Learning London: At the lovely Bethnal Green library

img_5776Aongus and I stopped by the public library in Bethnal Green over the weekend since I wanted to show him its glorious architecture. It’s in the park we traverse en route to the Central Line Tube Station. The woodwork and the natural lighting in the reading rooms are superb.

And since Aongus selected a new thriller from the shelf, it freed the copy of “Brooklyn” he was carrying along in his bag. I dug it out of his bag on the Tube and read much of it in the course of over our weekend adventures. Granted, I normally read non-fiction since it’s much less addictive. Once I get started with a novel, I can’t put it down.

img_6125As such, I’m nearly finished reading the novel now. It is, as you probably recall from the contemporary motion picture by the same name, about a young Irish woman who boldly moves, alone, across the Atlantic to start a new life. I empathize with her experiences and I recognize many of the places she describes–both in Brooklyn and around Enniscorthy town and county Wexford, her original home. I’ve enjoyed both the book and the feature film but have learned more about Ireland form the book.

Aongus borrowed the paperback of “Brooklyn” from the Idea Store in Whitechapel–a modern edifice but also lovely. It was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, who we learned much more about later in the weekend while visiting the Desing Museum. More on his exhibition in a future blog!

In any case, Aongus and I are very lucky to live near great libraries here in London!

Learning London: How office trivia aboard a double-deck tour landed me “The Language of Cities”

I’ve been spell bound all day by Dayan Sudjic’s 2016 book, “The Language of Cities.” I purchased the book after work yesterday to keep my knowledge of city-building fresh and up-to-date. I made that find at Waterstones, across the street from my office in Bloomsbury, and sealed the deal with a £10 gift card I won at Christmas.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve devoured every last page.

img_3672The Faculty if Engineering held a team-building event for Christmas, aboard a private double-decker bus that toured around the city of London. I got to know other members of our faculty as I sat with three people I didn’t previously know. Our table of four formed a team for the trivia contest, developed by our Dean’s personal assistant, the marvelous Maria Speight. Maria invented all the questions, having to do mostly with the sights we were passing. Excelling in this game required in-depth knowledge of the history of this fine city, which dates back to Roman times.

My team was fiercely competitive, and the two Brits in our team knew quite a lot about their city. I worried I couldn’t contribute; but I actually was able to help out.

I earned us a whopping nine points by knowing the name of every reindeer! In the end, there was a three-way tie. It took several rounds to break, but in the final round, I knew the winning answer. I had learned the population of London via my multiple visits to the city’s Building Centre. At the time the video at the Centre was made, there were about 8.8 million inhabitants. I extrapolated to today, guessing a current 8.9 mil, whereas Maria had an official count of 8.79…. Nevertheless, our answer was the closest and we won the top prize: Waterstones gift cards for our whole team!

What a great way to spend a day before Christmas, on a sunset tour of a glorious city, surrounded by passionate people who love their work in academia. I am truly blessed!

And now, I’ve soaked in every detail of Dayan Sudjic’s “The Language of Cities.”

The book calls me back to my days teaching “urban history and theory” to third-year architecture students at Hampton University, a module we provided students prior to their summer study abroad.

img_3706Sudjic’s book is full of insight, making fascinating new connections, so the synapses in my brain have been firing furiously today! Sudjic makes plenty of reference to the history and operation of London as well as cities around the world, and I am connecting the principles to places I’ve been.

Sincere thanks to the Dean and Faculty of Engineering at UCL and Ms. Maria Speight for helping get this book into my hands so I can learn more about the city we toured by double-deck bus!

The photo gallery below shows the bus-tour day as well as an informal night out for Christmas with engineering colleagues.

Learning London: Enjoying the (bus/fellowship/research) Journey

img_5651When you’re supervising a Ph.D. student, s/he usually comes to you for meetings. In my case, however, I travel over to LSBU twice a month to meet with my supervisee, Thomas, and his primary supervisor, Professor Shushma Patel. I’m doing this for several reasons:

  • It helps ensure Thomas gets effective advice that coincides. That helps since Thomas’ work and his conceptual thinking are very complex and we can work together to make sure all the parts fit together coherently.
  •  As part of my Marie Curie Fellowship, I’m also in training myself. As part of Work Package 4, Training, I’m supervising Thomas. This is an excellent way to build skills supervising students. Once Tomas successfully completes his Ph.D., I’ll be eligible to serve as a primary Ph.D. supervisor at TU Dublin and other institutions. This will surely make my applications for future funding more enticing to grantors, in cases where I’m proposing to “train” others in research.
  • In this case, I get to learn from Professor Patel, Thomas’ primary supervisor, who has impressive experience guiding doc students. I’m the second supervisor.
  • Meeting with Thomas and Shushma is loads of fun!

