During lockdown in Ireland, we started with an allowable 2 km radius exercise zone from our homes. This eventually increased to 5 km, then 20 km. For Aongus and me, the entire center of Dublin falls within 2km. If you’re thinking “Wow, that’s small!” I agree, yes, Dublin’s central core is quite small.
Our circle expanded, very slowly, from our immediate neighborhood of Smithfield, to 2km with Phoenix Park (described in another post), Blessington Basin and the Royal Canal (described below). At 5km, we expanded to the Botanic Gardens and Griffith Park. At 20km, we cycled further, challenging ourselves to 20km there and 20km back, which would get us to Howth, cycling along the greenway at Clontarf or even over onto Bull Island and along Dollymount Strand. I’ve shared photos of all this below, as it’s just too picturesque to miss.
I wanted to document the experience for historical purposes (the life of empty nesters in Dublin during lockdown!?). I think the post has wider value, too: if you’re ever visiting Dublin, these are great places to explore!
Days before lockdown started, I reminded myself that I wanted to climb the tower at Jameson’s Distillery, shown above, which one could then access for a €5 fee paid to the Genesis Hostel on Smithfield Plaza. The tower could, I told myself, become inaccessible again, for any reason, at any time. It had been closed most of the time since I moved to Smithfield in September 2012.
Due to Covid, the tower certainly became inaccessible once again.
During lockdown, I rarely ventured out Monday-Friday. I tried to get indoor exercise during the week, but it wasn’t easy. With the Liffey four blocks from home, I motivated myself to get out and walk that far some evenings, between work and dinner. Below, Aongus and I are pictured on one of Dublin’s two Calatrava-designed bridge, which is five blocks from our home:
Below are photos of “northside” streets close to our home: (1) along the Liffey with Smithfield to the right/north, (2) cycling the new protected lanes along the Liffey, (3) the lovely steeple of St. Paul’s @ Smithfield shown as second time, and (4) a morning view of, vacant, taken by Aongus on his way to work once lockdown started to lift.
During the height of lockdown, the streets of central Dublin were actually quite eerie in the evening. The Irish police (called the Gardí) set up checkpoints all around Dublin—mostly to prevent drivers from exceeding their boundaries without reason.
On one walk we were stopped on O’Connell Street by a Guard. He asked us why we were in town, and since exercise was allowed and we were within our allowable zone, there was not problem and the guards let us pass. Other acceptable reasons were shopping for medicine or food shopping, or assisting someone who was cocooning.
We got stopped one other time, on the way to Phoenix Park because unbeknownst to us, a right-wing radical individual was trying to stage a protest. It didn’t work for her. People didn’t show up to join her shenanigans. The Irish are quite reasonable politically, in my opinion, and such radical views are unpalatable here.
Although Aongus initially thought 2km would be too restrictive, it turned out there was more to see than he realized. Within our 2km small radius there were urban delights to be found: we joyfully ‘discovered’ Blessington Basin for ourselves.
I’d seen it on the map while searching the web for property (I might as well be looking for leprechauns or unicorns as a sunny and affordable flat or house in Dublin). Though I knew its name and location, I’d never had reason to venture there. Until lockdown. It’s easily reached from our flat by foot or bicycle.
Ultimately, we ended up near the Basin while exploring on Dublin Bikes (which we both subscribe to for a very reasonable annual fee).
Aongus was flabbergasted. He had no inkling of the existence of this Basin– even though he was raised not far away, on the Northside of Dublin in Glasnevin!
There are several delightful murals in the park surrounding Blessington Basin, and the one pictured above, with me sliding through an illusionary door, is appropo. A step into Blessington Basin park feels like you’re entering Sinclair Lewis’ Narnia or Alice’s Wonderland!
A week into lockdown, I got my previously non-working bike up and running. At about the same time, Aongus borrowed a bike from his sister, because he was the one appointed by his family to keep his 82 year-old aunt supplied with food and meds.
With these bikes, we were able to explore more easily and we found more joys, like the footpaths, the little canalside park beside Shandon Gardens, and cycle paths aside the Royal Canal (with one of its locks shown above). We determined to return again when we’re allowed more distance to roam.
National Botanic Gardens
Our allowable zone eventually expanded to 5km. Inside that we found the Botanic Gardens and Griffith Park, although these photos were taken after we’d gotten 20km access. The Botanical Gardens had been closed for months before opening its gates to the public. The caretakers must have been there during lockdown, as the place is still meticulously manicured.
When amenities began re-opening on the northside of the city, the gates of the National Botanic Garden sprung open with colorful life:
The flowers had been developing nicely in the peace and quiet.
Aongus loves this place. It’s near his childhood neighborhood and one if his mum’s favorite spots for a weekend walk.
Aongus brought me through Griffith Park one day. It’s just to the south of his auntie’s house. Here’s I’m decked out in bright orange and a crash helmet, which I found helpful as cars returned to the streets of Dublin. Most drivers allowed me plenty of space, but of course, I was only cycling on weekends.
We had a snack beside the canal this day in Griffith Park, and then enjoyed a short and distanced front-year visit with his aunt.
Bull Island with its Dollymount Strand fall just beyond our 5km, so we had to wait for the 20km radius to enjoy these coastal amenities again. Fairview and some of Clontarf were allowed, but we couldn’t go up as far as Bull Island. It’s too bad that we couldn’t enjoy the Wood Bridge without cars.
Our visit to Dollymount Strand came after our cycle to Howth (described below). We took the long route on the way home from Howth, to enjoy the views, and the challenge of cycling in the sand. It’s much easier to cycle where the sand is wet than dry!
