LSBU Sustainability conference on now, featuring Creativity research

London South Bank University (LSBU) has an event on this week called “Sustainability and Climate Action Events Series – Carbon, Climate, Energy and Resources” (for info and registration click here).

As I’m a Visiting Professor at LSBU, supervising Ph.D. student Thomas Empson who is one of the organizers of this event, I’m one of many in attendance. Thomas studies the role of creativity in creating sustainable design solutions. He looks at engineering and architecture. Thomas is also LSBU’s Sustainability Project Manager.

I’m so proud to be this researcher’s Ph.D. supervisor. He, Shushma Patel, and I have made an excellent team.

The week-long event kicked off earlier today and Thomas delivered an insightful presentation on his Ph.D. research on “Enabling Enterprising Engineers” and featuring work by HKS architects and Enfinffers for Overseas Development (EFOD).

Thomas Empson delivering welcomes, introductions, and cutting-edge research.

Thomas’ Ph.D. research project is coming together beautifully and he will be presenting his viva (=defending his dissertation) in August. We got a sneak preview today! This event, the LSBU Provost, Professor Pat Bailey, told us at the 9.30am Welcome and Introduction is the largest online event that LSBU has ever hosted. Thomas is one of the two main organizers for this LSBU conference. He’s done this alongside his research work.

As I’m working on various projects throughout the day (including our own online EER Meet Up for tomorrow afternoon), I’ve tuned in and out of the LSBU event. However, I was there “with bells on” for the 11.30am session led by Thomas!

The topic was “Creating Sustainable Development: Measuring the positive ecological, economic and social impact of the Katchumbala Maternity Unit.” Thomas presented his research and then hosted two high-profile panelists: Dan Flower, a Design Director for HKS Architects, and his dad, Ian Flower OBE and Founder of Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD).

Thomas has been studying aspects of creativity and (environmental, social and economic) sustainability. He has evaluated several case study projects to assess creative practices, processes, outputs, and impacts. The case study he showed today was for the Katchumbala Maternity Unit in Uganda.

Thomas hosted two high-powered designer/activists who made this hospital a reality. It’s a father-son duo with an engineer dad and architect son.

The Hospital generated many positive environmental, social, and economic benefits.

There were also benefits ot the organizations involved:

Thomas has studied creativity within this project and has created a number of really helpful and useful models for assessing sustainable creativity. I’ll share those models with you later, as they are a significant contribution to the knowledge base and have been tested through empirical research.

Today, the audience got a sneak peek at these models and won’t have to wait until Thomas’ viva.

LSBU has loads of interesting sessions planned for the week–why not join in to learn more?

An Irish Welcome-Home!

Welcome to the homepage of Ireland by Chance, a blog sharing the adventures of an Expat architect/urbanist/teacher/engineering education researcher who moved from the United States in 2012 to make Ireland her home.

You can view archives (2012-present) by clicking the folder icon to learn what it’s like to be Fulbright and Marie Curie Research Fellow, to teach at university in Ireland, and to explore the cities and landscapes of Ireland, the UK, and Europe.

1st ever Engineering Education Research Big Meet Up–register for free

Please join the global EER community–folks all around the world doing Engineering Education Research–in our first Engineering Education Research Big Meet Up. We’re meeting online throughout the day, May 14th.

The event is being spearheaded by Professor John Mitchell, Vice Dean Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London (UCL).

Co-sponsors include the global Research in Engineering Education Network (or “REEN”, which I chair) and other organizations near and dear to my heart where I have worked or studied–including TU Dublin’s CREATE research group, Virginia Tech, and UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE). Other sponsors are Aalborg University’s Centre for PBL, Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, the Technological University of Malaysia (UTM), and the University of Western Australia (UWA).

The day will include keynotes with Q/A discussion, and virtual coffee breaks for informal breakout discussion. Further details–including schedule and sign up for this free event are at: https://sway.office.com/cNUsuiNUObg2SQNx?ref=Link

It will be great to interact with colleagues near and far, and get to know a few new members of the EER community as well. Hope you’ll join us!

