve moved across from teaching architectural into researching engineering education. Pam had a Fulbright fellowship to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in 2009. Because I’d set that very same goal—winning a Fulbright grant to work at DIT—in 2003, Pam’s advice on the matter proved indispensable. She shared valuable insight into how Fulbright and DIT operate and she helped me connect with others in-the-know. On my first working trip to Dublin, I got to interview more than half a dozen academics about how DIT works, and this gave me the context I needed to make the most of my subsequent time here. Pam and I even met local scholars together, over another spring break, also before my Fulbright, when we both found ourselves Dublin.

Pam is truly one of the most generous, energetic, and positive people I’ve ever met. I’m beyond lucky to know her and I value her advice—even if I don’t always understand the funny policy-wonk words she uses! 😜

After the excellent musical “Kinky Boots.”

Pam has featured prominently on this blog before, as she’s visited me often in Dublin and we have met up in cities all around the world: Rome, Paris, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. Now we’ve added London to that list. Her professor-husband Dave is usually in tow, and always adding interesting insight, since he’s a former engineering dean.

I’m proud to say this was Pam and Dave’s first trip to the City of London and they really seemed to enjoy the place. I think they will be back!

While here, Pam and I got to work on the journal article we are crafting along with two of my colleagues from the Irish public service. We’ve had our proposal accepted for Policy Reviews in Higher Education, and now we need to pull the parts together and synch them effectively.

Following the departure of Pam and Dave, I had the chance to catch up with another favorite professor, Ron Daniel, and his spouse, Cheryl.

With Prof. Ron and Cheryl Daniel

Ron Daniel was my professor for spring semester of my second year of architecture school. We worked closely together, along with some other amazingly dedicated students and teachers, to create a multimedia extravaganza to celebrate Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ 25th anniversary in 1989. We had nine screens running simultaneously with performance artists dancing throughout the hour-long show. In preparation for that bash, we also silkscreened posters and designed and poured concrete banner stands with welded steel bases—yes, I learned to weld at Virginia Tech!

For the Anniversary show, I was most closely involved with making several of the 16mm films running on three of the nine screens. And I was one of nine diligent students running the projection booth. What a techie I was!

The following year, Ron invited me to teach film workshops to younger students, and that got me into leading activities and events for my peers. Over the next three years, I taught many workshops and also organized trips, including excursions to Charlottesville, Columbus, and New York City to hear visiting lecturers—world renowned architects visiting UVA, Ohio State, and Columbia University.

When I was nearing graduation from VT’s Bachelor of Architecture program, I went to Ron, expressing interest in the teaching role I’d seen older students doing in the past. I hadn’t realized they were actually designated as lecturers. This was a full-time faculty role, and Ron thought I fit the bill. I was soon awarded this one-year stipend position, and looking back, it seems that may have been my first fellowship.

The year lecturing at VT was a success so I continued on to earn a post-professional Masters in Architecture that would allow me to teach in the future at the university level in architecture. Ron was one of my three advisors for that Masters, and the thesis document was good enough to snag a job working as an intern architect in Switzerland for a year, at Studio Martin Wagner. I also helped teach film that year, for the SCI-Arc center Martin directed.

For the past two years, Ron has been working in London. We finally got a chance to catch up in the neighborhood in Barnes where he and Cheryl have lived for the past year. Aongus and I throughly enjoyed visiting in their home, dining out with them, and attending a jazz performance together. Photos of the Cadillac Kings are included in the photo gallery below. What a hoot!

The instrumental roles professors have had in my life is clear. I’m glad I’ve stayed connected with many who have helped grow my abilities.

Prof. Brad Grant

In the past week, for instance, I’ve communivated with Prof. Brad Grant and Prof. David Leslie, who I learned from at Hampton University and William and Mary, respectively. I always enjoy hearing from them! Their kids—Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, Asa Wynn-Grant, and Prof. Tom Leslie are true inspirations as well, and are always raising the bar higher.

And I’m doing my bit to reach out and support others in return. I hope someday the students I’ve worked with will have similar things to say about me. I cherish the ongoing relationships I have with my former students, many enabled by Facebook. Just this week, another one earned his license to practice architecture in the USA. Monteil Crawley joined his wife, Kristina Crawley, with this status. Monteil worked on the design of the Smithsonian’s new museum of African-American History. They both took my second-year architecture studio and Architectural Ecology class. I was Krissy’s Bachelors thesis advisor. Krissy went in to get a Masters from UVA. They have two bright and beautiful children.