The wildflowers were stunning! Which is why I couldn’t decide which photos to include… so you get a bunch!
The real jewel in the crown of our 20km radius northward from Dublin is the little fishing village of Howth.
There’s a picturesque little harbor, protected by a lighthouse (and seagulls), that is today filled with pleasure craft in addition to work boats.
We have cycled out to Howth twice now. Once we bumped into friends of Aongus and enjoyed a distranced chat (after months of isolation seeing them was a highlight of the day).
The pictured below show us getting caught in the rain. We ended up taking the DART home that day and, as I had no mask, I had to improvise with a beach blanket.
Fortunately, there was also lots of space and sun in Howth.
And so very many eye-catching views.
Plus, some darned good company.
I couldn’t be more blessed than to spend this lockdown with the fun, kind, generous, patient, energetic, optimistic, healthy, share-the-load and ever-loving Mr. Aongus Coughlan. Now, if only I can get him hiking that Howth cliff walk with me (see the map below). Since the 20km rule has been lifted, it’s in our currently allowable zone. And yet, it’s still a bit too steep for the man. Never on a windy day!
I just attended an online event called “Racism in Science and Society”. It involved an hour-long interview with Angela Saini, and it was supported by six or so organizations in Ireland, including Women in Research Ireland (WiRI) which a colleague of mine from the Marie Curie Alumni Association, Dr. Susan Fetics, helped establish. Susan was one of the moderators today.
Interestingly, Saini has two different master’s degrees, the first in Engineering from the University of Oxford and a second in Science and Security from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Since I research engineering education and I also taught at a Historically Black College/University in the States for 15 years, I follow her work closely. Simply put: it’s close to my heart.
In this blog, I share content from Tweets I posted during the event. I’m sharing this because the event wasn’t recorded, so I wanted a way for others to learn about the topic and what went on today.
The event was well-organized and they sent helpful reminders. The hosts of this online event even provided a sign language interpreter. I wondered: if this method was more effective than auto-captioning?
Siani said medicine is keeping race science alive today, more than any other area. Medicine perpetuates the belief in genetic differences that don’t exist. Genetics is the last place to look, she insists, it’s best to look first at social and cultural factors.
Histories of oppression have led to differences in health outcomes, not underlying genetics.
But, even now during Covid, people jump straight to the racial myths, Saini says.
Saini says some of the most promising work to rectify racial myths in medicine is happening in the USA, as there is the recognition that racism is still occurring. There’s more happening in the USA than in Britain and elsewhere in the world, she believes, as in the UK (where she lives and grew up) there is clear reluctance to accept how pervasive racism is.
Incidentally, Saini is of Indian heritage and grew up classified as black in the UK, I learned from her book. This helped me understand why a UK-based collegiate of mine calls herself black, whereas she’d probably use a different term if she were of Indian heritage and living in the USA.
These ideas about race are steeped into us from a very young age. It’s all about power, she says. The dominant group frames their dominance as if they have some innate… superiority.
Saini left Twitter earlier this year due to experiencing abuse, which explains why I couldn’t locate her to tag her. Those with extreme views try to engage journalists and scientists via social media, and suck them dry. They and the algorithms they use are clever; often they have few followers but they cause frustration because they aren’t going to change their opinions but they demand ongoing conversation, they dish out abuse, and they drain energy that can go to something more productive.
Of course, for those without other outlets (Saini is a very well-known journalist in Britain), social media does give us a voice, she acknowledges.
I, for one, miss having her on Twitter.
She helped found “Race and Health” @raceandhealth, a group that looks at issues identified above.
Saini says she wrote “Superior” to get things straight in her head. She hopes readers share in some of this clarity she found by writing it.
She spoke about being surprised things have changed so fast right following the death of George Floyd, such as the re-naming of lecture halls and theaters.
I, myself, have seen Floyd’s murder as a tipping point. I’d been expecting things to boil over in the US–I envisioned another summer of 1968 as the only way that an adequate level of change would happen. Things just weren’t improving fast enough. It was one of the frustrations that caused me to leave the USA and move to Europe. I am glad to finally see change, but I am sad that it’s going to be painful to acknowledge the past and heal.
Recently, UCL announced, via campus-wide email I received, that it is changing names of a building and a lecture hall. Eugenics and race-science had a home at UCL, and the university is seeking to right some wrongs.
Saini says that universities need better systems of accountability; the balance of power in universities is still out of whack. Accountability has to come from the top. Groups like the ones hosting this session today need to work together to lobby universities for better accountability, she says.
She ended by saying that our societies need to change through education and by teaching empathy from a young age.
I was glad to hear Saini say this, as my colleague, Dr. Carlos Mora, and I are working to study empathy in engineering education. And in a similar vein, I’m working to create a special focus issue on empathy in engineering practice and education to be released next spring.
A Marie Curie Research Fellowship is–first and foremost–about developing researchers by giving them a chance to research new things, in new places, with new people. For an MSCA Fellowship, you’ve got to travel. You can come from anywhere in the world, but you can’t have lived in the country where you do the MSCA Fellowship for any more than 12 months of the 36 months before the application date.
The intention of WP5 was to increase my research skills and encourage me to share my own knowledge and skills with others (i.e., transfer knowledge to them). The MSCA application listed the following deliverables for this work package: 26 Training and Transfer-of-Knowledge sessions completed by the end of the grant period. I’m able to list 70 specific research training workshops and conferences that I attended–and there were actually more!
Yet, it is important to note that the most important training and knowledge transfer actually resulted from me providing leadership in EER. As a result of having a Marie Curie research fellowship at University College London (UCL), many doors were open to me and I was able to learn from the wealth of opportunities that emerged.