Final Report of my MSCA Individual Fellowship

My Marie Curie fellowship ended the last day of 2019 and I had 60 days to complete my final report. For Marie Curie Research Fellows, it can be difficult to figure out what will be required for reporting, based on discussion threads I read online.

Fellows don’t have much indication of what the report will entail until the European Commission’s “Participant Portal” invites them to submit the final report. Even then, it’s not clear how long the descriptions will need to be or where the report template is located. Only after you enter the text for the public statements, will the system inform you how long the text must be. Surprises I encountered in the official reporting process: The text you post for the public is limited to just 7480 characters! There’s specific button you’ve got to locate that contains the blank PDF template for the full report.

This blog post contains the public synopsis of my 2018-2019 project as well as a link to a PDF of the full report, which uses the required template and thus may be of help to other fellows:

I’ve posted this blog for (a) people interested in the research I’ve done and also (b) other MSCA fellows who have questions about the reporting process. This particular post shares my short, public synopsis (below). It’s likely I’ll post more detailed info in coming blogs, along with photos of the MSCA grant period that I’ve never posted before.

Getting the photos loaded onto WordPress has provided me a pleasant trip down memory lane. I plan to share more of these in coming posts.

Public Synopsis

1Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project (For the final period, include the conclusions of the action)

This section should include information on:

  • What is the problem/issue being addressed?
  • Why is it important for society?
  • What are the overall objectives?

The Action “Designing Engineers: Harnessing the Power of Design Projects to Spur Cognitive and Epistemological Development of STEM Students” looks at how engineering and architecture students learn, and how design projects and teamwork affect students’ thinking and overall development. The research questions how students learn to design and how their thinking changes over time with regard to what knowledge is, where it comes from, and how it gets validated; their views on this constitute their epistemologies. Such topics are important because society needs more engineers and more STEM graduates. Not only is there widespread lack of engagement, but problems also have been identified in graduate engineers’ ability to think holistically—today’s graduates do not seem prepared to identify and address global challenges in the comprehensive way society needs. Although engineering is often perceived as a dry, technical subject there is great room for creativity.

Architecture programs around the world are filled with highly engaged students. In engineering, there has been a move to teach in more active, hands-on, project-based ways that incorporate design, as done in architecture. Engineering can learn from architecture’s historic success in engaging and teaching students to design, but engineering has placed more focus than architecture has on understanding how students learn. The fields of engineering and architecture education have much to learn from each other. 

Objectives of this Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) have been to (a) develop and promote better ways to teach and support STEM students; (b) help transform engineering into a more diverse and creative field; and (c) investigate questions surrounding the theme, To what extents do design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture? A parallel goal of the MSCA Individual Fellowship is to foster the development of the individual researcher (that’s me!).

2Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far (For the final period please include an overview of the results and their exploitation and dissemination)

Work was conducted via 6 work packages (WPs). WP1 comprised 3 qualitative research studies that yielded 4 conference publications and 1 journal publication to date, with an additional 3 conference publications and 2 journal manuscripts underway. WP2 sought to build skill with multiple research methodologies. In it, the Fellow delivered 5 conference presentations, 3 published journal articles, and 1 encyclopedia entry, with 2 conference manuscripts underway. WP3 involved developing a special-focus journal issue. The Fellow exceeded goals by spearheading development of 2 different special focus journal issues (published 2018 & 2019). The Fellow is leading the development of a third special focus issue (for 2020). In WP4, the Fellow delivered 20 public engagement activities to popularize STEM and communicate findings. In WP5, for researcher training and transfer-of-knowledge, the Fellow attended 70 intensive training workshops and multi-day conferences. She provided leadership in publishing and research at university, national, and international levels. To transfer of knowledge, she conducted 18 workshops for researchers and educators; she provided supervision and mentoring for early career researchers. She was appointed Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Education, Editorial Board member of the European Journal of Engineering Education, and serves as Chair of the global Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN). During the grant, she earned a teaching qualification in the UK (SFHEA) and secured €56,000 (as co-PI) for education projects in Spain, a £11,200 donation to UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineers via EWBUK, and €237,727 in contract work from UCL Consulting. The project was managed under WP6.

