Category: Cities in Europe


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!

 

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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.”

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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.

 

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:

 

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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:

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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.

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.

 

 

 

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After the lecture at KTH, with two librarians and two architecture profs, including my former classmate from Virginia Tech, Eric Stenberg.

Professor Jonte Burnhard invited me to KTH in Stockholm to deliver a guest lecture on what we–as education specialists, architecture educators, and researchers of engineering education–can learn from each other and from the pedagogical models used to teach architecture. Jonte had read a recent article, “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education,” that I’d published along with John Marshall and Gavin Duffy in IJEE. You can access the article at: http://arrow.dit.ie/engscheleart2/102)

The learning and teaching center at KTH hosts this type of lecture/workshop every couple weeks, to get the institution’s staff thinking about and discussing good ways to teach. In addition to classroom educators, quite a few of KTH’s librarians also attended the event, as well.

While at KTH, I enjoyed a dozen small-group discussions on pedagogical topics, toured the brand new architecture building, and caught up with a former classmate, Eric Stenberg,  from Virginia Tech’s architecture program. I’m hoping to visit KTH again soon, since we have so many overlapping interests.

I stayed though the weekend, before heading to Brussels on Sunday evening, and I’ve attached photos of the Christmas sights.

Lisbon 1Over Thanksgiving week, I was part of a panel to evlauate EU grant applications. These events are normally held in Brussels, and since the flight and accommodations were both cheaper starting on Saturday, I flew in early. Suffice it to say, I arrived just in time for the lockdown. Our evaluation activities were not held in person as a result, but nevertheless, our  panels conducted all the necessary meetings using online tools. We successfully completed all our evaluations on schedule, using software that I believe was to be implemented in January in any case.

The highlights of my time in Brussels are captured in the attached photo gallery, which includes a gratuitous cat photo to mark Brussel’s cat postings on Twitter. The authorities asked citizens not to post info on their activities, so the folks in Brussels posted fun pictures of their cats’ activities during the lockdown, including quite a few PhotoShopped images just for fun. I didn’t have any time free to PhotoShop, but I Tweeted this cat photo in solidarity.

After spending a full week indoors–evaluating work, attending online meetings, submitting reports, reviewing and approving reports, finalizing and submitting my own grant proposal to Science Foundation Ireland, and finishing my read of a PhD thesis (what we in the USA call a dissertation)–I was more than ready to hail a cab to the airport and fly off to Lisbon.

The sunshine, good cheer, and fabulous food of Lisbon were so very welcome after a cold and lonely week alone in Brussels. I’ve attached a gallery of snapshots from Lisbon and, in a post to follow, I’ll tell you about the thesis evaluation panel I attended there.

That's when dad and I were building an experimental aircraft. (that's still half done, I'm sorry to say).

Me and WUT’s PW-5.

I just spent a most unexpectedly sublime week in Warsaw. What a beautiful, walkable, and livable city! Just the right density — useful public transport, affordable bike rentals, green space at regular intervals, and architectural monuments galore.

My primary task was to conduct interviews with budding engineers. Over the course of the week, eleven Polish women (who are studying various sorts of physics and engineering) each volunteered an hour and a half to share their experiences with me. It was amazingly insightful to discover similarities and difference with the experiences of the 10 Irish and 11 foreign-born women I’ve interviewed at Dublin Institute of Technology. (I also have 11 interviews recorded with Portuguese women, but these must still be translated.)

Fortunately for me, the students in Poland can opt to take their classes in Polish, or English, or a mixture of both. These Polish women spoke English very well and were bold enough to grant me interviews in my own native tongue.

In the evening hours I had time to explore some sites, depicted in the photos below.

Orange trees along the entry IPS.

Orange trees along the entry IPS.

My Friday visit to the architecture school of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) was icing on the cake after a week of engineering interviews, conducted across the bay from Lisbon at Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro (a branch of the Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal, where I had interviewed students their experiences as engineering students as part of my Marie Curie research project).

You might recall that I delivered workshops at IPS and IST as a Fulbright scholar, back in 2013 (click here for more).

For a little more fun on my last day in Lisbon on this trip, I took the Metro over to IST. There, I visited the first year studio to hear student teams present their urban analyses of Lisbon districts. I toured the 2nd-5th year studios with my gracious faculty hosts and I wrapped up the afternoon discussing recent work with PhD students from the Architecture Research Group who I’d met on my previous trip to Portugal. The doctoral students — Maria Bacharel Carreira, Luisa Cannas da Silva, Mafalda Panheco, and Sajjad Nazidizaji — and thier professor Teresa Valsassina Heitor took me for a beer at the end of the day.

IPS's Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro

IPS’s Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro (image from http://www.estbarreiro.ips.pt/)

Many thanks to my colleagues at IPS, Bill Williams and Raquel Barreira, who helped arrange and conduct interviews. Thanks also to the ISP students who provided interviews and the IST teachers and students who shared their work with me. I can’t wait to visit again!

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