Via this MSCA grant, the I have provided: (1) leadership in publishing and (2) leadership in research events. These are summarized directly below.
Under that, a list of the completed researcher training session is provided.
Finally, in this blog, I identify outreach activities I conducted to support educators and researchers, including workshops I conducted and supervision and mentorship I provided to early career researchers (like the one pictured below, in South Africa, to help engineering teachers learn more inclusive teaching attitudes and behaviors).
As part of my training, I also earned a new teaching qualification in the UK while serving as an MSCA fellow:
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Teaching Academy (SFHEA)
Earning this credential helped me build proficiency on the vocabulary used in educational research in the UK, which differs somewhat from the USA. Earning it will also help me demonstrate the skills needed to teach at third level in the UK and Ireland. Since earning SFHEA, I have subsequently applied for the highest available credential in this program (Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Teaching Academy/PFHEA), although the application wasn’t successful. I’ll hone my record and try again.
Research Supervision/Mentoring Skills
I have been advising a full-time PhD student at London South Bank University (LSBU) since the start of my MSCA fellowship. The student’s viva is scheduled, and on track, for August 2020. I have also mentoring 5-6 early career researchers. My activities in this realm include:
Mentoring a physics researcher through TU Dublin’s researcher mentoring program
Serving as PI for a new MSCA IF application in engineering education submitted September 2019 (which was not funded in 2019 but will be enhanced and resubmitted)
Mentor for peer reviewers with the Journal of Engineering Education (appointed in 2018)
Expert/external reviewer for applications to Fulbright Ireland (2018, 2019)
Leadership in Publishing
In the realm of journal production, I was appointed and has served as:
Associate Editor, IEEE Transactions on Education (2018-present)
Editorial Board, European Journal of Engineering Education (2018-present)
I serve as a peer reviewer for an academic journal in my field:
Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (2019-present)
IEEE Transactions on Education (2017-present)
European Journal of Engineering Education (2016-present)
Journal of Engineering Education (2013-present)
Incidentally, I also provided expert advice to the publisher of two children’s books, although I generally consider this activity to be “Outreach”:
Scribble Architecture, STEM activity book by Usborne Publishing Ltd.(in press)
Scribble Engineering, STEM activity book by Usborne Publishing Ltd.(2018)
Leadership in Research Networks
Opportunities to provide leadership that emerged as a result of this MSCA include:
Chair, Research on Engineering Education Network (January 2020-present)
Vice-Chair, Research on Engineering Education Network (2019-2020)
Governing Board, Research on Engineering Education Network (2018-present) and member of sub-committees including recruitment and selection of upcoming conference hosts
Nathu Puri Institute at the London South Bank University (2018-present), serving on, for example, an interview panel for new director of the Institute (2018) and a member of the Institute’s think tank.
Marie Curie Alumni Association, Ireland chapter organizing committee (2018-present)
Leadership in Funded Projects
Providing grant-writing leadership, I advised Dr. Carlos Mora in securing €56,000 in funding from the Cabildo of Tenerife in Spain to conduct education projects under a project titled “INGENIA” or “Ingenuity” to support sustainability education (I am listed as the co-PI on this grant). I also secured a £11,200 donation to UCL CEE from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineers via Engineers without Borders UK (the funds will support my ongoing work with UCL’s CEE).
This MSCA is intended to broaden career prospects, and it definitely has. Even though I chose to return to my home university at the completion of the fellowship, I brought with me a contract valued at €237,727 allowing me to provide curriculum development services to the University College London Contracts (UCLC) over the three-year period following my MSCA fellowship (2020-2023).
In 2019, I also served as an expert evaluator for the European Commission (COFUND fellowship program).
Researcher Training sessions completed
I could provide images to go with each of these, but then I’d never get this posted… so I’ll just share the list. Each was interesting and informative and most of these activities opened a pandora’s box of ideas and possibilities.