Results of this MSCA are reported in: (1) forthcoming papers on how architecture and civil engineering students conceptualize design creation and knowledge generation; (2) forthcoming papers on ethics, sustainability/SDGs and early-career engineers from a study on UK civil engineers’ practices and perceptions of global responsibility; (3) papers about women’s experiences studying engineering including a longitudinal study (that uses data collected over four years in Ireland regarding Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering abroad) and analysis using the framework known as A Hero’s Journey (of a single mother’s challenges and successes studying and working in engineering); (4) a systematic review of grit in engineering education; a multi-method study of engineering teachers’ experiences implementing problem based learning (PBL). The data sets collected during this MSCA will inform and enhance dozens of publications in the coming years, in addition to the ones produced and published during the fellowship itself.

3Progress beyond the state of the art, expected results until the end of the project and potential impacts (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

This MSCA has pushed the frontiers of engineering education research (EER) forward in a numerous ways. The 2 special focus issues the Fellow spearheaded have shed new light onto socio-cultural diversity and engineering students’ identity formation and epistemic development. The educational blogs, STEM activity books for kids, and fun, creative events conducted by the Fellow are helping popularize engineering—the first STEM book was nominated for an award of excellence in the UK. The engineering education journals, and the workshops and community up-skilling events led by the Fellow are helping cultivate broader human capacity to produce quality research in the field of EER (e.g., Chairing the Research in Engineering Education Network to help raise the quality, credibility, and usefulness of EER globally and delivering Master Classes to help engineering teachers and researchers upskill).

This MSCA allowed the Fellow to develop agility with many different research methodologies and promote best practices to the larger EER community (e.g., co-authoring a study on “grit” in engineering education and identifying how to report it for maximum impact). The Fellow’s project on UK civil engineers exposed shortfalls in ethics and sustainability education and identified how engineers learn about these crucial topics, in that research participants said they did not learn enough about them in university. The Fellow’s PhD student is generating important new knowledge about processes and organizational systems that support creativity in engineering production; working together they are generating new models that describe shortfalls in engineering for UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and illustrate what can be done to address them. Through the Fellow’s research on architecture and civil engineering students, valuable new understandings are emerging related to how students conceptualize both design creation and knowledge generation.

Impacts anticipated from the MSCA are increased and improved: focus by engineering educators on developmental patterns shared among engineering students; student retention as a result of improved support; diversity as techniques to support minority students are increasingly employed; overall teaching in engineering education as a result increasingly credible and useful research; focus on ethics and sustainability in engineering education; and production of tools and models to help engineering educators foster creativity and engineering firms contribute to realizing the UN’s SDGs. A final overarching impact is enhanced public perception of engineering as a fun and creative field.

The commission also requested:

4 – Address (URL) of the project’s public website

5- Images attached to the Summary for publication

Meet emerging research star: Carlos Mora

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Carlos and his youngest daughter, Estela.

Back in March 2019, I received an email out of the blue regarding a researcher in the Canary Islands, Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora, looking to recruit a mentor.

Specifically, Carlos wanted help writing a fellowship proposal to conduct Engineering Education Research on social responsibility, and he had contacted a Special Interest Group I work with as a member of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). This particular group studies Educational Research Methods and I’d mentioned at a meeting in 2018 that I was looking to help/host prospective fellows in Engineering Education Research.

Because Carlos was proposing a topic I have been studying for Engineers without Borders UK, I jumped at the chance to help. I emailed him right away and we set to work.

Carlos emailed me a copy of a proposal he’d previously submitted, and as I’ve successfully secured the funding under this scheme twice before, I reverted with more feedback and strategic advice.

Carlos and I worked tirelessly from March until the deadline for our target program in mid-September.