In advising Thomas, I get to draw from many aspects of my past experience–design creativity, environmental sustainability, engineering teamwork, and higher education (its organization and inner workings).

We usually spend about two hours in each meeting, as there are multiple facets to our work:

  • Most importantly, Thomas is writing a thesis (which in the United States we call a “dissertation”). It will include case studies of innovative engineering production. This is the central focus of our work.
  • Thomas is implementing his background research in designing and delivering The Great Challenge competition for the Design Museum, as I blogged about last week.
  • We’ve had an abstract accepted for a conference on product design education and we are developing it into a full paper, to submit in early March.

These meetings are delightful! We connect lots of synapses and we most definitely grow our brains while discussing complex inter-related issues.

img_5647-1The appetizer for the main-course meeting at LSBU each week is the trip there. I take a different route than I take to work daily and, on these days, I enjoy getting a bit of exercise. The fastest route to their campus is by way of the DLR, which is a 15-minute walk away from our flat

The cake-and-icing of the day? The double-decker-bus trip back to UCL! I love taking the London Bus from LSBU near Elephant and Castle, past Waterloo and the London Eye (the city’s giant Ferris wheel), across the Thames, over Strand Street, past Holburn Station and then straight north, through Bloomsbury, past Russel Square, to Tavistock Square. Then, it’s a short walk to the Engineering Front Building.

img_5672-1All parts of the journey are full of interesting sights!

Today on the big red bus, I got my very favorite seat–right above the bus driver, perched high above the street. The lovely sunlight today helped me overlook the bitter cold, and enticed me to snap even more photos than usual. You can see shots of the trip overall, with a frame-by-frame of some of my favorite areas.

I disembarked at Tavistock Square where a ceremony to commemorate Gandhi, held on the anniversary of his death, was concluding. The Square was magical and I felt Gandhi’s presence and the sense of peace he cherished–until I slipped on some black ice and nearly took a fall. Thankfully, I–or perhaps the spirit of Gandhi–caught me on the way down. I escaped injury.

img_5680Lessons of the day:

  • Completing a Ph.D. is a journey, best done with a collegial group of curious, knowledgeable, creative, and good-natured people.
  • A Fellowship also provides a gateway from the ordinary day-to-day routine and facilitates journey into the unknown.
  • There’s no better way to traverse the city on such a day than London Bus.
  • Seize the day and enjoy the journey. Make the very best of it you can.

AND:

BE THE CHANGE YOU HOPE TO SEE IN THE WORLD! –Mahatma Gandhi

 

The Many Senses that Matter in Transportation Design

list of senses by nick tyler

Attending the 2019 opening session of “Design of Accessible Transport Systems” reminded me of the need for designers of all sorts to consider a wider array of senses than the five that normally come to mind. This postgraduate course/module is taught by my primary research supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler.

According to Nick, human senses can be psychological, as we normally picture, but they can also be environmental and interpretational.

Psychological

Psychological senses include the main five that we all recognize: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But the list doesn’t end there. Far from it!

Other psychological aspects involve balance, proprioception (defined on Wikipedia as “the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement), pain, vestibular awareness (having to do with vertigo), embodiment (essentially, seeing a person or thing as a clearly defined whole with clear boundaries), and temperature.

Environmental

Nick identified the following environment-related senses: rhythm, harmony, color, space, direction, pitch, time, and comfort. As an architect, I’m quite familiar with considering all these in the process of design.

Interpretational

Interpretational senses are even more subtle. They include the senses of self, ownership, justice, history, culture, politics, care, emotion, fear, wellbeing, safety, emotion, pride, responsibility, and symbolism. And, all clearly important to understand when designing anything for people.

During the class, meeting, Nick’s students practiced using tools to simulate various impairments, or as Nick calls them, different capacities.

Introducing PEARL

I had attended the class meeting to get another view of Nick’s research center at Tufnell Park, which is named PAMELA. This center will soon have a sister, named PEARL, as described by Nick in an email he distributed to his faculty last November:

November 19, 2018

Dear All,

Last Friday UCL Council approved the investment of £37.8M [37.8 million GBP]  in our PEARL facility (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory), which will be a successor to PAMELA. This investment supplements a £9M [9 million GBP] contribution from BEIS, so the department will have the benefit of a new £47m [47 million GBP] research facility to add to its facilities in Gower Street and Here East. PEARL is the UCL component of the UKCRIC multi-university laboratory complex for research on Infrastructure and Cities.