Profs. David and Thomas Leslie

Today, I make a point to extend the kind and gracious support to the students I meet, as my professors extended me.

Kendall Brantley and Aongus and me at the Vaudeville Theater

For instance, a colleague of mine from Hampton has a niece, Kendall Brantley, who has been studying at NYU here in London. We’ve met a few times, and I took her for dinner and a play last week, before her trip home.

A PhD supervision meeting with Thomas Empson

I hope the relationship I’m developing with my new PhD advisee, Thomas Empson, will extend far into the future as well. Thomas is a doc student at London South Bank University, and I’ve just been appointed Visiting Professor there to aid in my work with him. Our working sessions over the past few months have been quite successful and I have the highest of hopes for him. He’s a bright student, well organized, and an extremely hard worker.

One of my current supervisors, Prof. John Mitchell, helped me connect to LSBU as a way to meet one of my training objectives. You see, my current fellowships aims to equip and position me to secure funding for larger grants. This is so that, someday, I can lead an independent research team. I’m gradually gaining skills in supervising and in publishing. And I’m connecting the people I know from the USA with scholars I meet here in Europe and those I’m working with globally, through networks like REEN and SEFI.

With London superstars Emanuela Tilley and Folashade Akinmolayan

I’m receiving this training as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at University College London, where I’m also officially classified as a Visiting Professor (which will help me continue collaborating with scholars here even after my two-year fellowship is done, for an additional three years or more). I’ve been learning so much from my new colleagues, like professors-in-the-making Folashade Akinmolayan and Emanuela Tilley.

Building a professional research network, connecting scholars across the ocean, and learning to supervise doc students are all important in building my skills as a researcher. And, they are a lot of fun as well!

Learning London: Transport for Mobility

 

My research supervisor in London, Professor Nick Tyler, is a global expert in transportation systems, with expertise in accessibility. He travels around the world advising transportation planners–and his research also has gone a long way to improve how Transport for London serves people with mobility challenges and various forms of disability.

Transportation Design

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A view from the testing platform, with Professor Tyler and some MSc students.

Nick offered a Masters-level class at University College London in Term 2 and I got to attend the opening day which was held at the research facility he heads, located on the Northern Line up in Tufnell Park.

On the opening day of this course on design for transport engineers, Nick’s students and I experienced what it’s like to navigate common street conditions while blindfolded, hearing impaired, or using crutches and wheelchairs.

The photo gallery provides a glimpse of this opening day. And, YES, it did feel like Back to the Future with Dr. Emmett Brown, who you likely remember as “Doc.”

About PAMELA

PAMELA stands for “Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory.” The lab’s website explains that “PAMELA is a multisensory laboratory for the assessment of pedestrian movement.” In other words, it is a research facility with equipment for simulating real-world conditions at full scale so researchers can study how people with differing abilities deal with specific variables (sounds, ambient noise, varying light levels, tripping hazards, steps, etc.).

“Constructed between 2003 and 2006, the PAMELA laboratory is a novel and highly flexible facility,” UCL’s PAMELA webpage explains, “allowing full-scale pedestrian infrastructure to be built and tested to enable thorough assessment and evaluation. The structure includes a flexible floor surface that represents real ground conditions with interchangeable surface materials and is supported by a range of sensing equipment.” The webpage also describes specific research studies that have made a tremendous difference and yielded huge financial savings in London.

A picture of an underground carriage at PAMELA

Transport simulation research being done at PEARL. Image from http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/news/pamela-develop-pearl/

Introducing PAMELA’s sister, PEARL

In 2017, Nick secured a £9m grant from EPSRC via its UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) program. This will fund the construction of a new and improved version of PAMELA, called PEARL (People-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory).

Connecting UCL and DIT

In May, during my two visits to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), I learned that my colleagues at DIT’s transportation engineers, led by Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, received validation to launch a new, interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSc) degree in Transport and Mobility. I look forward to helping Lorraine connect with Nick so she and DIT can learn from–and hopefully, contribute to–the wealth of experience and knowledge Nick has accrued.