It was a grueling process, but Carlos is extremely hard-working. I must say that Carlos enthusiastically accepted every ounce of critique that I and my colleagues doled out, and he used it to improve his plans and ideas. The ability to welcome criticism is rare but so very important. It’s one of the most important skills I learned in architecture school! Carlos has it, too!

To make sure Carlos had the best chance to win funding, I assembled a team of superstar researchers and advisors. Their job: to poke holes in all his arguments and make sure the content was in the right places (ie, the places the evaluators will expect to find them while they are scoring his work).

I was elated with the results. In all, I believe we have an excellent chance of receiving funding to conduct research together–I as his mentor/supervisor/PI and he as a full-time research fellow working aside me at TU Dublin, hopefully starting in August 2020.

The text of the proposal is exceptional. The scientific merit is clear, the work plan is strong, the planned secondment is second to none, and the early-stage researcher has shown outstanding promise. He has a dedicated mentor by his side–one who is working hard to build her own research record and raise the visibility and credibility of EER globally.

Since we submitted in mid-September, Carlos has already secured some financial support from his own university to start some of the work.

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Visiting London’s Carnaby Street with the Mora family

Though al that is exciting, we are currently in the no-mans-land called the grant evaluation period. Researchers work for months on end to craft a research proposal. They send it off with the greatest of hope in their hearts. And then they wait and wait, and wait–often at least half a year–to hear back.

Typical success rates for the program we’ve requested run 9-14%.

What to do while waiting? Celebrate!

After we got the proposal submitted, Carlos brought his family up to London from the Canaries to meet me. Carlos and I held a work meeting on the first day of their stay.

This was the first trip off their Islands for the Mora kids, and I was delighted to be part of their big adventure. (The whole family has been getting excited about the possibility of spending a couple years in Dublin! They came to London this time since it’s where I am currently working.)

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Pre-dinner photo shoot. Beautiful food!

I planned one of the four days of their visit, and, as usual, I packed too much in. We all did new things–I’d never eaten Ramen before but Celia said it would be “a dream come true” so we all agreed!

Our lively chatter silenced when the food arrived for dinner.

We soon unanimously agreed again: we will be eating Ramen together again in Dublin ASAP. It was delicious!

The photo album below starts with a photo from the Canaries and another taken at the airport–Carlos sends me family updates regularly and it’s fun seeing the kids grow!

 

 

 

Wedding Weekend with Nigerian-British Flair

Engagement photo of Folashade and Damilola.

My beautiful and intelligent colleague, Dr. Folashade Olayinka (who I traveled to Johannesburg with 1.5 years ago to teach a Master Class) decided to marry her beloved Dr. Damilola Olaniyi last weekend, so on Saturday, November 9, 2019, I headed for the Putney Bridge tube bright and early. It was a cold day, but bright and full of energy.

My own beloved Aongus walked me to the station. Even though the invite was just for one, he wanted to set me off on the right course for the weekend.

At Liverpool Street Station, I met up with my best Plus-None, Dr. Inês Direito, and we head off for Chelmsford by train, excited for a new adventure.

When we arrived in Chelmsford, our room wasn’t quite ready at The County Hotel, but we found space to change into wedding attire–with “Colours of the day” specified as “Emerald Green & Gold” we did our best not to clash!

We taxied from the Hotel over to All Saints Church on Church Lane, Writtle, Chelmsford CM1 3EN, UK for the Church of England ceremony, held in a historic venue and officiated by a pastor who delivered an informative lesson on love, and in quite an interesting way.

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The Nyamapfenes, Abel and Tari, with Inês and me at the church.

Our colleague Dr. Abel Nyamapfene had already arrived with his lovely wife, Tari.

Inês and I had a ball getting to know her. Considering we arrived at 12:20 and the bride marched down the aisle at 1:40, we had ample time to get to know each other–and I assure you we had a delightful time doing that in such a lovely and lively setting. I look forward to seeing Tari again some day.

