2022 Student Cohort

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Amanda Wojtasiak

Masters of Architecture

Florida International University

Biography: I am a 5th-year graduate architecture student at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. I moved
to Miami four years ago to pursue a master’s in architecture through the Accelerated Master’s Program. I
have completed 9 design studies and joined the Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab as a research
assistant at FIU. I have explored my interests in digital fabrication and robotics while collaborating with
faculty and students on several NSF and sustainability-oriented projects. This has provided the
opportunity to explore my passion for prototyping and programming through robotics and 3D printing. I
believe climate-responsive design and sustainability will transform how we build and take on the
challenges of climate change.
CLDBES provides the opportunity to explore the efforts made by global institutions, groups of students
and researchers toward sustainable design. The skills that the program intends to help us develop will
take me to the next level of learning and communication between multidisciplinary and multicultural
communities.

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Vishal Muralidharan

Iowa State University

Biography: Human impact on the modern state of the global climate has always been a deep concern for me. As engineers, it is our responsibility to apply science towards solving real-world problems. With degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, I have no formal background in efficient urban planning, yet I have always been keen to learn more about how we built the world we live in today.  For my Ph.D., I have the good fortune to work on the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, a multidisciplinary effort that seeks to integrate social, biophysical, and climatic models to evaluate the impact of sustainable agricultural practices on urban settlements. One of my objectives as a part of this effort is the energy simulation of buildings. We are attempting to simulate the effects of evapotranspiration of nearby trees on buildings using the Building Energy Simulation Engine, EnergyPlus. We are also interested in simulating vertical green walls and the effects they can have on incident heat flux into the building and its associated energy consumption. 

 I learnt about the CLDBES through my advisor, Prof. Baskar Ganapathysubramanian, and Prof. Ulrike Passe. This opportunity gives me an ideal environment further conduct my research. It also provides an exciting platform to work, learn and share with my peers in the Built Environment and Thermal and Fluid Sciences community.  

Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering

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Thomas Firsich

Texas A&M University

Biography: Thomas received B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. During his undergraduate
years, he worked in a research lab and later spent 9 months working at Trane Residential as an R&D
Engineering Co-op where he found his passion for research that would lead him into a graduate degree
program. Thomas is currently a second-year M.S. thesis student in Mechanical Engineering working in
the Building Energy and HVAC&R Research Group. He is interested in the smart home technology field
because of topics including advanced control strategies, high-performance HVAC equipment, IoT sensing
networks, and more that push the bounds of innovation for residential buildings. Some of his current
research involves instrumenting a smart home testbed to enable this research and building modeling
using Modelica so that he can help bridge the gap between academia and industry. With experience
from programming throughout his education, he wishes to leverage data-driven techniques in building
science.
The current climate crisis and the effect that humans have had on the environment are the central
motivations of his work. Throughout his life, Thomas has had the chance to visit the jungles of Jamaica,
scuba dive in Cozumel, ride a dog sled on an Alaskan glacier, and hike through some of the national
parks in America and Canada. These experiences are what he hopes to preserve for others as he works
to improve the world we live in by reducing the impact that we have on the environment.
Thomas believes the CLDBES program will provide a fruitful opportunity to create international
relationships for collaboration and refine his research techniques. The program will allow him to work in
a multicultural setting and improve his leadership skills as he builds these connections.

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Zachary Colligan

Masters of Architecture

Washington State University

Biography: Zachary Colligan is a M.Arch student from the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture at
Washington State University (WSU). Born in Seattle, WA, he grew up surrounded by mountains, forests,
and a bustling city center that celebrated the natural world around it: this defines him and his approach
to design—one which celebrates the natural world. He received his bachelor’s in architectural studies
from WSU with a focus in landscape architecture. His research at WSU's Integrated Design and
Construction Laboratory investigates the communication divide between the building occupant and the
operator and its impact on energy consumption.
He sees the CLDBES program as an invaluable opportunity to meet and work with international research
teams, to learn by collaborating with experts from different cultures and perspectives, and to share his
own experiences and diverse set of skills. During his time in the program, he seeks to improve his
familiarity with architectural research, his confidence with professional leadership, and his fluency in
intercultural communication.

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Richard Kimball

Ph.D. in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Drexel University

Biography: Richard Kimball is a Ph.D. student in the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department
at Drexel University as a part of the Building Science and Engineering Group (BSEG). Before engaging in
the Ph.D. program, he received a B.S. and M.S of Architectural Engineering concentrating on Building
Energy and Indoor Air Quality from Drexel University. His original plans were to graduate with an M.S.
and work in the architecture field in Philadelphia however through his undergraduate schooling he
discovered a growing interest in sustainability in the built environment. He felt that with the education
he had received, it would have been irresponsible to not apply it and do his part in the ongoing global
climate crisis. His current research concentrates on using machine learning-based methods in the forecasting of
residential building energy and system control when occupants and their comfort and behaviors are
considered. It is an extension of his master’s thesis work which investigated the connection between
indoor environmental quality and occupant comfort status in university offices. His future research plans
are to develop a bottom-up approach to connect occupants in their homes with their larger
community’s energy usage to help inform people of the impact they can have on the current global
issues.
This Leadership Program in Built Environment Sustainability is a great opportunity for him to collaborate
with other driven individuals in this field and to learn how to better push his future research endeavors
towards a more active and responsible role in built environment sustainability.

M.S in Mechanical Engineering