UCL online training module and certificate earned in Safety
UCL online training module and certificate earned in Green Awareness
UCL online training module and certificate earned as Green Champion
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Finding Your Voice as an AcademicWriter
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, An Introduction to Research Student Supervision at UCL
Researcher information session organized by the Irish Research Council, Opportunities to collaborate with UK-based researchers
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Creative Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Taking for Researchers
Informational workshop on MSCA programs held at DIT
UCL Arena Guidance Sessions: Initial Guidance
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Leading Collaborative Projects
UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education’s event, In Conversation With… Angela Saini and Louise Archer
UCL Astrea Voices workshop: Choosing your journey
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Writing Books and Book Chapters
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Managing Your Reputation
UCL Arena Senior Fellow Guidance Session: Developing your application
UCL day-long Education Conference 2018 at the UCL Institute of Education
Nathu Puri Institute Thought Leadership discussion and dinner in April
SRHE day-long workshop, Migration and academic acculturation
SRHE day-long workshop, Developing curriculum, learning and pedagogies in STEM subjects: the case of Engineering
SRHE day-long workshop, Phenomenography: An approach to qualitative research in higher education
UCL LLAKES Seminar by Louise Archer Why can’t we solve the science participation ‘crisis’? Understanding young people’s (non)participation in post-16 science
Attended a UCL “Town Hall” to better understand the administrative structure of this research-intensive university, Finding a new place in society for universities
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop Publish or Perish: Getting Collaborative Social Science Published
One-day Inaugural Spring Colloquium of the UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network, held in Newcastle
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, The Superior Performer: How to Work to Your Strengths
SRHE day-long workshop, Publishing Academic Articles: A way through the maze
UCL Researcher Development Workshop, Induction for New UCL Research Staff
Attended a half-day of UCL conference on Impacts of Gender Discourse on Polish Politics, Society & Culture Comparative Perspectives reservation
UCL workshop, Provost’s Welcome to New Staff
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Writing and Publishing Research Papers
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Increasing Impact – Gaining Positive Media Coverage
Attended two-day Inspirefest celebrating women in technology, held in Dublin
Attended four-day conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) in Salt Lake City
Attended one-day symposium at the Royal Society sponsored by the RAEng and UCL CEE, Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium
Second Nathu Puri Institute Thought Leadership Event at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG
Attended two-day 7th International Symposium of Engineering Education (ISEE 2018), hosted by UCL
UCL day-long Researcher Development Workshop, Storytelling Skills for Teachers and Presenters
UCL Arena training for fellowship applicants at principal level, PFHEA Lunch session
Attended five-day conference of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI 2018) in Copenhagen
Attended three-day International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL 2018) plus events of the International Conference on Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP 2018) in Kos Island, Greece
UCL online training module and certificate earned in GDPR
SRHE day-long workshop, IS THERE (STILL) ROOM FOR EDUCATION IN THE CONTEMPORARY UNIVERSITY? Exploring policy, research and practice through the lens of professional education. Seminar 3
Lecture organized by the Irish Fulbright Commission, Creative Minds: In Conversation with a NASA Astronaut
TU Dublin (formerly DIT) online training module and certificate earned in GDPR
TU Dublin 2.5-hour workshop by Dr. Bill Williams, Getting published in engineering education research journals
Attended half-day IEP Research Away (Half) Day
UCL full-day workshop, Building Research Leaders
UCL Career Centre workshop, Effective Academic Interviews
UCL workshop, Providing learning experiences that enable students to acquire the right mix of knowledge, skills and competences
UCL two-hour workshop, Using and understanding bibliometrics
UCL full-day workshop, Influencing and Negotiating
UCL two-hour workshop, Copyright for Research Staff
UCL Arena Principal Fellow Guidance Session: Developing your application
Expert evaluator training briefing for the European Commission
Attended two-day spring symposium, EERN 2018 (UK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network) in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Attended two-day Inspirefest (women in tech) in Dublin
Attended two-day engineering education conference, ISEE 2018 (7th International Symposium of Engineering Education) at UCL
Attended four-day engineering education conference, ASEE 2018 in Salt Lake City
Attended five-day engineering education conference, SEFI 2018 in Copenhagen
Attended three-day engineering education conference, ICL/IGIP 2018 in Kos
Attended three-day higher education conference, SRHE 2018 (Society for Research in Higher Education) in Newport, Wales
Attended three-day annual conference, MSCA General Assembly 2019 in Vienna
Attended two-day spring symposium, EERN 2019 (UK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network) in Dublin
Attended four-day engineering education conference, ASEE 2019 in Tampa
Attended two-day MSCA IF monitoring event, education sector, in Brussels, June 2019
Attended three-day engineering education conference, REES 2019 in Cape Town
Attended four-day engineering education conference, SEFI 2019 in Budapest
Attended one-day conference of UK Engineering Professors Council and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, New approaches in practice, 2020
Attended two-day annual conference, EERN 2018 (UK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network) in Coventry, UK
Attended 14 lectures at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture’s International Lecture Series (2018, 2019) and at least 7 other lectures in the Faculty of Engineering.
Outreach to Support Educators and Researchers (Workshops and Invited Presentations Delivered)
I provided workshops on research techniques for Early Stage Researchers as well as experienced researchers. I also provided workshops on teaching (learning theories and innovative teaching techniques) for educators. These are presented alphabetically by country:
Edström, K., Bernhard, J., van den Bogaard, M., Benson, L., Finelli, C., CHANCE, S. M., & Lyng, R. (2018). Reviewers, reviewers, reviewers! Workshop at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2018 annual conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Edström, K., Bernhard, J., De Laet, T., CHANCE, S. M., (2018). Doctoral Symposium. One-day pre-conference workshop at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2018 annual conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
De Laet, T., Williams, B., CHANCE, S. M., & others (2018). Engineering Education Research. Workshop by EER Working Group at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2018 annual conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Edström, K.,Benson, L.,Mitchell, J., Bernhard, J., van den Bogaard, M., Carberry, A., & CHANCE, S. (2019). Writing Helpful Reviews for Engineering Education Journals. Workshop at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2019 annual conference in Budapest, Hungary.
Hannon, P. K., Berry, D., CHANCE, S., Core, M., & Duignan, F. (2019). Physical computing: A low-cost project-based approach to engineering education. Workshop at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2019 annual conference in Budapest, Hungary.
Miminiris, M., CHANCE, S. M., & Direto, I. (2019). Recognising and understanding qualitatively different experiences of learning in engineering: Variation as a learning tool. Workshop at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) 2019 annual conference in Budapest, Hungary.
CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Gender Equality in STEM Education. Presentation delivered at Irish Marie Curie Alumni Association’s Gender Equality Workshop Programme on 3rd December 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.
CHANCE, S. M. (2018). MSCA fellowship experiences. Presentation delivered for Dublin Institute of Technology’s EPA & IUA MSCA Research Information Workshop Programme.
Govender, S., CHANCE, S., & Direito, I. (2019). Fostering Inclusivity in Engineering Education in the South African Context. Two-day Master class conducted for the University of Cape Town’s Engineering Education Existing Staff Capacity Enhancement Programme.