During the ceremony, from my seat along the outer wall of the side nave, I was able to see the exchange of vows. I had never realized quite how much Neo-Gothic columns limit paritioners’ viewing angles. Thanks to my colleague Dr. Fiona Truscott, and the book she lent me on English architecture, “A Lust for Windowsills” by Harry Mount, I was able to discern that this church is, specifically, “perpendicular Gothic“. A nice treat to be in such a space for a celebration of marriage! I recognized the last song and happily sang along, despite being chronically out-of-tune.

Hylands House, the reception venue. (Photo copied from the couple’s wedding page.)

The reception was held at the beautiful and elegant Hylands House on London Road, Writtle, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ, UK.

 

Graduation pic of Dami and Shade. Doctors of Engineering!

At the reception, we learned many things, and we got to watch video of the wedding ceremony the couple had in Nigeria (prior to this ceremony here in England). Incidentally, the newlyweds were both born here in Britain, of parents born in Nigeria. They have lived here all their lives, but visit Nigeria frequently. I sometimes say Shade is the most British person I know!

During the toasts, we learned that Shade was born at University College London (UCL) Hospital, on the campus where she and I worked together until she moved to Queen Mary University of London. She completed all her higher education degrees at UCL. Her new husband, Dami, also earned his doctorate in engineering at UCL. In fact, the two met at UCL in 2011. Their subjects are slightly different, however, as Shade has a doctorate in Chemical engineer, while I believe Dami’s doctorate is in aeronautical engineering.

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The newlyweds

During the meal, Inês and I had the pleasure of sharing a table with the PhD supervisor for each of the two. Shade’s supervisor, Professor/Dr. Eva Sorenson had attended the SEFI 2018 conference with Inês and me in Copenhagen and I sat beside her at the gala of that event, just after she’d been recognized with the biggest award of the conference. I’m getting used to siting among the stars!

Both supervisors got specific call-outs from the couple and the family during toasts–how cool! It looks like you can make a real difference in someone’s life as their PhD supervisor. I hope that’s me someday. (My first PhD supervisee just passed the final threshold before his PhD viva, slated for August 2020–very excited about all that!)

Following dinner, a grand Nigerian buffet, we enjoyed cake and some dancing.

Eventually we headed by taxi for the hotel for some Zs.

 

 

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With Emanuela and family!

In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast with the happy couple and another of our beloved colleagues, Emanuela Tilley (who is currently away form us on maternity leave) along with her beautiful and energetic family. I get far too little time with Emanuela these days! Making every moment count here in England.

 

In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast with the happy couple and another of our beloved colleagues, Emanuela Tilley (who is currently away form us on maternity leave) along with her beautiful and energetic family. I get far too little time with Emanuela these days! Making every moment count here in England.

After a quick walk to the station and an easy train trip back to London, I made my way back to Putney to meet up with Aongus, who’d had to work Sunday, morning until noon.

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Flowers!

I arrived at the flat first, and when Aongus arrived he brought a lovely bouquet for me! I was delighted to find I’d been missed by this incredible man. It’s a pleasure to be surrounded with so much love and support.

Thanks so very much to Shade and Dami for including Inês and me in this–the biggest day of your lives. You make a lovely couple and you seem so comfortable and happy together. Your families seem so warm and supportive, and it looks like they provide great models for healthy interactions and long-lasting love. Your ceremony was beautiful and touching. The bridal party was full of vitality and was beautifully attired (love those bridesmaid dresses!). The toasts were heartfelt. The venues were such a pleasure to experience. The dancing, rituals, and outfits had a distinctly Nigerian flair that was a treat to behold.

It was all so beautiful and festive! And we were so lucky to be there!

#DaSh2019, 9.11.19

Learning London: Celebrating St. Patrick

We’ve had a lovely St. Patrick’s weekend here in central London.

Yesterday, we visited the National Portrait Gallery to see “Only Human” by photographer Martin Parr. After lunch at Chipotle, some gelato and hot chocolate to honour my dad, and a quick break at The Courthouse Hotel, we got to the Photographers’ Gallery for the last hour (for free entry!) to view a show I’d found don Time Out and another to boot.

We ended Saturday at Backyard Comedy with four hilarious comedians.

