Category: Ireland & EU


Hoping to learn a bit of Irish history today, Aongus and I hiked over to Dublin’s Collins Barracks after brunch. A former military station, Collins Barracks is now used as a museum with decorative arts, WWI and II memorabilia, and even a gun-running ship that was pulled up from the sea floor. It’s also where Aongus did his service in the Irish military once upon a time.

To our dismay (and that of five other groups of visitors who arrived at 1 PM) the museum at Collins Barracks opens only 2-5 pm on Sundays. We left disappointed and took the back way out of the Barracks, exiting at Arbor Hill Prison.

Finding the Arbor Hill cemetery, next to the prison, open, we decided to venture in. There, we discovered tomb stones of British soldier and their families who served as occupying forces during the 1800s.

We also found a memorial to the Irish who lost their lives in the 1916 uprising. The leaders of the Rising were executed in Kilmainham Gaol, across the Liffey river, and then buried in a mass grave here.

Following 1916 the Irish continued to struggle against colonial rule, and they gained independence from British in 1922. Later this memorial was built to memorialize their effort. The monument includes the text of the 1916 Proclamation, in Irish on the left and English on the right.

Today this memorial park was full of dogs, and dog lovers, from the adjacent Stoneybatter neighborhood. Upon exiting the cemetery on the northern side and into the neighborhood, we discovered a well-preserved WWII tank kept up by a citizen group and had a bit of fun.

But after a busy week filled with cold, wet weather, we’d had our fill of exploring. We turned to head for home.

We’d driven from work on Friday straight down to Bunclody for RoboSlam workshops and not returned to Dublin until late Saturday night. All this activity caught up with us on Sunday, but the comfort of a warm blanket and a hot tea helped us recuperate for the coming week.

img_5553The time has come to start moving over to London since my new research fellowship starts with the new year, so I flew across last weekend to finalize our apartment choice and leave some luggage with friends for safekeeping.

Aongus ended up having to work all weekend back in Dublin so I transported two 20 kilo bags and a little weekend knapsack to London myself. Rolled the bags from my flat to work to the taxi stand, into Dublin airport and out at Gatwick, to the train, into the tube, down a few block to the hotel, into a cab, and up four flights to our new home. I only had to carry them five flights in all–escalators can be a blessing! Note of advice: when transporting two big bags, it surely helps if one has four wheels. It makes the job much easier as you can push or pull, and easily change direction. You don’t have to carry all the weight in your hand, as it can rest on the wheels.

On Saturday morning, with the transport job behind me, I had the rest of the weekend free to visit friends, tour museums (Whitechapel Gallery, the British Museum and the National Gallery), wander the city from Shoreditch to the West End, enjoy good food, and take in a play.

img_5565-1The weather was delightfully sunny and the city felt festive. London was celebrating Armistice Day with a parade hosted by the city’s Lord Mayor. The people wore poppies on their lapels and little parades sprung up here and there in addition to the main event that covered the entire central city Saturday.

And *fall* was in the air! The only drawback to this is that people on this side of the Atlantic insist on calling the season “autumn.” To me, using this two-syllable word is quite a drag.

Loved ones back in the States, do enjoy the colorful falling leaves gracing your streets and lawns at this time of year, the brilliant red maple leaves 🍁🍁🍁, and bask in using the apt term “fall!”

For the flights in both directions, I enjoyed Aongus’ window seat, but await his return to my side for the next trip across. I get a big kick that he’s like a kid in a candy store when he sits by the window–viewing in anticipation whatever delightful new adventure awaits us on the ground. Life gets exponentially better over time and he amplifies my enjoyment of visiting new places.

London, we can’t wait to return!

 

20171028_155655

Beautiful “ferry” trees at Avebury in the UK’s Wiltshire region.

Last week I crossed the threshold into a brave new world. I traveled over to the UK, my soon-to-be home, twice to learn more about the place.

First, to celebrate Ireland’s bank holiday weekend, my partner Aongus and I flew to Bath. We rented a car so we could visit Stonehenge, the flight of locks at Devizes (the Caen Hill flight of the Kennet and Avon canal), Avebury which is similar to Stonehenge but larger, and the picturesque village of Castle Combe. In the city of Bath, we toured the ruins of the old Roman baths, the bell tower of Bath Abbey, Royal Crescent and the townhouse museum at One Royal Crescent, and weir and the Putney Bridge, as well as getting Watsu treatments and a night time soak with spectacular views from the rooftop pool at the Thermal Spa.

Stonehenge was spectacular, but Avebury had an even more mystical feel. The majestic old fairy trees with their thick boughs and knotted roots make it feel as if you’re stepping foot into C.S. Lewis’ Narnia or the Wonderland Lewis Carroll created for Alice. (Both of these were English writers, who could well have stood beneath the same magical trees we found here.) Wikipedia provides a quick reference to the meaning of ferry trees: “Many types of trees found in the Celtic nations are considered to be sacred, whether as symbols, or due to medicinal properties, or because they are seen as the abode of particular nature spirits. Historically and in folklore, the respect given to trees varies in different parts of the Celtic world.”

img_5227

Meeting with UCL’s Professor Nick Tyler.

