I met my PhD supervisee, Sandra, online just as the sun was coming up this morning. Thankful that she’s well on track, I got down to work, whipped up a conference abstract and got it submitted for tonight’s deadline.
Then I settled in for an intense day of paper editing. I was finalizing my team’s major revisions — our big December 18 deadline will be here far too soon. And with other deadlines looming large overhead, I took the long open stretch on my schedule today to make substantial progress.
I forgot my gym class. I forgot to eat lunch.
But while my head was under the sand, two very welcome emails landed in my box. The first I’ve been awaiting since last spring, but our university processes are slow. I’ve been assigned to teach in the school where my passion lies (still at TU Dublin, just in a different school as mine was dismantled).
I’ll now be teaching in the School of Architecture, Building and Environment which is great because I really love teaching students architecture. I’ll still teach BIM topics, too, of course.
The second incoming message was a bit of thanks from a researcher who used the advice on my blog and won herself an MSCA Marie Curie fellowship this year! I couldn’t be prouder than to help make this type of difference in someone’s life.
So, goals big and small came to fruition today. These emails reported life-changing news for me and for Diana.
With no time to rest on my laurels, I had to wrap up my replies fast, and run out to buy groceries for dinner. We’re having a younger friend over to discuss financial planning, a new hobby of mine.
Life is busy, but full of interesting new challenges. Lots to fill you in on over the coming weeks!
Last week, Engineers Without Borders UK published my team’s research in the form of the GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY OF ENGINEERING REPORT. The EWB-UK webpage about the report explains “Drawing on the experience of engineers working in the built environment sector, our latest report explores the extent to which global responsibility is embedded in engineering practice.”
The report is rich visually, and also in content:
The qualitative research reported in this publication was conducted by me, with support from my University College London colleagues, Dr. Inês Direito and Professor John Mitchell, and with advice from the EWB staff and its project Advisory Board.
Through a study of existing literature and interviews with engineers working in the built environment sector, in this report, we highlight the existing understanding and role of global responsibility as a concept within the sector. We explore the following: What is understood by global responsibility in engineering, and what are some of the preceding concepts that have led to this point? How well is the urgency for adopting a globally responsible approach in engineering grasped? To what extent do engineers feel it is their responsibility to take action and what is accelerating or dampening that?
Engineers Without Borders UK (2022)
EWB staff members helped transform my team’s research into the report format commonly used in the UK. They also provided the report’s case studies, photographs, and illustrations. EWB staff who were instrumental in shaping the delivery were: Dr. Jonathan Truslove, Katie Cresswell-Maynard, and Emma Crichton.
Advisory Board members providing conceptual direction included: Jon Prichard, Dr. Rob Lawlor, Thomas Gunter, Professor Nick Tyler, Dr. Rhys Morgan, and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Education and Skills Committee.
The correct citation for this publication, based on APA guidelines includes the authors’ names:
I’d like to give special thanks to my colleagues at UCL (Inês, John and Nick) as well as the University of Leed’s Dr. Rob Lawlor for their encouragement and support throughout this project. I also send thanks to the EWB team for getting the publication across the finish line.
As a result of many people’s hard work, the report delivers our research findings to a new audience. You can find other outputs of the research project in two academic journal articles published by the UCL team, and you can download them directly, using the links below:
Following a Saturday morning visit to the gym—weights, pool and spa for Aongus, yoga for me—we mulled over our breakfast of porridge and fruit at home before heading out by bike to the National Gallery on Merrion Square.
We wanted to catch the opening weekend of the National portrait prize exhibition.
We enjoyed the architecture, too, of course. The Gallery has historic old and sleek modern wings.
Nested somewhere between floors is a room full of portraits by emerging artists that includes a portrait painted by Aongus’ sister, Aisling Coughlan, of their late dad.
You may recall a prior post, where all four Coughlan siblings were assembled around the portrait while it hung in the Royal Hibernian Society. Since that time, Aisling retired from her job and enrolled full time at the National College for Art and Design to hone her skills even further.
I think I also blogged when she was on the television competition for portrait painting, which was filmed in London.
Leaving the Gallery, we pushed our bike through the throngs of holiday shoppers on Grafton street.
And since Aongus has been asking Santa for Five Guys, his dream of American burgers and fries under fluorescent lights finally came true.
Our tummies filled, we settled into a cozy table on Fade Street where we could people-watch to our hearts’ content… but we still made it home safely by bike before 8PM.
Thanksgiving here in Ireland is usually just another ordinary Thursday. But this year I made a point to celebrate. I registered for a conference held at the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, so I could learn about “Next Generation Construction in Ireland” while soaking in old-school Irish ambiance, and I bought tickets for an American Thanksgiving feast.
I love visiting the stately old RIA building, with its floors of well worn books. There was an interesting exhibition on display, and lovely architectural details to treat the eyes and soothe the soul.
Despite heavy rain falling before my cycle over, I was inspired to wear my favorite Irish sweater and the “BIM Hero” lapel pin I received earlier in the year. (I am hoping the pin will provide the good karma I need to get my current manuscript on the Hero’s Journey polished up to final form to submit this coming week!)
During this one-day conference, I learned more than a few new things about Modern Methods of Construction, Irish strategies and policies, and education programs and plans to up-skill the Irish workforce.
Dr. Tara Brooks from Queens University in Belfast presented fascinating research and I’ve included images since I really enjoyed the graphic devices she used to situate her contributions to the body of knowledge in BIM and digital construction.
My own university, TU Dublin, was very well represented among attendees, presenters, panelists, organizers, and session chairs. I’ve pictured Joseph Mady, a part time lecturer who delivered an interesting talk.
Our conference ended promptly at 5, as Ireland’s Prime Minister was scheduled to speak in the same room at 7, and there was setting up to do.
With the conference concluded, I headed across Dawson Street to Cafe en Seine for a cocktail with Aongus.
Then we cycled together over to the Hilton near Lock C6 on the south side canal. We met up with a merry group of Americans (most with Irish in tow) to share a feast of turkey will most all the trimmings.
It was Aongus’ first sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and he’s still raving about his new find. It’s fun to see the delight he takes in root veg… he also loved the glazed carrots. Such a healthy boy! My favorite were the green beans sautéed with bacon.
We made some new friends and had a ball sharing stories in a familiar twang. Until next year:
I collected interviews for this project with civil engineers recruited by Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK). Dr Inês Direito helped with interviews and data analysis and Professor John Mitchell helped us with editing.
The publication process is often slow and suspense-ridden. I submitted the first draft of this paper at the start of March 2020, and now, just 15.75 months later, we’re nearly in print! The first step is digital release, and paper copies will come later.
Chance, S., R. Lawlor, I. Direito, and J. Mitchell. 2021. “Above and Beyond: Ethics and Responsibility in Civil Engineering.” Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. [Taylor & Francis Online]
University College London paid the Open Access publication free, so that you can download and read this article for FREE, without any special library access. My co-authors and I started this project at the request of Engineers without Borders UK, as the organization’s CEO, Katie Cresswell-Maynard, wanted to assess engineers’ perceptions and experiences related to “global responsibility”.
We prepared this specific report in response to a call for papers on ethics in engineering education and practice. To support the study of ethics, extracted data from our interviews that had to do with the topic, and studied it for patterns. As such, we’ve called this an exploratory study, on a topic where little prior research has been done.
Here’s the abstract:
This exploratory study investigates how nine London-based civil engineers have enacted ‘global responsibility’ and how their efforts involve ethics and professionalism. The study assesses moral philosophies related to ethics, as well as professional engineering bodies’ visions, accreditation standards, and requirements for continuing professional development. Regarding ethics, the study questions where the line falls between what an engineer ‘must do’ and what ‘would be good to do’. Although the term ethics did not spring to mind when participants were asked about making decisions related to global responsibility, participants’ concern for protecting the environment and making life better for people did, nonetheless, demonstrate clear ethical concern. Participants found means and mandates for protecting the health and safety of construction workers to be clearer than those for protecting society and the natural environment. Specific paths for reporting observed ethical infringements were not always clear. As such, analyses suggest that today’s shared sense of professional duty and obligation may be too limited to achieve goals set by engineering professional bodies and the United Nations. Moreover, although professional and educational accreditation standards have traditionally embedded ethics within sustainability, interviews indicate sustainability is a construct embedded within ethics.
I want to wholeheartedly thank the research participants and the co-authors who stuck by my side and helped see this project to fruition. It was great to have an ethicist on board in authoring this paper, Dr. Rob Lawlor. It has been a joy to work with him, and with Dr. Inês Direito and Professor John Mitchell, throughout this project. We also enjoyed a helpful and astute advisory panel comprised of Professor Nick Tyler, Jon Pritchard, Dr. Rob Lawlor, and Katie Cresswell-Maynard. The study was supported financially by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions fellowship from the European Union (H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, Project 747069, DesignEng), with additional support provided to Engineers without Borders UK by the Royal Academy of Engineers.
The pandemic closed life down on our little island just days after Christmas.
After a long winter’s hibernation, Ireland has just started to lift the lid. For months, I’ve rarely left home. Aongus got Covid the week his worksite opened back up, just after Easter. But despite staying right by his side, I didn’t contract the illness. I actually tested negative twice, but had to isolate (for what seemed like forever) nonetheless.
I did, though, get a wave of something while Aongus was sick. I felt drained, although not to the same extent as Aongus was.
It hasn’t helped that the big volunteer/publication project I’m currently wrapping up has taken five-times the effort it should have. I couldn’t be happier to see the backside of this lockdown. Or this project….
Fortunate for my sanity, things are gradually opening back up in Dublin, and the sun sometimes shines. My flat is still a nice sun trap which makes life bearable.
In the past couple weeks, Aongus and I have had a few nice outings.
We had a lovely coffee and pasta last weekend sitting outside the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge on our cycle ride to Dun Laoghaire. I’ve always admired this majestic Victorian building but had never ventured onto the grounds.
Last weekend, visiting friends’ back gardens was finally allowed again. We had an absolute ball visiting our friends Diana, Stefan, and Diana’s mum on Sunday evening. We’re looking forward to the day we can welcome them to our place for a meal. (Inside visits are off limits until one of the two families is fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid. We’re well in our way to meeting the criteria!)
Yesterday we ventured out again, taking the local commuter train down the coast to Bray—the town where Aongus and I met over five years ago—and this time we hiked to the top of Bray Head.
I thought I’d been to the summit before, but I’m now sure I remembered wrong. It’s a surprisingly steep and rugged path. Back in the 50s and 60s, there was a chair lift, seen as necessary since it’s so steep.
We chose the climb since part of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk had collapsed, and that favorite path wasn’t an option yesterday.
There’s a spectacular view from the summit, and I’m glad we’ve had that experience. It’s not likely I’ll have it again!
I can’t wait to get fit again. The gym opens tomorrow and I’ll be in the pool bright and early!
Although tomorrow is a bank holiday here, Aongus and I working so we can take off Friday for a new adventure on wheels! We’re going to re-live a favorite itinerary from last summer. Stay tuned!
My colleague here at TU Dublin, Dr. Gavin Duffy, is organizing a special focus issue on topics near and dear to my heart: sustainability, diversity, and STEM.
Please see their call for submissions, which I have pasted below.
We are happy to announce the possibility to contribute to a Special Issue “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM for a Sustainable Future”, edited by Sustainability, an open access journal by MDPI. There is evidence that many key performance indicators of academic and non-academic organizations related to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are strongly determined by the diversity of the workforce in these organisations. This points to a need to ensure that increasing diversity becomes a key goal for both STEM educators and STEM industry. Evidence suggests that the number of women resigning from technological job positions remains unacceptably high. For example, in western countries, only 20% or less of graduating engineers are female, and often fewer than 10% are part of the engineering workforce. To increase diversity, equality, and inclusion in STEM education, many different approaches can be implemented at different levels and to different target groups. This Special Issue aims to address research mainly related to:
Theoretical insight into the reasons for this imbalance;
Empirical evidence, experimental approaches, and best practices of recruitment and retention in STEM education;
Ideas and policy to support gender balance careers in a STEM context.
Anita Tabacco, Politecnico di Torino (firstname.lastname@example.org) Gavin Duffy, Technological University Dublin (email@example.com) Alicia García-Holgado, University of Salamanca (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rachel Riedner, The George Washington University (email@example.com)
I’ve been covering more ground these days than normal. In a typical year, I’d never have been able to take time away from teaching during the fall semester to attend so many conferences. But this year, everything is online.
This past Sunday, I was able to deliver a two-hour workshop in India and then record a keynote speech for a conference in China. I also recently spoke on a panel in Malaysia.
I have never been to any of these places, though I would truly love to go! Nevertheless, digital platforms have allowed me to be an active part of discussions all around the world.
Here’s a sneak peek at my keynote speech for the Chinese Society for Engineering Education’s 15th International Symposium on Science and Education Development Strategy.
The Symposium’s theme was “Innovation of Engineering Education System under Global Challenges”.
The production quality isn’t flawless, but given that I had ZERO tech support, I am proud of the outcome. I tested various apps for superimposing video over the slides, selected one, and managed to produce this video. All. On. My. Own.