Our Art Fund pass and memberships with Tate and Backyard are really paying off!

We learned a lot this weekend about being British, thanks in no small part to Martin Parr. Here’s a selection of photos from yesterday:

Today, we breakfasted beside Whitechapel Gallery, walked to the Tower of London, took the boat down to Embankment and walked to Tate Britain. We visited two photographers’ exhibitions–seeing the second half of photojournalist Don McCullin’s show (we hadn’t allotted enough time in our first visit). Then we took a double decker bus over to Trafalgar Square, enjoyed lunch at Thai Spice, and took in the last hour of the city-sponsored St. Patrick’s Day music festival.

While it feels surreal to sing Irish Republican songs in Trafalgar Square, particularly because it’s not considered entirely kosher to sing such songs in Dublin these days, we truly felt our love for Ireland by singing along–without having to love London any less!

Ireland’s Call by Phil Coulter 

Come the day and come the hour

Come the power and the glory

We have come to answer Our Country’s call

From the four proud provinces of Ireland

CHORUS

Ireland, Ireland

Together standing tall

Shoulder to shoulder

We’ll answer Ireland’s call

From the mighty Glens of Antrim

From the rugged hills of Galway

From the walls of Limerick And Dublin Bay

From the four proud provinces of Ireland

CHORUS

Hearts of steel, and heads unbowing

Vowing never to be broken

We will fight, until We can fight no more

From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Aongus and I were making the most of our last day together for a while. I’m heading home to Virginia help my Dad who hasn’t been well.

We ended the day at the Blind Beggar, site of a notorious gang murder long ago (see the plaque for further explanation). I’d not been there before, despite it being just blocks from our London home.

Photos from today:

 

Directors of TU Dublin’s MSc in Transport + Mobility Visit UCL to Compare Notes

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When my colleagues at Technological University Dublin announced to me they were launching a new Master’s degree in Transport and Mobility (student handbook available here), I immediately invited them over to London to meet my supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler, who is a leading expert in transportation design, particularly where accessibility and mobility are concerned. He advises cities worldwide about their transportation systems, and in the Queen’s 2011 New Year’s Honours ceremony, Nick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for Services to Technology. That followed an earlier appointment to OBE. As an American, I wasn’t quite sure what all this meant, but Wikipedia provided me a handy primer:

The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) –Quoted from Wikipedia,

Overall, I wanted my Dublin colleagues to learn about how Nick teaches his Master’s level module on their MSc topic, to see the research center he has built that is named PAMELA, and to encounter Nick’s epic personality and his can-do, ger-her-done spirit.

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Shannon Chance hosting TU Dublin’s Sinead Flavin, Roisin Murray, Lorraine D Arcy, and David O Connor

 

Four colleagues from TU Dublin took me up on the offer and traveled over to University College London this past Monday to meet with Nick and other world-leading researchers and experts in transportation, accessibility, and spatial planning.

The aim of the visit was for TU Dublin staff to get advice on starting their new degree program and to identify potential projects and research where they could collaborate in the future. The delegation from TU Dublin included:

David and Lorraine are co-chairs of the new MSc in Transport and Mobility.

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Meeting at the Bartlett with leaders of the Space Syntax group

All members of the visiting group are all involved with a new multidisciplinary part-time MSc in Transport and Mobility at TU Dublin which has a focus on sustainable transport. The first students started this January. All members of the group are Early Stage Researchers, most less than 6 years past earning their doctorates, despite having years of consultancy and teaching experience behind them.

The TU crew touched down at London Heathrow a little late due to extreme winds, but it was, nevertheless, an action-packed day!

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Meeting at the Bartlett School of Architecture with Professor Laura Vaughan who is Director of the Space Syntax Laboratory, and her research associates Professor Sophia PsarraDr. Ashley DhananiDr. Kayvan Karimi, and Ph.D.candidate Kimon Krenz.