After flying home, I flew back to London on short notice for four meetings on Wednesday–because my new colleagues at University College London had time to meet me and it was “review week” at DIT.

These meetings were in preparation for the start of my new Marie Curie research fellowship in January. The EU is providing funding for me to work at UCL for two years, to further upgrade my skills in educational research. During my short visit, I met with my primary supervisor Professor Nick Tyler who has an amazing record of research in transportation engineering and educational innovation. I also met with my secondary supervisor, Professor John Mitchell, who directs UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE). I also got to meet with the newest member of CEE’s research team, Dr. Inês Direito, who I’ll get to collaborate with in projects. All this in addition to visiting UCL’s European Office and quick chats with two other colleagues, Emanuela Tilley and Dr. Arnie McKinley, both originally from my own side of the Atlantic.

Overall it was a very productive day, and I even got two grant proposals read in route.

Across the span of the week, I had great experiences at work and at play. I can’t wait to get back to London, Bath, and the Wiltshire region of England for more learning, and more novel adventures.

 

The first year students have arrived at DIT and are getting orientation this week. Today, the whole group of incoming engineering students were at our Kevin Street campus to learn about electrical and electronics aspects of their first year curriculum. Dr. Ted Burke led the introduction.

I really enjoy the chance to teach in various programs and on multiple campuses of DIT. I’ve posted images from my morning walk from DIT Bolton Street to DIT Kevin Street.

Arriving on Inishbofin by ferry from the coast of Ireland near Clifton, we anticipated a unique combination of rest, relaxation, and outdoor adventure. Aongus and I had spent a weekend here one year ago, and we were blessed with beautiful skies and sunshine then (enough, by the way, to turn my Irishman purple). Early this summer we returned, hoping for a sequel of delightful adventures. And that's exactly what we found.

Now don't get me wrong, our cycling and sunbathing were at times delayed by sprinkles. You'll see from the photos that windbreakers were needed, even in June. But our three days in this little paradise couldn't have been lovelier. The weather and pace of life were just right. And a happily exhausted duo we were by the end of our cycling day, toasting life over pints of Guinness.

Inishbofin island is home to a hundred or so folks and it boasts a few hotels, restaurants, and pubs, along with a couple tiny little stores. It's reached by passenger ferry.

When visiting, it's wise to bring most of what you'll need over from the mainland, and to plan activities and wardrobes around clouds and rain.

If the sun shines, it's a bonus.

Discovering your own little patch of beach and some sunshine is a delight beyond compare. Add in a hike, a bicycling adventure, and some yoga on a cliff overlooking the beach and a normal day becomes shear magic.

The peace and tranquillity you may find on this little island can soothe a weary soul. The sunshine, though fleeting, will call you back again and again.



 

 





Europe’s research framework encourages researchers to move around. The principle  “Researchers in Motion” underlies most of research funded by the European Union through its individual fellowship and its international training networks. For instance, all Marie Curie fellows must move to a country where they have not been living (for at least 24 months of the 36 months proceeding their application date). The EU offers support to researchers in motion through EURAXESS. This includes a database of fellowship and job openings.

Although I am not currently funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) research fellowship, I am still benefiting from support received through my prior MSCA Individual Fellowship (2014-2016) and networks I first established as Fulbright Fellow (2012-2013). These professional relationships help me conduct research and share (or “disseminate”) my results and findings. For both of these fellowships, I moved from my home in the USA to Ireland to conduct research full-time.

My first trip to Portugal occurred during my Fulbright in 2013, when Bill Williams, a colleague I had met at a conference in Greece, helped me secure support from Portugal for Inter-Country Lecturing. Bill organized an itinerary for me where I visited five universities and delivered four lectures and workshops. During that trip, I fell in love with the country.

Now, whenever I have reason to visit Portugal, I find a way to tack on a weekend before or after my business meetings. I’ve also booked an upcoming summer holiday there. Please see my prior post about the research meetings and ASIBEI conference I attended in Portugal during my recent visit.

I research engineering and design education, and I now teach introductory engineering and architecture technology in Ireland. It’s important for me to keep current and build new knowledge related to engineering, architecture, art, and urban design — as well as educational theory and practice. Here are some images of relevant sites in and around Lisbon, taken during my recent trip to the Iberian peninsula:

The following photos were taken at the newly-opened MAAT (Museum of Arts, Architecture and Technology) in Lisbon:

Next to MAAT is the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region):

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is another highlight of Lisbon:

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 1.59.29 PM

ASIBEI member countries.

Last week I plunged into the warm, sunny weather of Portugal. I’d been invited to present about interactions between higher education and the business sector, at an ASIBEI conference. The president’s office of Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal invited me and sponsored my attendance at the conference.

ASIBEI is the Ibero-American Association of Engineering Teaching Institutions. It involves the Portuguese and Spanish-speaking world. The organization’s “official languages ​​are Spanish and Portuguese, which can be used interchangeably” in all meetings. I was the linguistic outsider, requiring  my own translator. I was also the only person to present in English; I spoke slowly and the audience followed along enthusiastically.