The folks in China are polishing it up now, and hopefully inserting captions. It will be formally presented at the conference in Hangzhou, China on December 10th, 2020.
Being asked to deliver a workshop for the Indo Universal Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE), I invited two colleagues along to help. Inês Direito, Manish Malik, and I have conducted similar workshops in the past, and we built on that foundation. We developed our past work further for the workshop we delivered November 22th, 2020.
Ours was on component of a set of workshops to help people in India build research skills in engineering education.
We provided An introduction to literature reviews in Engineering Education.
Here’s a link to our slides, which we have assigned a CC-BY license so others are free to draw from our work as long as they cite us.
Alternatively, you can click any of these images to view the slide presentation.
Here’s a pic of one of our team’s workshop prep sessions:
I also got my colleagues involved when I was invited to serve on a panel in Malaysia. Actually, I was invited to serve on two panels for this conference, but one occurred 1-3 AM my time, and I decided to stick to the one held during daylight hours! After all, I was teaching here in Dublin on the same days as the conference.
The speakers from the Women in Engineering plenary are pictured above. They were absolutely amazing. Such inspiring leadership and fabulous work! The speakers were:
Rosmiwati Mohd-Mokhtar, USM, Malaysia
Shannon Chance, Technological University Dublin, Ireland
Anne Gardner, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Naadiya Moosajee, WomEng & WomHub Co-Founder, South Africa
Siti Hamisah binti Tapsir, MOSTI, Malaysia
Sharifah Zaida Nurlisha binti Syed Ibrahim, CEO, MMC Oil & Gas Engineering Sdn Bhd, Malaysia
This was part of the 8th Regional Conference in Engineering Education (RCEE). It was organized by the Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) and the Faculty of Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
The overall conference was on “Engineering Education Leadership in an Uncertain World”.
I presented work by Bill Williams, Inês Direito, and myself on Middle Eastern women’s experiences of collaborative learning in engineering in Ireland. Here’s a link to a recent conference paper on the topic.
We have also written a blog on this which will soon be published by TU Dublin — stay tuned and I’ll share that once it’s out.
I got to attend several other day-time sessions at the conference, including the closing session, pictured above. The crowd was warm and enthusiastic. They were really interested in learning what women from Oman and Kuwait had told me about how engineering is practiced in their countries.
I’m delighted to have had these opportunities. Back in 2006, when I decided to earn a PhD in Higher Education, I had a goal to learn to see patterns at a global scale. I wanted to equip myself with the research skills to to affect change and to enable myself to move abroad for work.
Getting involved in the global Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN), and now serving as its Chair, has enabled me to connect with others in meaningful ways — to analyze the way we teach, study data on efficacy, publish research outcomes, and help improve engineering and architecture education.
In addition to learning some new skills in video capture and editing this past week, I also expanded my skills in Photoshop and created a new logo for REEN. The entire REEN Board gave feedback to improve the design, and I’m pleased to unveil it to you now:
Aongus and I held a vote the other night. Our best day since moving back to Ireland from London? We unanimously agreed:
Our day cycling in Killarney National Park.
This was one of four days we spent in County Kerry, and the 20 or so hours we spent in Dingle ranked a close second (see prior blog posts on Dingle, Slea Head, and stone forts along the Ring of Kerry).
Awakening from Lockdown
When the Irish government said “Lockdown is lifted–go forth and spend your money on domestic tourism”, we readily agreed! “Let’s head for Kerry,” I exclaimed. “It will be a treat to see Killarney when it’s not full of tourists!”
Indeed, Killarney, its National Park, and its famous Muckross House are typically packed to the gills with Americans.
We arrived safely after a 3.5 hour drive from our home in Dublin. As this was right at the end of lockdown #1, we had not yet been able to buy a bike rack for our car.
Arriving in Killarney, we found many people who were delighted to welcome tourists. Those in the hospitality industry have really suffered, financially, during lockdown. Nonetheless, we found one hotelier who was terrified of my accent. “No, I’m not straight off a plane,” I reassured her. “Dublin is my home.”
After a fair night’s sleep and breakfast in a nearly vacant cafe, we rented bikes in Killarney town and headed for some scenic routes.
Our first stop of the day was Muckross Abbey, a place I’d never visited before. The stone abbey is absolutely spectacular. It is surrounded by a cemetery, woods, and fields.
We spent a good hour exploring the Abbey’s multi-story ruins.
Muckross Abbey offers magnificent views at every turn.