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Meeting with experts from Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering at UCL

12:00

 

Meeting with transportation experts from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geotechnical Engineering (CEGE) at the Chadwick Building to discuss Transport and Mobility. Attending from UCL were: Professor Emeritus Roger Mackett, Dr. Tom Cohen, Dr. Adriana Ortegon, and Visiting Professor Shannon Chance. Professor Mackett is an expert in how transportation affects public health–a topic near an dear to my heart and one I’ve published about.

13:20

Head up to Tuffnell Park to visit the PAMELA Lab.

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Meeting with Nick Tyler at the PAMELA lab

14:00

 

Start of Nick’s MSc class in Transportation Design “T19 Accessible Design”. Meet with Professor Tyler to learn about his teaching and research, which has been called “The London Lab With A Fake Tube Train” by Londonist magazine.

There were a number of additional experts my TU Dublin colleagues would like to have met with so, hopefully, they will return again soon.

 

Learning London: Enchanting Holland Park and Victorian House Museum

A couple of weekends ago, we visited Holland Park on both Saturday and Sunday. There was too much to see in the area for just one go. We had to spread it out. In fact, we’d also visited a weekend prior, bringing our 2019 total to three days.

In this blog, I’ll show you around the park and give you a peek inside one of the nearby Victorian house museums, 18 Stafford Terrace.

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On all three of our recent our visits to Holland Park, we were en route to the Design Museum. 

Walking Cards

In addition to using the handy walking cards pictures below, I also referenced my guidebooks and the internet to sketch out our trips.

Kyoto Japanese Garden

These beautifully designed and cultivated gardens boast a waterfall and a pride of peacocks.

 

Holland House

This house was greatly destroyed during the Second World War, but part of it lives on to delight the park’s visitors.

Belvedere Restaurant

There’s a lovely, posh restaurant in the park. We had a splurge.

18 Stafford Terrace

This is one of two Victorian house museums near Holland Park and the Design Museum. This one, on Stafford Terrace which runs parallel to Kensington Hight Street, was once home to an illustrator for Punch magazine, Edward L. Sambourne. It’s a lovely house filled with his artwork. It’s a delight to see how the stately homes on this terrace are laid out and lived in. This one is furnished in the “Aesthetic Movement.”

Learning London: Birthday Celebrations with Weekend Excursion to Oxford

Last week at UCL’s Engineering Front Office we celebrated birthdays, for my colleague Inês, and for me as well. A group of us had lunch out together on Wednesday and we also enjoyed lunch in the office together on several other days of the week.

It’s really not so bad getting old when you’re surrounded by loving friends! Even if they keep rubbing in my nearly-senior status….

At the end of the day, Friday, Aongus and I darted out of the city for a weekend away in historic and picturesque Oxford. This blog post recounts these birthday adventures using pictures.

Birthday Lunch at Sagar

On Wednesday, a group of us enjoyed a south-Indian lunch together at Sagar, which our lovely colleague, Sital Thanki, has introduced us to. In addition to a few photos of the birthday lunch, I show below some of the many kind cards and gifts I received from colleagues, friends, and family. The packages, calls from parents, and online messages I received from friends via Facebook and LinkedIn were also heartwarming.

Weekend in Oxford

As a birthday present, Aongus booked a weekend away in Oxford. We left London after work on Friday by bus (cheaper than the train, but with its own unique pitfalls). Overall, we enjoyed two nights in one of the world’s loveliest university cities before re-boarding a bus back to London.

Exploring the City

We ventured out briefly for dinner on Friday but focused on resting up for Saturday.

On Saturday morning, we wandered through the city fairly aimlessly. We wanted to see the high street areas, visit some of the shops, and get a feel for the University of Oxford.

 

Natural History Museum

On Saturday afternoon, we visited Oxford’s museum for Natural History, which I’d read about in one of Bill Bryson’s books. In addition to the exhibits on dinosaurs, mammals, birds, and insects, we also took in the special exhibit on bacteria. I’d need an extensive blog to tell you what I learned about bacteria, and I held off posting all the photos I took. But you’d be surprised to learn how bacteria created oxygen, photosynthesis, and cell-splitting that enabled human life to form.