PEARL will be a 9,500 m2 [square meter] facility, of which 4,000 m2 will be a laboratory space for building 1:1 scale environments and testing them with people — this means that we could have a 100m-long street, or a small town square, or a railway station with 4-carriage trains, station concourses etc. instrumented so that we can study in detail how people interact with such environments. The facility is available for use for transdisciplinary research and teaching where these require the use of big, instrumented, highly configurable space, and it will have a large and significant engagement with the local community.

PEARL will be located in Dagenham.

Huge thanks are due to Nigel Titchener-Hooker, who led the negotiations through UCL to secure this investment.

It is a massive vote of confidence in the department!

Yours,

Nick

Nick Tyler CBE FREng FICE FCIHT FRSA
Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering
Director, UCL Centre for Transport Studies
UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
+44 20 7679 1562
@nicktyler4 @ucl-squared

Nick’s research is really making a difference–globally as well as right here in London– and I’m honored to have a first-hand view on some aspects of his work.

The two photos at the end of the gallery below explain more about PAMELA, and how to get involved as a participant in Nick’s research studies for people who live in or near London.

Learning London: Barbican and the Design Museum

We took things pretty slow last weekend — but in addition to reading a couple of journals manuscripts in my queue to peer review, I hit the town with Aongus en route to two design exhibitions.

Saturday, we visited the Barbican’s Art Gallery for the exhibition called “Modern Couples.” It was packed with visitors since the show is scheduled to close soon. And possibly also because it was so cold outside!

I’ve uploaded photos of the Barbican complex as well as a few related to the exhibition, to give you a feel for it all. There was on display an iconic table by Eileen Gray, one of Ireland’s most-recognized designers. (I just found that a house she designed was evidently “vandalized” by Le Corbusier.)

Aongus always delights in seeing a price tag on an Eileen Gray table, since we found one in the trash one night and carried it home. It was raining that evening in Dublin, and Aongus truly didn’t comprehend the table’s value at the time I hoisted it over my shoulder to carry home. Now he does! Ours is chrome, but there’s one in black matte finish in the book store there as well as on formal display.

The things you can find abandoned in dark alleyways…. It’s always best to have a tall, fit companion when you’re transversing such places at night, I have found. Especially if you wind up carrying furniture home! He soon was doing just that — but I made a good start in an effort to convince him of my undying love for this table. Now he loves it too.

After the Barbican pics below, you’ll find videos and snapshots from our Sunday adventure as well. We went westward, to visit the newly-renovated Design Museum in Holland Park, just off Kensington High Street. It’s about time I got to the new building, especially since my Ph.D. student, Thomas Empson, has become so involved there.

We didn’t view the paid “Future Homes” exhibition as our attention was held by a free exhibition of the permanent collection and another free show on Peter Barber and company, who seek to provide affordable housing in our city and beyond. The exhibition is called “100 Mile City and Other Stories.” We also attended a tour of the building to learn about its history.

Barbican Complex

 

Modern Couples

 

Design Museum

A bit of fun

You might have to click the little arrow at the bottom left hand of the video. First, we learned to rock. Then we could spin….

 

 

The Building Itself

 

Parts of the Permanent Collection on Display

 

Architecture Exhibition

 

Urban context of the Design Museum

 

Learning London: A day of cream tea and BauBax testing

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Soho at Christmas–but it is lit this way year round!

Aongus and I aim to make the most of every free day we have in London. I’m back at Gatwick now, flying to a speaking engagement in Dublin, and reflecting on the past 24 hours.

After work yesterday (7PM Friday), we met in Covent Garden. First strolling aimlessly, for the purpose of exercise and air, we found ourselves in Soho when Aongus’ hunger pangs won out. We stopped in for Dim Sum at the Golden Phoenix restaurant on Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JE, in the heart of China Town.

Aiming to try new things as often as possible, we thus enjoyed our first dinner on Gerrard Street. The custard-filled buns at the Golden Phoenix were particularly delicious; we will skip ordering a saucy dish next time and stick to the dumplings!

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Cream tea for two at Harrod’s

Today (Saturday morning) we awoke for a trip to Kensington via the London underground. I’d booked cream tea for two at Harrod’s. The store and its surrounding streets had a festive holiday feel.

After tea, we browsed and even made a small purchase (but not Italian luxury furniture, unfortunately!).