Akinmolayan, F. & CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Facilitating group & Problem-Based Learning in the context of engineering education. Two-day Master class conducted for the University of Cape Town’s Engineering Education Existing Staff Capacity Enhancement Programme.
CHANCE, S. M. (2020). Becoming Civil: Outcomes of a Marie Curie Fellowship with CEGE and CEE. Lunch seminar for UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education in London.
Bathmaker, A., CHANCE, S. M., & Wheelahan, L. (2019). Understanding and conceptualizing knowledge in professional and vocationally-oriented higher education: Beyond time management and interpersonal skills. Workshop provided Thursday 16 May 2019 for the Society for Research on Higher Education in London, UK.
CHANCE, S. M. (2019). Learning theories in engineering: A US perspective on student development. A class session for UCL’s new MSc in Engineering and Education.
CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Summary of National STEM Educational Policies in Relation to Girls’ Experiences in Physics in Europe and into the Engineering Pipeline.Society for Research in Higher Education conference 2018 in Newcastle, UK.
Direto, I., Malik, M., & CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Conducting Systematic Literature Reviews in Engineering Education Research. Workshop to the UK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network (EERN) annual conference 2018 in Portsmouth.
Leão, C. P., Soares, F., Williams, B., & CHANCE, S.(2018). Challenges, experiences and advantages in being a female engineering student: voices in the first person. Presentation at the UK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network (EERN) annual conference 2018 in Portsmouth.
CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Implications for Irish policy of women’s experiences in STEM education in Ireland, Poland, and Portugal. UK & Ireland EERN Spring Colloquium 2018 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
CHANCE, S. M. (2018). Supporting diverse students: Findings from a longitudinal study of female engineering students in three countries. Lunch seminar for UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education in London.
As part of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship (MSCA IF), which ran 2018-2020, I learned new skills in project management. Two of my six work packages (WPs) focused on project management: WP3 was for developing a special focus issue (which turned into producing two issues of in the journal IEEE Transactions on Education), and WP6 was for managing the MSCA grant itself.
In this blog post, I describe activities in these two work packages. I also identify what impact I wanted to have with the MSCA grant and share photos with colleagues.
Incidentally, the photo above was taken with Prof. Emanuela Tilley (of University College London, UCL) and Dr. Folashade Akinmolayan (of Queen Mary University London). Emanuela is a highly organized and productive manager and she serves as the Director of UCL’s award-winning Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP). She’s been a fabulous role model for me in learning these types of skills.
Below are two more colleagues from UCL, who worked with Emanuela and me in the Engineering Faculty Office.
The other three pictures are taken with colleagues from the States, showing how I helped transfer knowledge and learning across the Atlantic and back as a result of this grant.
WP3, Special-Focus Journal Issues
The intention of WP3 was for me to learn publication skills related the engineering education research (EER). In the MSCA application, I promised to deliver a publication-ready document to a publishing house by month 24 of the two-year grant. Ultimately, I found I was able to spearhead development of two different special focus journal issues. I exceed my own expectations by working proactively. In fact, both of these journal issues were already published by month 24, and are currently informing the EER community.
The special focus issues I spearheaded are cited as follows:
CHANCE, S., Williams, B., Goldfinch, T., Adams, R. S., & Fleming, L. N. (Eds.). (August 2019). Special Issue on Using Enquiry- and Design-Based Learning to Spur Epistemological and Identity Development of Engineering Students. IEEE Transactions on Education, (62)3. DOI 10.1109/TE.2019.2923043.
CHANCE, S., Bottomly, L., Panetta, K., & Williams, B. (Eds.). (November 2018). Special-focus issue on gender in engineering in the IEEE Transactions on Education, (61)4.
At this point, I am leading the development of a third special focus issue–this last one is for the Australiasian Journal of Engineering Education–and this project is extending my reach farther across the globe.
The third special focus issue, now under development is:
CHANCE, S., Strobel, J., Mazzurco, A., Hattingh, T., & Villas-Boas, V. (Eds.). (forthcoming May 2021). Special Issue on Ethics in Engineering Education and Practice. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (AJEE).
An intention for this new issue is for the two lead editors (Chance and Strobel) to help mentor the three other guest editors through the process to enable them to lead development of future special focus issues in EER. I’m thus delighted to report that Teresa Hattingh was recently appointed as Associate Editor of a new EER journal out of India.
WP6, Project Management
The intention of WP6 was to keep the grant well managed from financial, quality assurance, and reporting standpoints. The main requirement was to provide essential information to the European Commission regarding the progress of the grant.
During the MSCA IF, I followed University College London data management guidelines. My research projects were identified as “low risk” to human participants and followed the established guidelines.
Under this WP, I had promised the following deliverables: a Career Development Plan (CDP), a mid-project report, and a final report. The CDP was developed and uploaded to the Participant Portal in the required timeframe. I also developed a mid-project report but, as there was no portal available for uploading it on the EU reporting platform, I posted the mid-term report to my blog and sent a link to my program officer.
Three-quarters of the way through my MSCA-IF period, I participated in a monitoring session in Brussels. It was held for Marie Curie Fellows doing projects in education and learning sciences. The set up was new, and this session was one of the first of its kind. Feedback I received there for my MSCA work was positive; no alterations to my projects were requested.
A PDF of the overall final report is available on my website for anyone to see and it has now been downloaded 234 times since I made it available. The blog page where it is posted has been viewed 486.
I believe posting the PDF is making a contribution in that a lot of MSCA fellows are curious to see what a report looks since there isn’t much information available online, meaning that most people can’t work on their reports until their grant actually finishes.