With the support of my Head of School, I arrived a couple days early to meet with colleagues about research projects and grant proposals. On Monday before the conference, I met with lecturers and researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico, as picuted below:

 

Later that day, I met with Dr. Bill Williams. Bill has been working with me on gender in engineering research studies. He has published conference papers with me and has also been working with me as co-editors of a special focus IEEE issue. Here’s a photo of Bill during the ASIBEI conference, where he moderated a panel session:

IMG_7710

Dr. Bill Williams is seated in the middle, moderating a panel discussion at the ASIBEI conference.

On Tuesday morning, I traveled from Lisbon to Cascais to meet with the Chair of the Ireland Portugal Business Network, who provided a great deal of support for a grant proposal I submitted this past January. After meeting with him, I got to spend a couple hours on the beach in this resort town where he and his family live. They escaped the cold weather of Ireland for sunnier skies. I loved these sunny skies and I rented a lounge chair and umbrella for the afternoon on the small but beautiful “Queen’s Beach” of Cascais.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I joined the ASIBEI conference for work sessions, panel discussions, a visit to Setúbal’s city hall, and a tour of the Lauak factory that produces parts for Airbus, Honeywell, and many other well known companies. I was fascinated to learn about the production of the airplane parts, since my dad and I have done our fair share of airplane construction in the past.

I made a presentation on “The Business of Higher Ed: Research Skills for a Prosperous Future” that you can view on Prezi. Aiming to provide the audience with useful knowledge that would interest them and help them in the future, I discussed the intention of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. I described two different MSCA programs that support researchers and help equip them to work with and within industry.

I had to hurry back to Dublin immediately following my panel presentation, to participate in our School’s program review Friday. The discussions with our evaluation panel were valuable and interesting, making the mid-night trip back to Ireland worthwhile.

Here are photos of the panel sessions:

And photos of the reception at City Hall:

Photos from the factory tour:

While in portugal, I also had a chance to visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the new MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia), and the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region). See my next post for more images of the beautiful sites in and around Lisbon.

Learning to train new and upcoming researchers, I recently welcomed an intern from the States. Allison “Allie” Wagner has been here at DIT since the start of January, as part of the Masters in Higher Education Administration she is completing at the Central Michigan University. She is working with me for a total of two months.

In her time here, Allie is learning about how we manage programs at DIT and what it is like for students to live and study here. She is also doing a research project with me. We have conducted phenomenological interviews with five female students from the Middle East, and we hope to interview 2-3 more. This adds a “longitudinal” component to my prior research, since I interviewed all five of these women two years ago. Allie and I are following up to see what new expediences these women have had and how things have changed for them.

Overall, we want to produce a journal article with findings to help teachers do a better job in supporting international students — and particularly Muslim women studying engineering in Western contexts.

 


 

 

img_5541Brussels is a buzz with the look and feel of Christmas, and the festive smell of spiced wine, waffles, and even Raclette sandwiches. Since I’m here for the week to evaluate grant proposals for the European Commission, all hours of the day have been quite full. Fortunately, though, the schedule provided several evenings to wander the streets at will and soak in the holiday cheer.

The set of photos I’ve attached all came from a two-hour journey though the city center, which is lovely and bright and cheery. This week, it teems with the best life has to offer, but other elements lie below the surface. Quietly keeping us safe though it all, almost unnoticed, are hundreds of uniformed men cradling rifles. A solemn reminder of troubles festering in this world around us. My sincere thanks go out to the officers keeping this plaza and the surrounding pedestrian shopping streets open for the public to enjoy.

Tonight, my last in this lively city for the year, I caught the Christmas light show in the Grand Plaza (the square with the highly ornate Baroque buildings and steeple). As if it weren’t festive enough with the classical lights shown below, the Plaza pulsed with contemporary music and a festive, choreographed wash of lights dancing from building to building. The lights in this plaza I’ll not ever forget; I’ll look to return in future years.

Yes, the best of times these are. Yet, I fear, the worst of days are soon to come. US politics and world news lay heavy in my heart. I keep my chin up and aim to do my own part in the world as best I can.

I’ve been in Brussels this week, evaluating grant proposals for the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA). It’s the second time I’ve worked for the EU in this capacity–the first was during last fall’s lockdown in Brussels. This year’s event was much more pleasant, and we got to make our deliberations face-to-face, rather than using the Internet.

In my book, it’s important work. We’re determining which proposals will be funded and which research projects will proceed. Specifically, this week, we’re considering which PhD programs the EU will be co-financing. For successful applicants, the EU will pay a significant portion of the costs to hire early stage researchers to travel to another country in the EU to do their doctoral studies.

An intriguing aspect of the week has been being called “expert” everywhere I turn as I arrive at work in Covent Gardens every morning. I’m enjoying the novelty, although the sights have been the same day after day. The rooms in Covent Garden are very comfortable, in any case, and the other experts on the panel are friendly, knowledgeable, and polite. It’s been a great experience and I’ve gotten to learn a lot.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: