|Graduate Student Profile
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Degree Sought: Ph.D. Architectural Sciences, Built Ecologies Concentration
School of Architecture
Year of graduation: 2013
Background and Accomplishments:
Bess is now an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at Syracuse University. Her PhD. dissertation focused on an experimental design framework for the technical transfer of emerging display technologies to building envelope applications and she is currently developing new methodologies for deploying these information rich patterning techniques into dynamic solar responsive building envelopes. She has co-taught technical and design studios focusing on the integration of environmental data feedback loops into design processes. Bess is a HASS Fellow and has published and presented this research area in several forums, including a major installation at the Hendershot Gallery in Manhattan, as well as for several peer reviews including SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics), the international journal Interiors, ACSA and ACADIA.
What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?
Prior to my entrance into the Rensselaer Graduate Program in Built Ecologies, I spent two years of professional work in New York City at Lubrano Ciavarra Architects. In my role as a Design Associate, I developed critical communication and management skills through commercial and residential urban projects, balancing client needs while coordinating between manufacturers, engineers and designers. Most importantly, my professional involvement in a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project in East Harlem, New York, provided first-hand exposure to the challenges and frustrations of designing affordable housing because very little consideration is given to the different needs of its inhabitants. Financial constraints and concerns with maintenance made designing energy-efficient living spaces of variable environmental quality nearly impossible. Through my design experience on this HUD project, I recognized the urgency for sustainable building technologies that can address the variable needs of a diverse range of people.
Following my professional experience, I entered a Masters of Science at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) at Rensselaer. Here I was able to pursue an area of inquiry that began with my theoretical undergraduate architectural thesis while beginning to address the socio-environmental concerns I faced in the profession. My Master’s Thesis focused on the technical transfer of emerging display technologies for building applications, whereby the visual effects of responsive “switchable” windows were measured according to their energy performance. Understanding ways in which a sustainable building facade technology enables user empowerment through individual environmental control became a critical focus to my doctoral research. The Institute’s reputation for promoting interdisciplinary relationships between architecture, engineering, science and the humanities inspired my decision to pursue my graduate course of study at Rensselaer.
Describe your project and its’ purpose? (Only if there is a specific project that we have previously discussed or if you have been involved in class project that is worthy of noting)
In my doctoral work I’m developing an experimental methodologya custom-programmed interactive design environmentfor testing the user accessibility and energy performance of emerging sustainable technologies. The experimental approach, the Dynamic Design Framework, was selected to be explored, tested, and exhibited during the 2012 SmartGeometry international architectural workshop and symposium hosted by Rensselaer. During this conference I led participants in a workshop focused on the design and testing of both the Dynamic Design Framework and the Electropolymeric Dynamic Daylighting System (EDDS) from the user’s perspective.
What are your plans following graduation?
Following my Ph.D. studies in Architectural Sciences at Rensselaer, I plan to reinforce the interdisciplinary relationships developed through my dissertation and to continue exploring, designing and testing new methodologies for integrating human factors into sustainable research and practice. My future career plans include teaching at the graduate level in environmental architectural design and research. Through education at the academic and public level I will continue to emphasize the socio-cultural potential that emerging technologies offer for next-generation sustainable built environments.
When I’m not working on my dissertation, I spend my free time experimenting with photography, bike riding, gallery hopping, antique shopping, playing soccer, and spending time with family, friends and colleagues.
What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?
Rensselaer’s graduate population is a diverse, enthusiastic, and motivated group of individuals with very different academic and cultural backgrounds. At the CASE studio laboratory, we’ve established an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment where I’ve learned to incorporate valuable and multi-disciplinary input from my peers into my own research, both from students at CASE and with colleagues in other Rensselaer graduate programs. As a graduate student community, we work together on research, but also take the time outside of the lab to form great friendships through peer mentorships and scheduling social gatherings. We make sure to attend museums and lectures in New York City together, as well as campus events such as EMPAC performances, lectures and exhibits.
What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?
The graduate program is very challenging and extremely rewarding, and the outcome of the graduate experience here is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. You’ll form lasting relationships with friends and colleagues for life.