In our photos of furniture-testing, you’ll see Aongus trying out his new BauBax 2.0 travel jacket. In a recent Kick Starter campaign, I had ordered us matching bomber jackets. Today we donned these early Christmas presents, and Aongus is delighted with his. I’m an architect and I am quite detail-oriented, so although I’m happy with several of the innovative features, I am not entirely satisfied with the overall product–at least not in the medium size for women.

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Harrods interior stair. The building is a-maze-ing.

It seems to me they tested the BauBax 2.0 design on the large size for men. Several of the features promised–most notably the interior iPad pocket–are too small in the version for ladies. My iPad is a few millimeters too long to fit, and they now say the ladies version will only fit an “iPad mini” which I have not found to be a useful tool. Nevertheless, there’s still a pocket for the iPad pencil. Not too useful if you can’t bring your iPad! It’s important to have pockets when Ryanair won’t allow baggage aboard without add-on fees. I like to travel with as few bags as possible!

So, while the garment does have several nice design features, the final product appears to have been rushed out of the factory. Many of the seams and details in mine are of poor quality. I’ll need to bring it to a tailor to remedy its shortfalls, and I’ll not buy clothing online again.

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Giving an Italian recliner and a BauBax 2.0 bomber jacket a test run

I guess it boils down to the fact that when it comes to buying cars, computers, and clothes, I’m not an Innovator according to Rodger’s Adoption model–those folks bought the BauBax 1.0 on Kickstarter. I’m also not completely comfortable as an Early Adopter, as I’ve ended up with second-iteration products that still needed some refinement–including this BauBax 2.0 and a 2004 Nissan 350Z.

I really loved my Z car but it, and its 2003 and 2004 siblings, came out of the factory without its tires balanced! They didn’t realize that tire-balancing issue until they’d rolled 14 months or so of these two-seat sports cars out of showrooms. Tires started failing at 16k miles and had to be replaced. So now I know definitively–I need to wait for v3.0. Just be an Early Innovator and enjoy the benefits of having a refined design rather than a cutting-edge showpiece.

I am, however, very happy with the smile on Aongus’ face and the fact that he says the shape of the jacket is flattering. Fortunately, with time and use, I’m beginning to identify which pockets can fit which items–which doesn’t exactly align with the BauBax info sheets that we studied meticulously–but I’m finding systems that work for me.

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Comptior on Exhibition Rd

So as you see from Aongus’ reclined testing position at Harrod’s furniture showrooms, we rested a bit on some cozy chairs, identifying ideal options for our future. After discussing chair designs with a furniture rep, we viewed some women’s fashions. We enjoy seeing the bizarre clothing designs on offer here and at Harvey Nichols, but we quickly had our fill and headed out and down to the street.

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Enjoying a chicken tagine

Following a zesty Lebanese tagine at Comptior on Exhibition Road–a cafe we had previously enjoyed with my cousin Kaitlin–we headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum to absorb some art and history. We particularly enjoyed the stained glass and the new section for photography. You’ll see photos of the building and also from the Buddist, metalwork, and photography sections.

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Cameras on exhibit in the V&A’s new photography section

The sun had set and there wasn’t much time before my flight to Dublin, so we dashed to the South Kensington tube station and jumped onto a District line train.

We said a quick but heartfelt “goodbye and see you Friday” as I disembarked at Victoria Station and climbed the stairs to the National Rail station on the ground floor. Despite construction works around Gatwick that delayed the train 15 minutes, I arrived and cleared security with plenty of time for a browse at Dixon’s and a healthy salad from Pret before I hit the runway–putting my travel jacket to work.

Ciao, Britain. See your other side on Tuesday!

Working Hard, Playing Hard: London city models, maker spaces, and materials libraries

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Sums up the week.

Getting back on track after a vacation is always hectic. A road sign I passed today announcing “CHANGED PRIORITIES” summed up the ironies I’ve faced. My first week back (after a holiday in France and conferences in Denmark and Greece) has been a flurry of activity. I had to put a lot of time into recovering lost documents and preparing government applications, and that wasn’t expected. I anticipated being in Dublin this past week, but fate (and lost IDs) sent me in other directions.

Besides trying to make headway with research projects, file expense reports, get back into my gym routine and recover the plethora of bank and identification cards I lost in Greece, I did make time to meet colleagues and explore material libraries, maker labs, and the massive city model of London. The list below attests, though, that I actually got some “real work” done. I’m making progress despite the detours!