From the outset, I wanted my MSCA work to enhanced public perception of engineering as a fun and creative field. I also set out to help:
increase the focus given by engineering educators to the developmental patterns of engineering students;
improve student retention as a result of increased support;
enhance diversity, as techniques to support minority students are increasingly utilized;
improve overall teaching in engineering education as a result increasingly credible and useful research;
provide increased focus on ethics and sustainability in engineering education; and
produce tools and models to help engineering educators foster creativity and engineering firms contribute to realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
My plans for dissemination and exploitation of results was fully realized (and, in fact, exceeded). I believe that all critical objectives proposed in my MSCA application have been fully achieved, and the list of deliverables exceeds the original promises. Many additional manuscripts that are currently under development using data collected during this fellowship will continue to achieve impact in coming years.
Last weekend we tested out our new car-mounted bike rack. We researched good cycling routes, loaded the bikes for an overnight trip, and struck out Saturday morning for Wexford, the sunniest county in Ireland. On the island’s southeastern-most tip, County Wexford enjoys the highest number of summer days per year on the island.
We parked the car at our hotel in view of Rosslare Harbor, with its ferry port and boats to France, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe and fueled up with a sandwich.
Then we set out to find peaceful waters by bike. The port is the starting point for the Irish leg of a major European cycling route, with three sub-routes circling the area. It’s part of a larger European system of touring-friendly cycling roads.
Our cycling route this day totaled about 37 km and, with its loops, provided us options if we ran out of steam. We didn’t run out though! We chose tranquil little roads, were passed by the occasional car, puzzled at the road signs, and asked other cyclists for advice. GPS really helps with navigating roads in Ireland, but groping around can also be fun.
Our first stop: Ladys Island, also called Our Lady’s Island. The island itself is a bird sanctuary, and the peninsula beside it is accessible to people and is a religious pilgrimage site. We completed the pilgrimage route by bike. There was evidence of recent outdoor masses beside the castle-like ruin. We explored a old cemetery, recently reclaimed from the brush. There were many people walking and cycling in the area.
The church here reminded me of the one in Staunton, Virginia, called St. Andrews, where my grandmother went. Designed during the same neo-Gothic loving era, I’d say, and not terribly old.
We enjoyed the sounds of all the lovely birds and then we struck out for Carne Beach. It was beautiful and blue and the water seemed warm enough for a swim although we didn’t try. We just enjoyed the sun, sounds, breeze, and colors.
Then we cycled a long stretch to Rosslare village and beach. It was packed with weekend holiday-makers so we didn’t stay long. Turned away from a restaurant at 4:30 PM, we decided it was best to find food without delay. Rosslare doesn’t currently have capacity to serve many in restaurants and it was full of blow-ins from Dublin, like us.
We cycled back toward the Harbor and were fortunate to find the last table at Culletons of Kilrane where we enjoyed one lovely plate of fish and chips and another of salmon-wrapped cod. The high quality of the food was a pleasant surprise! And pulled pints of Guinness to boot!
The pub we tried before this one was filled by funeral-goers from the burial we’d passed earlier in the day, near Lady’s Island. As an Irish person, Aongus is 100% certain the pub booking was linked to the funeral. This is the only possible explanation, he insists. As an American, I’m not sure I can explain how he knows, even though I read up on funeral rites in the book “How to be Irish” by Daniel Slattery. Actually, I’ve read that funeral chapter twice, but some details still evade me.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel and settled in for the night. The cycle route here is lifted off the street and was safe enough even after a pint of Guinness, which Aongus says was rocket fuel for me. I virtually flew home.
Breakfast wasn’t well organized at the hotel, but Supervalue did the trick. We ate on the back deck of the hotel, then packed up and drove back to Lady’s Island to soak in a bit more birdsong and delicate tranquility.
The highlight of our whole trip came at the end, with an impromptu invitation to lunch at the holiday home of our friends Richard and Geraldine. I’d stayed the night with them once before here in Rosslare, between days of RoboSlam events that our team conducted throughout county Wexford, but Aongus had never been to their home.
As we’d only chosen this destination the night before, I messaged Richard on the way down to see if they might be visiting Rosslare on this particular weekend.
Geraldine and Richard arrived in town after us, but welcomed us with (virtually, not literally) open arms! I thought we’d meet at a cafe or on the beach, but they were eager to have guests and graciously invited to their place, nicknamed “Five”. Try finding that on Google Maps!
This was my first time visiting with friends in person since mid-March, and it was really good for my mental health to reconnect with beloved others. I even got to expand upon my new-found knowledge of Irish politics and governance by sharing ideas and perceptions with them.
County Wexford and the Hays family gave us a lovely weekend and we look forward to visiting both again!
Something was about to change here in Dublin on the night of March 11th. I knew this, and thus felt hesitation as well as excitement for an interesting day as I headed into work on the 12th.
You see, TU Dublin had an Open Day planned to show female high school students about our apprenticeship courses. My colleagues and I had put a lot of work into planning this, although we anticipated things could change due to coronavirus. Later this day, life was to shift decisively about our world here in Dublin.
The Last Day ‘Open’ at TU Dublin
We waited anxiously for word from the university about closures. In the meantime, we took care. Although plans went ahead and during this Open Day, the new norms of hand sanitizer and social distancing appeared. Wee conscientiously worked to hold intimate conversations about life plans at a two arm’s length–not an easy feat in a loud and active space like the lobby of Linenhall, home of the TU’s Dublin School of Architecture.