Sweeping panoramas abound.
And there are some beautifully preserved details, like this stone relief.
To the side of the worship space is housing for the monks. The plan is straightforward enough, but when exploring it you’ll experience a maze of rooms, passages, and stairs. Delights are tucked away. They reveal themselves, to the persistent traveller, piece by piece. Most rooms are well lit, but Aongus found a dark and spooky one (photo below).
The highlight for me was the central cloister with its ancient Yew tree. Such incredible majesty, reaching up to the Heavens!
We discovered spiraling stairs to the upper floor…
…where I got so mesmerized looking around that I whacked my head on the lintel of a low doorway! I think I was gazing up at the chimney (shown below) when that happened.
I recovered, though, and discovered the Monks’ sleeping quarters. At the end of the room, we found even more stairs. These went up to the main tower.
The inside of the tower was architecturally spectacular.
In spaces like these, the iPhone’s panorama feature provides loads of fun.
We had a great time exploring each nook and cranny.
Here’s a view looking back down toward the main entry of the worship space, and the relief we saw earlier.
Here I am walking the lane back to the Abbey’s carriage parking area, where we had left our bikes.
When you visit, if you are not on bikes, consider taking a carriage ride out the Abbey.
On this tourist-free day, the horses had little work to do.
Muckross House & Gardens
Muckross House itself was closed, though the gardens and cafe were just opening back up from hibernation.
Approaching the house by bike we enjoyed this view:
The surrounding landscape was carefully crafted and meticulously cultivated.
The picturesque view out from the front terrace of the house nearly takes your breath away.
The whole place is a masterful work of art.
Here’s a Yew tree in the garden:
Leaving the house, we headed out toward the National Park’s stand of ancient Yew trees.
This ancient forest of Yews is simply unforgetable. So lush. Covered in mounds of plush green moss.
It’s hard to do justice to this dramatic landscape.
But suffice to say, I felt like a Hobitt!
At the edge of the forest we found dramatic views of the northern lake.
Our bike rental guy had shared ideas of where to stop–including important pointers since few spots were going to be open for lunch. Dinis Cafe, he thought, would be open today. It had been shut for lockdown and this was its first day back in action.
I arrived at Dinis a bit before Aongus:
Dinis Cottage is a quaint little house perched on the hillside, overlooking the southern lake from two terraces with picnic tables.
I enjoyed a nice hot bowl of soup and picturesque views (of the lake, and the man).
And then we were off again….
…to explore some more.
Our next big stop was at Torc Waterfall.
It’s a short walk up hill from the car (and bike) parking area.
Viola! Here’s the waterfall in all its splendor. Aongus isn’t too keep on heights, so he’s hanging on to ensure I don’t fall over the edge!
Or perhaps he’s considering shoving over the edge? 😉
The stairs upward beckoned, promising more adventures, paths, and views. We decided to get going downhill, however, as we had another big adventure in mind.
We did take time, though, to marvel at various trees on the way back down to the car park where we’d locked our bikes.
Muckross House to Killarney
Our tour route took us back around, past Muckross House for a second time.
Returning to Killarney town, we found a second wind and continued on toward the Northern Loop.
Throughout the day, we set our bikes aside, taking side trips by foot.
I long to canoe here someday. Canoes are rare here, however. Kayaks and motorboats are far more common. Aongus didn’t even know what a canoe was!?! People here often call kayaks “canoes”.
Isn’t this view inviting? It makes me want to paddle away….
On the road to Ross Castle, we discovered more phenomenal vistas:
These photos are of Ross Castle, operated by Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), but closed on this Covid-ridden day.
Our tour around the Ross Peninsula rounded out the day so nicely.
Offering more moss, more green, and so much more lush. Here Aongus models a fine Marino wool sweater we brought back from our last trip to New York:
Memories of this place are great fodder for dreams. There’s almost no place I’d rather spend a day.
Overnight in Killarney
After out adventure, we returned to Killarney for a second night.
We’d not dined out for all of lockdown, and this was a very welcome treat! Aongus loved his first night’s chicken burger so much that we returned to the same pub for night #2. He’s very serious about his food:
The next morning, he was recharged and ready to roll!
We caught a final view of the Killarney lakes from the famous “Ladies View” on our way westward, toward the Ring of Kerry.
As with many iconic sights of Ireland, Aongus had never seen these places before–it took an American to show him America’s favourite highlights!
We are both delighted we grabbed the opportunity while it existed. Once lockdown #2 lifts, we certainly will return again!