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With Dr. Anne Gardner, the new Deputy Editor of AAEE

Chronological highlights of the past ten days have been:

  • Quick catch-ups with both my supervisors, Profs. Nick Tyler and John Mitchell. John is the incoming Editor in Chief of IEEE Transactions on Education, so we had much to discuss.
  • Submitting two abstracts for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2019 conference.
  • Providing input on a curriculum proposal under development at our Centre and module (course) planning for our new MSc in Engineering Education.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Euan Lindsay, of Australia’s Charles Sturt University and making with him a quick trip to the Building Centre’s exhibition on spatial modeling by Zaha Hadid’s lab and the giant model of London.
  • Touring UCL’s Institute of Making, its materials library and maker space.
  • img_0503
  • Thomas Empson’s fabulous RES2 presentation
  • Attending a dynamic, well-structured, and highly successful milestone presentation by my Ph.D. student, Thomas Empson of London South Bank University (LSBU). Delighted to have contributed to Thomas’ success.
  • Touring LSBU’s extensive maker labs (theater and cave for virtual reality, robotic arms, 3D printers using all sorts of materials, high-end laser cutters, and old-school lathes, milling machines, spray booths. Room after room after room. An amazing set of resources for the LSBU engineering community. I was astounded. They also have a small materials library.
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  • A product of LSBU’s extensive Maker Lab, this shell in the shape of a skull was printed in a liquid that contains emulsion and hardens when struck by a laser beam in the printer. Then the remaining liquid is drained away.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Anne Gardner, incoming Deputy Editor of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education and another quick trip to visit the Building Centre.Gaining official approval from the UCL Ethics Committee to proceed with two research projects.
  • Completing UCL’s new online training program for data protection (GDPR), earning 100% on the final test.
  • Reading a UCL publication of guidelines for research staff. This is a very organized place!
  • Reading an incoming manuscript for the special focus journal issue and helping manage the review process.
  • Meeting with an expert in phenomenographical research methods, Dr. Mike Miminiris, to plan for an upcoming project.
  • Scheduling dates for upcoming seminars at UCL (by Dr. Mike Miminiris) and DIT (by Dr. Bill Williams).
  • Meeting with Prof. Simon Philbin, the new Director of LSBU’s Natu Puri Institute (NPI) to discuss strategic direction for the Institute.
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Aongus studying the London model

Over the weekend, I decided to bring Aongus to the Building Center because he hadn’t been yet. We spent most of Saturday with the model of London (using its interactive learning tools and the videos), taking a sneak peek at an exhibition being mounted on modular construction, visiting the special exhibit on the history of the Centre, viewing the Hadid exhibition (mentioned above), and learning about commercially-available building products and materials in the Centre’s massive product library.

That makes THREE materials libraries and TWO extensive maker labs visited in a week! All these are pictured in the photo gallery below.

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New global rankings from THE

I discovered that the new global rankings of universities, by the Times Higher Education, has placed UCL at 14th in the world. Each rating system uses different variables and metrics, so it’s not surprising that this is a bit different than the QS system that has UCL at 7th globally.

On Saturday and Sunday, we also made time to immerse ourselves in London–including the rainstorm on Saturday (oh my). Aongus and I enjoyed delectable meals, including dim sum at Dim T, my favorite fix at Chipotle, and molten cookies at Kingly Court. Saturday evening, we enjoyed the opening of the film “A Star is Born.” On Sunday, Aongus and I visited the Churchill War Rooms.

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Hot off the presses @Usborne #STEM “Engineering Scribble Book” for kids. Loved offering guidance as Eddie and Darran developed the content! @Centre4EngEdu @CREATE_DIT. A university bookstore outside London replied to comments on my Twitter feed. @cccubookstore said “Engineering Scribble Books will be in stock tomorrow. Science Scribble Book on publication in November ;-)”

So far this week, I’ve reviewed feedback I’ve collected from colleagues on three important documents I’m preparing. I spent the better part of a day re-vamping a manuscript to address reviewer comments.

Also this week, I enjoyed meeting a new Ph.D. student at UCL, Aristos, who is studying tidal energy and knows Greek–he has helped me contact the police station in Greece (still no word on my lost items). I had lunch one day with my officemate, Sital, and learned more about her family’s heritage. I meet online with the board of the Research on Engineering Education Network (REEN) planning the 2019 Symposium (REES 2019) to be held in Cape Town July 10-12, 2019. I also met online with Dr. Bill Williams to plan his upcoming lecture and workshop topics.

Ending on a high note yesterday, I received a fun package in the mail–a copy of a book I helped create for kids. I served as the “expert advisor” for Usborne Publisher on a publication called Usborne STEM “Engineering Scribble Book.” It’s the first in a series and it looks great!

With all these unanticipated adventures, I’m wondering if I, rather than fate, will help set my own priorities for the upcoming week. Probably not!

Visiting Professors in London

West End fun with Drs. Eddy and Pape

I’ve been visiting with Professors from the States the past few weeks here in London, and morphing into even more of a Visiting Professor myself!

Two weeks ago, Prof. Pam Eddy and her husband Dave arrived for a week-long visit. Pam was my PhD advisor at William and Mary and she has been an inspiration, role model, and source of advice as I’ve moved across from teaching architectural into researching engineering education. Pam had a Fulbright fellowship to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in 2009. Because I’d set that very same goal—winning a Fulbright grant to work at DIT—in 2003, Pam’s advice on the matter proved indispensable. She shared valuable insight into how Fulbright and DIT operate and she helped me connect with others in-the-know. On my first working trip to Dublin, I got to interview more than half a dozen academics about how DIT works, and this gave me the context I needed to make the most of my subsequent time here. Pam and I even met local scholars together, over another spring break, also before my Fulbright, when we both found ourselves Dublin.

Pam is truly one of the most generous, energetic, and positive people I’ve ever met. I’m beyond lucky to know her and I value her advice—even if I don’t always understand the funny policy-wonk words she uses! 😜

After the excellent musical “Kinky Boots.”

Pam has featured prominently on this blog before, as she’s visited me often in Dublin and we have met up in cities all around the world: Rome, Paris, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. Now we’ve added London to that list. Her professor-husband Dave is usually in tow, and always adding interesting insight, since he’s a former engineering dean.

I’m proud to say this was Pam and Dave’s first trip to the City of London and they really seemed to enjoy the place. I think they will be back!

While here, Pam and I got to work on the journal article we are crafting along with two of my colleagues from the Irish public service. We’ve had our proposal accepted for Policy Reviews in Higher Education, and now we need to pull the parts together and synch them effectively.

Following the departure of Pam and Dave, I had the chance to catch up with another favorite professor, Ron Daniel, and his spouse, Cheryl.

With Prof. Ron and Cheryl Daniel

Ron Daniel was my professor for spring semester of my second year of architecture school. We worked closely together, along with some other amazingly dedicated students and teachers, to create a multimedia extravaganza to celebrate Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ 25th anniversary in 1989. We had nine screens running simultaneously with performance artists dancing throughout the hour-long show. In preparation for that bash, we also silkscreened posters and designed and poured concrete banner stands with welded steel bases—yes, I learned to weld at Virginia Tech!

For the Anniversary show, I was most closely involved with making several of the 16mm films running on three of the nine screens. And I was one of nine diligent students running the projection booth. What a techie I was!

The following year, Ron invited me to teach film workshops to younger students, and that got me into leading activities and events for my peers. Over the next three years, I taught many workshops and also organized trips, including excursions to Charlottesville, Columbus, and New York City to hear visiting lecturers—world renowned architects visiting UVA, Ohio State, and Columbia University.

When I was nearing graduation from VT’s Bachelor of Architecture program, I went to Ron, expressing interest in the teaching role I’d seen older students doing in the past. I hadn’t realized they were actually designated as lecturers. This was a full-time faculty role, and Ron thought I fit the bill. I was soon awarded this one-year stipend position, and looking back, it seems that may have been my first fellowship.

The year lecturing at VT was a success so I continued on to earn a post-professional Masters in Architecture that would allow me to teach in the future at the university level in architecture. Ron was one of my three advisors for that Masters, and the thesis document was good enough to snag a job working as an intern architect in Switzerland for a year, at Studio Martin Wagner. I also helped teach film that year, for the SCI-Arc center Martin directed.

For the past two years, Ron has been working in London. We finally got a chance to catch up in the neighborhood in Barnes where he and Cheryl have lived for the past year. Aongus and I throughly enjoyed visiting in their home, dining out with them, and attending a jazz performance together. Photos of the Cadillac Kings are included in the photo gallery below. What a hoot!

The instrumental roles professors have had in my life is clear. I’m glad I’ve stayed connected with many who have helped grow my abilities.

Prof. Brad Grant

In the past week, for instance, I’ve communivated with Prof. Brad Grant and Prof. David Leslie, who I learned from at Hampton University and William and Mary, respectively. I always enjoy hearing from them! Their kids—Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, Asa Wynn-Grant, and Prof. Tom Leslie are true inspirations as well, and are always raising the bar higher.