Attendance on this Open Day was higher than one would expect given the uncertainty of life, but not as high as the past year. Only a portion of those who reserved places made it to D2 that day. It was well worth my own four-block walk into work to meet girls from as far as Wicklow who’d ventured up to meet us.
I provided tours of the facilities–bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry, metal fabrication, painting and decorating, laser cutting and 3D printing, automated fabrication–at Linenhall and Bolton Street where apprentices learn. Those taking our sampler program, “Access to Apprenticeship” get to use to all these workshops, and to complete a small project in each to help them determine which to specialize in by completing a full course.
At the end of the event we heard that campus buildings would close that night at 18:00; after this, classes would meet only online.
The BIM modules we offer in my program did indeed meet that night, all online, thanks to the collaborative working platform my colleagues use to teach BIM. Kevin Furlong, Barry McAuley, and Emma Hays took it all in stride and kept on delivering! I was truly impressed.
Working it out during Covid-19
I already worked half time on research, so I actually labored from home 50% of my working hours, pre-Covid. For me, work life after the 12th of March looked pretty similar to before–lots and lots and lots of time at my laptop. There was less variety, though, and much less human contact.
I missed feeling creative. I wasn’t able to blog, as I didn’t feel reason to celebrate during a time of fer and hardship.
I got work done, but not with my normal level of zest.
The first two weekends after the campus shut down, we weren’t yet asked to isolate (we never officially ‘locked down’) but the government was asking us to keep our distance from others.
My household has one other person, Aongus, and this fact has kept me sane during isolation. I’m glad I haven’t had to go through this pandemic living alone. That said, my guy has much higher exposure to the outside world than I do, and could inadvertently drag Covid-19 home at any time.
As you probably know, Aongus and I really enjoy our weekends. We love getting out, exploring the world, getting exercise, fresh air and sunlight. In fact, not feeling pangs of guilt for taking weekend off is a major reason I moved to Europe from the USA. You’ll recall that Aongus and I made the most of every minute in London during my two-year fellowship there. We had plans to make the most of our precious weekends together in Dublin upon our return.
A Sunday at Greystones Beach
Sliding into a new normal, we had a couple weeks to adjust to freedoms and habits that were slipping away. We were still allowed to drive and explore, but were required to stay away from others. Our gym was still open during this time, as well, though we were distancing.
On Sunday, March 15, Aongus and I drove out to Greystones, where we were able to distant from others on the beach. We enjoyed the solitude in the cool winter breeze off the Irish Sea.
And we learned that lunches and loos were few and far between. From this day forward, we packed sandwiches whenever we ventured out, and planned ahead for long period of loo-less-ness.
The difficulty finding these that day told me that things were going to change more radically. We drove to some favorite spots hoping for lunch, but couldn’t stop because they were packed with people.
We did, however, find joy in simple pleasures: an apple, the sunshine, and loving company.
Holi-day at Bull Island Marshes & Dollymount Strand
St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday, so we made another trip trip to the sea, still pre-lockdown (to use the phrase lightly–we’ve never officially ‘locked down’ in Ireland to the degree of many other European countries).
Although Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been cancelled, and tourists discouraged from coming, we residents were still allowed out, but asked to keep our distance.
Aongus and I headed out to Bull Island, by car, as was typical for us before coronavirus. Walking and Dublin Bikes were our other main forms of transportation, and where they didn’t bring us, a bus or car would. “Back then”, we would never have dreamed of cycling to Bull Island or Dollymount Strand; they seemed so very far away.
Bull Island is a favorite among Dubliners though, and when we arrived the beach looked far too crowded to allow the distance I required, so we instead explored the marshes.
My colleague Damon Berry had recommended that I check them out, and this was the first time I latched onto the idea. Aongus and I had a nice picnic in the dunes.
Of course, we hoped to find passage across to the beach by way of the dunes, but the waterways prevented that. Nevertheless, we enjoyed discovering a tranquil strip of Bull Island where few people venture.
By the late afternoon, the beach had cleared out (it was the bottleneck along the wall that had presented the problem passing others) and we were able to visit the strand, which is called Dollymount.
As you can see, Dublin is quite chilly during March, but any opportunity to go outside, walk, and soak in the sunshine is prized.
The lifestyle we had known was quickly sliding away. Soon after our visit to Bull Island, the period of isolation began. Aongus and I essentially hibernated for weeks. I was able to keep working from home. He, as a construction site project manager, was able to do some limited amount of work from home and was allowed on site, alone, occasionally, to do essential work, or check for security.
As we have a range of grocery stores (Fresh Market, Lidl, two Centras and a Daybreak) within 1-4 blocks of our flat and the food supply chains serving Dublin never let us down, we were able to source food easily and have learned many new recipes with what we can find in these stores.
That 2km radius we were allowed to travel from home for the purpose of exercise kept us sane, and we looked forward to weekends, hoping and praying for sunshine.
The Irish government has allowed domestic travel since June 29, and has been encouraging residents of the Republic to holiday inside the country to help revive the Irish tourist sector. Aongus and I were happy to oblige and we headed out for a four day weekend to the west of Ireland.
Unbelievably, my Irish man—born in Dublin and raised speaking Irish—had never been to Dingle! This rainy little fishing village is a favorite of Americans, and I’ve visited several times since my inaugural trip there in 2003.
This particular overnight stay in this lovely little town included dinner at The Fish Box (amazing!), bed and breakfast at Bambury’s Guest House, and a kayaking trip guided by Irish Adventures.
And yes, we saw Fungie first hand, just 30’ or so away. Such a friendly and adventurous dolphin who has graced Dingle Bay since 1983. The tourism industry loves Fungie, with hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people boating out to visit the people-living dolphin daily.