Really amazing stuff!

Visiting this museum, you see the huge value that researchers add to our knowledge of everything in the physical world. Curious minds want to know! And many of these curious-minded people become life-long researchers–exploring the world to find answers to questions we didn’t even know we had, as well as questions we knew!

History of Science Museum

We narrowly missed the departure of the morning “Footprints” tour on Sunday, but we booked in for a later tour and headed into the History of Science Museum, originally a stockpile of curiosities, and now spread across three floors. My favorite parts covered sundials, photography, and penicillin–crucial research on penicillin was done at Oxford. Also fun were the measuring devices, calculating machines, and astronomical gadgets. Again, thank goodness for curious minds, figuring all this stuff out over time!

 

Blackwells Bookstore

To escape the cold–and take a little rest between the science museum and the planned walking tour–we stepped inside Blackwell’s Bookstore. A mindboggling collection indeed! It’s multiple floors and the basement sprawls far under Trinity College. Incidentally, at Oxford, the colleges are residential–they are where the students live, eat and sleep. Every student belongs to a college, and every student studies in a department.

Thankfully, Blackwell’s also features a coffee shop, which is optimal for a welcome and well-deserved rest.

Footprints Tour of Oxford

The Footprints company offers free walking tours as well as paid ones. To ensure we were part of a small group and could enter some Oxford sites where there are entry fees, I purchased tickets for the two-hour walking tour at £15 each. Although the plan seemed ideal, the weather turned ugly. Just before the tour started it got very cold, and shortly after the start, hail pounded down. The tour guide had to skip the first two sites and run straight into a library. Aongus was frozen solid by the tour’s end.

 

Divinity School

The large hall with its ornately carved stone ceiling at the Divinity School is featured in all sorts of films–from Harry Potter to the recent Mary Queen of Scots and The Favourite. Our tour guide brought us inside for a stop off–and I was thrilled to see this space.

New College: squares, dining hall, chapel and cloister

Of the 38 colleges at Oxford, we peeked inside only a few–they have entrance fees, and what you are permitted to see varies from one to the next. I wasn’t sure how to manage all that without insider knowledge, so we hired a guide! There were only ten of us in the tour group.

Our tour guide brought us to her favorite, the New College. You’ll likely recognize the dining hall, which is featured in movies. Of note, the cloister and the tree in it appeared in Harry Potter, but the dining hall used in that series of films was custom built, a near replica of a hall on campus that has only three actual long tables for the students. As Hogwarts had four schools, they made the studio version a bit wider to accommodate the extra row. Most college dining halls at Oxford also have a high table where the privileged sit and eat superior food.

The chapel in the New College is exquisite, and we heard a bit of organ practice while seated in there. Many colleges destroyed their historic old chapels and replaced them with more modern ones. What a waste. This Gothic one is stellar, though the ornate end wall was a somewhat recent addition.

Bodleian Library

Perhaps the most iconic building at Oxford is the round Bodleian Library, a reading room for students. Turns out, a cylinder isn’t quite conducive to storing books. It’s better for studying, we hope!

Overall, Oxford has a massive collection of books. This library is second only in size to the British Library (a copy of everything published in the UK goes there, similar to the Library of Congress in the USA, which is the world’s largest library collection). Like these other two libraries, you can view books only on-site here–it’s not a lending library.

Famous Folks

Oxford provided inspiration for C. S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Hobbits. Although I must admit I know little of Harry Potter, I did read some Hobbit stories and all of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Near the end of our tour, we saw the door that inspired Lewis’ lion, witch, and wardrobe. We also saw the Oxford lamp post he made famous.

We also learned about some very destructive and badly behaved boys who attended Oxford (David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and their political cronies). We learned about others who misbehaved in the town less aggressively (Bill Clinton) and we learned of people burned for political crimes on Broad Street, where our tour had started.

Look for the Footprints office there on Broad Street, near the shop Boswells of Oxford. Pick up some new luggage and an Ameribag while you’re there! It will take your mind off the stories of deviant behavior.