And I’m doing my bit to reach out and support others in return. I hope someday the students I’ve worked with will have similar things to say about me. I cherish the ongoing relationships I have with my former students, many enabled by Facebook. Just this week, another one earned his license to practice architecture in the USA. Monteil Crawley joined his wife, Kristina Crawley, with this status. Monteil worked on the design of the Smithsonian’s new museum of African-American History. They both took my second-year architecture studio and Architectural Ecology class. I was Krissy’s Bachelors thesis advisor. Krissy went in to get a Masters from UVA. They have two bright and beautiful children.

Profs. David and Thomas Leslie

Today, I make a point to extend the kind and gracious support to the students I meet, as my professors extended me.

Kendall Brantley and Aongus and me at the Vaudeville Theater

For instance, a colleague of mine from Hampton has a niece, Kendall Brantley, who has been studying at NYU here in London. We’ve met a few times, and I took her for dinner and a play last week, before her trip home.

A PhD supervision meeting with Thomas Empson

I hope the relationship I’m developing with my new PhD advisee, Thomas Empson, will extend far into the future as well. Thomas is a doc student at London South Bank University, and I’ve just been appointed Visiting Professor there to aid in my work with him. Our working sessions over the past few months have been quite successful and I have the highest of hopes for him. He’s a bright student, well organized, and an extremely hard worker.

One of my current supervisors, Prof. John Mitchell, helped me connect to LSBU as a way to meet one of my training objectives. You see, my current fellowships aims to equip and position me to secure funding for larger grants. This is so that, someday, I can lead an independent research team. I’m gradually gaining skills in supervising and in publishing. And I’m connecting the people I know from the USA with scholars I meet here in Europe and those I’m working with globally, through networks like REEN and SEFI.

With London superstars Emanuela Tilley and Folashade Akinmolayan

I’m receiving this training as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at University College London, where I’m also officially classified as a Visiting Professor (which will help me continue collaborating with scholars here even after my two-year fellowship is done, for an additional three years or more). I’ve been learning so much from my new colleagues, like professors-in-the-making Folashade Akinmolayan and Emanuela Tilley.

Building a professional research network, connecting scholars across the ocean, and learning to supervise doc students are all important in building my skills as a researcher. And, they are a lot of fun as well!

 

 

 

Learning London: Transport for Mobility

 

My research supervisor in London, Professor Nick Tyler, is a global expert in transportation systems, with expertise in accessibility. He travels around the world advising transportation planners–and his research also has gone a long way to improve how Transport for London serves people with mobility challenges and various forms of disability.

Transportation Design

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A view from the testing platform, with Professor Tyler and some MSc students.

Nick offered a Masters-level class at University College London in Term 2 and I got to attend the opening day which was held at the research facility he heads, located on the Northern Line up in Tufnell Park.

On the opening day of this course on design for transport engineers, Nick’s students and I experienced what it’s like to navigate common street conditions while blindfolded, hearing impaired, or using crutches and wheelchairs.

The photo gallery provides a glimpse of this opening day. And, YES, it did feel like Back to the Future with Dr. Emmett Brown, who you likely remember as “Doc.”

About PAMELA

PAMELA stands for “Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory.” The lab’s website explains that “PAMELA is a multisensory laboratory for the assessment of pedestrian movement.” In other words, it is a research facility with equipment for simulating real-world conditions at full scale so researchers can study how people with differing abilities deal with specific variables (sounds, ambient noise, varying light levels, tripping hazards, steps, etc.).

“Constructed between 2003 and 2006, the PAMELA laboratory is a novel and highly flexible facility,” UCL’s PAMELA webpage explains, “allowing full-scale pedestrian infrastructure to be built and tested to enable thorough assessment and evaluation. The structure includes a flexible floor surface that represents real ground conditions with interchangeable surface materials and is supported by a range of sensing equipment.” The webpage also describes specific research studies that have made a tremendous difference and yielded huge financial savings in London.

A picture of an underground carriage at PAMELA

Transport simulation research being done at PEARL. Image from http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/news/pamela-develop-pearl/

Introducing PAMELA’s sister, PEARL

In 2017, Nick secured a £9m grant from EPSRC via its UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) program. This will fund the construction of a new and improved version of PAMELA, called PEARL (People-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory).

Connecting UCL and DIT

In May, during my two visits to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), I learned that my colleagues at DIT’s transportation engineers, led by Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, received validation to launch a new, interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSc) degree in Transport and Mobility. I look forward to helping Lorraine connect with Nick so she and DIT can learn from–and hopefully, contribute to–the wealth of experience and knowledge Nick has accrued.