On our kayaking trip were four learners—a couple from Cork and a mum and son from Dingle—and two instructors. A family of five got their own guide and travelled apart from us.
It was such a treat to pal around with Irish people enjoying their own home place. Truly an ideal time to visit. Especially since the seas were too rough for boating two days before and two days after our own outing. We really lucked out!
The pubs of Dingle were still closed during our visit, so there were no trad music sessions to enjoy, but we were able to do a little shopping. I picked up some exercise gear in hopes of our gym opening next week, and I also purchased a Cornwall Seasalt brand scarf to replace the one I dropped at Bonobo’s of Smithfield in February that so unkindly was never handed over to the lost and found.
Social distancing was easy in Dingle and we look forward to exploring more of Ireland as time, weather, and government guidelines permit. We were so very thankful for this one precious day of fun and glorious weather.
Special thanks to Noel of Irish Adventures for excellent instruction and leadership of the tour as well as his gift to me of an Irish Adventures baseball cap. They had actually run out of new caps, but gifted me one off their very own head! And it’s already perfectly broken in. Pop it in the wash and it’s good to go!
The photo gallery below shows an approach to Dingle via the Connor Pass (with new Wild Atlantic Way signage), the town of Dingle at sunset, and our morning out on the weather. Stay tuned for more pics of Kerry to come!
Bernadette Balentine is the host of Engineering Matters, and in podcast 59, she featured guests from Mott MacDonald, Canada’s Corporation of the Seven Wardens, Engineers Without Borders UK, the University of Leeds, the UK’s Institution of Engineering and Technology, and me, a Visiting Professor at UCL. You can find it at this link.
The podcast tells a fascinating story about a catastrophic bridge failure that happened in Canada, explaining how the overall engineering profession there responded by developing and adopting a strict code of ethics.
The overall podcast is 37 minutes, and I’m featured only briefly (around minute 28.5). In this post, I’ll provide a little more detail on the work I’ve been doing that led me to be included.
As you probably know, I was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at UCL for two years, and I still serve as a Visiting Professor there at UCL. I have a keen interest in the built environment and I’m also a registered architect in the States with LEED-AP credentials. My research specialty involves how people learn engineering and architecture.
During the Fellowship, Engineers without Borders UK came to me asking for help with research idea. As a result, my team and I conducted a small-scale qualitative study where we interviewed nine civil/structural engineers practicing in London about their perceptions of ethics and, specifically, of global responsibility—what it means and how they enact global responsibility in their day-to-day work. I reported this research while speaking with Bernadette for the podcast.
Bernadette asked what factors we had identified that prevent engineers from acting on ethical beliefs. Here’s some of what I said:
Even when early career engineers see opportunities to do something in a better, more ethical or responsible way, they often have trouble getting the idea accepted. Cost and time constraints limit their choices. Small and private projects nearly always prioritize cost and over environmental or social sustainability.
Early-career engineers can influence material selection and thus carbon footprint to some degree, but many other decision are out of their scope of work. Crucial decisions were made long before they got involved. They select materials, run calculations, and make more detailed decisions, but they are often involved in a small portion of any given building or infrastructure project. Even when they see an opportunity to do better on a private project, their client usually only accepts it is the idea if it also saves money or time.
That said, larger public projects provide more opportunity to protect the public good—and they hear about public discussions. But it’s other professionals, such as architects and planners, who often drive those discussions. On the other hand, the senior managing engineer we interviewed was quite able to affect things on a large scale; he had quite a lot of sway in decision-making and frequent opportunities to protect public Health and Safety. He took pride in doing so, and he also reached out to help mentor others to develop such skills.
Early-career engineers told us they lack reliable tools for calculating environmental and social impacts of various options. Quite surprisingly, most don’t recall having discussions in university about sustainability. While they say ethics was probably covered in their professional practice classes, none of this was covered in a way that was “sticky” enough for them to recall it. Most learned about this after university, through CPD courses, their own research, and company induction programs on Health & Safety and anti-corruption with an implied focus on anti-bribery.
Overall, the early career engineers in our study expressed:
A lack of tools for demonstrating benefits of environmental or social action
Some degree of shortfall in training/preparation
Feelings of disempowerment due to decisions being made further up the business or by clients who didn’t value sustainability
One of the most important findings of our study was that the engineers felt empowered to act on job-site Health and Safety more than other areas. Job-site Health and Safety was the one thing, they said, that consistently trumps cost. They were also clear on company rules for reporting gifts.
This led me to wonder: Might we use the levers that facilitated sweeping change across job-site H&S and anti-bribery to facilitate quick change in other areas related to ethics—specifically environmental and social aspects of sustainability and justice?
A helpful example was relayed by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, Korean Airlines went from having one of the world’s worst flight safety records to one of the best, and they did this by changing their own culture (with help of consultants) to allow individuals to raise concerns and challenge authority without personal retribution, without fear of reprimand.
I believe engineers need more of this type of empowerment and protection. The narrative Bernadette Ballantyne has woven on “Empowering Ethical Engineering” illustrates how Civil Engineering in Canada did precisely this.
It’s well worth a listen, regardless of whether or not you “engineer” things!
Meanwhile, stay tuned for more details of our study, as we prepare various findings for publication in research journals. Many thanks to my research collaborators Inês Direito, Rob Lawlor, and John Mitchell, and the Advisory Board appointed by EWB-UK to help guide our work. Financial support came from the European Commission via my Marie Curie Individual Fellowship and a grant to EWB-UK from the Royal Academy of Engineers UK.
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.
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’ 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.
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?
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.