 

Learning London: Four-Day Family Extravaganza

My cousin Kaitlin has been teaching English in Spain this past year. So we (my partner Aongus and I) decided to add a second stamp to her passport and we invited her up to London for an extended weekend

Aongus meet her at the Tube station and guided her home from the airport, with a stop for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Indigo at Richmix. Meanwhile, I sped back via train from my conference in Newcastle and arrived home minutes before them.

We were up bright and early Thursday morning for the start of a whirlwind tour that lasted four days.

On day one, we included:

  • Kaitlin’s first double-decker bus trip, on Bus 8, so as to see St. Paul’s and other prominent sites from the top deck, front row–best seats on the bus!
  • Sir John Soane’s House Museum, full of Roman antiquities and memorable painting and flooded with daylight in every corner.
  • The British Museum, stopping for coffee in the courtyard and visiting the South American and Egyptian sections.
  • Dashing into the Building Centre in Store Street to view the enormous model of London.
  • A relaxing couple of hours in Bloomsbury, for lunch with my UCL colleagues Emanuela and Folashade–our farewell sendoff to Queen Mary University of London for Folashade.
  • A walk to Picadilly Circus and the courtyard of the Royal Academy, with rose petal macaroons at Laudre in the Burlington Arcade, then onward to Green Park, the gates of Buckingham Palace, and a stroll across St. James’s Park.
  • Arriving at Westminster Abbey in perfect time to attend the choral Evensong.
  • A walk to Trafalgar Square and up Strsnd Street to fetch tickets at the box office of The Savoy.
  • A quick but tasty dinner at Itsu, where Aongus joined us after his work day.
  • A delightful evening at the West End musical “Dreamgirls”
  • Wrapping up the day with a walk through Covent Garden, stopping at Gelaterino before our bus ride home

Day two was filled with more adventures. This was Saturday and we headed by Tube to the Bourough of South Kensington and Chelsea for:

  • The Saatchi Gallery (modern art)
  • Kale salad and chestnut/almond waffles at a favorite cafe on Sloane Avenue
  • The Natural History Museum, where we focused on the dinasoaur and mammal exhibitions
  • Drinks and tagines at the Comptoir Libanas restaurant on Exhibition Road where we snagged an outdoor table under the awnings and heat lamps to avoid the evening rainstorm
  • Art-till-you-drop and cultural-encounters-of-all-kinds at the Victoria and Albert Museum (we saw several new wings due to Kaitlin’s interest in world religions)
  • Visits to high-end furniture shops and luxury department stores (John Lewis top to bottom, Herrod’s food courts, and Harvey Nichols tour of floors)
  • Pints at the Wilton Arms to again wait out the rain, and chat with some lively Brits
  • Dinner nearby at the Alfred Tennyson to round out the day and a stroll through high-end alleyways en route back to the tube–admiring the pricy vehicles.

Kaitlin spent day three with a friend she graduated university alongside. I’m so impressed with Kaitlin and all she has learned and done. She graduated first in her university class last year and then came to teach in Spain fresh out of college. She has taught both in a school and also private lessons and she even played soccer competitively, on a team in Spain.

Since it was Sunday and she was otherwise occupied, Aongus and I made the most of the day with:

  • A visit to the Imperial War Museum and the Tibetian Peace Garden, located on its grounds
  • A walk over to Trafalgar Square with a delightful Sunday roast at The Clarence
  • Fancy desserts at the sushi place in Kingly Court
  • Bus ride back to Shoreditch to catch up with Kaitlin at a South American restaurant near our home

On day four, Kaitlin and I had specific plans. We headed to:

  • The Churchill War Rooms, also viewing the exhibition on Churchill’s life
  • The London Eye, for a half-hour trip around this impressive Ferris wheel with its sweeping views of London
  • A quick visit to the National Gallery
  • Our second lunch in Bloomsbury at Dim T, since we enjoyed the one wit Folashade and Emanuela so much
  • A walking tour across University College London’s city campus

We gathered our bags from my office at UCL and boarded the tube for Heathrow, where we bid each other farewell–me heading to Dublin for a week’s work and Kait back to Spain to wrap up her teaching.

It was a truly delightful four days, though I admit I was completely exhausted the day after we parted. It was a treat to get to know this first-cousin-once-removed a bit better and to learn how very much alike we are despite having drastically different parental upbringing. I’m so very impressed with the person she’s become and how intelligent and thoughtful and hardworking and courteous she is. I’m glad I’d worked ahead and could take comp days while she was here so I could really get to know her. It was a rare treat to tour the city with her, and one I hope to have someday again.