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Research & Outreach

The primary goal of our department’s research efforts is to inform the design of built environments that are socially and environmentally responsive as well as aesthetically pleasing. The Architectural Studies faculty lead theoretical and applied research in two broad areas – environment and behavior and design with digital media. Faculty embrace inter-disciplinary collaborations and recent research partners include Engineering, Arts and Science, Education, School of Medicine, Thompson Center for Autism and Reynolds Journalism Institute, among others. Faculty also collaborate with peers in other leading programs at Penn State, Texas A&M, University of Colorado, Florida International University, Iowa State University and University of Alabama, among others.

Faculty in the environment and behavior strand of research investigates how the built environment impacts psychological experience and shapes the way people live, work and play. Peer-reviewed presentations and publications emphasize multi-faceted relationships between people and their physical, social, and cultural environments. Research of our recently retired senior faculty focuses on settings for the elderly addressing needs for special populations such as those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Research interests of our newer faculty in this area deal with social aspects of sustainability – in particular, how green buildings act as learning environments for the next generation and the impact of buildings on sustainable behavior.

Faculty in the design with digital media strand of research investigates how emerging digital media technologies and practices impact the design process that results in high-performing and aesthetically pleasing buildings. Research in this area is centered on the cutting-edge infrastructure for Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Building Information Modeling (BIM) as well as virtual and augmented reality at the Immersive Visualization Lab (iLab). Most of the infrastructure for research and creative computing at the iLab was established through internal and external grants. Creative visualizations and simulations of faculty in this area have been displayed at national level showcases. These include the immersive reality symposium bringing together academic and industry projects involving virtual and augmented reality hosted by Penn State and the Oculus NextGen event sponsored by Facebook.

Architectural Studies department been successful in attracting over 9 million dollars in external research funding in the last six years at an average of 1.5 million a year. The department is home to a significant grant ($1 million each year for 5 years through 2021) from the Department of Health and Human Services for the Great Plains ADA Center. Department in partnership with MU Extension is the recipient of an ongoing $450,000 USDA grant for National Healthy Homes Partnership each year. In addition, collaborative projects with other units where our faculty are Co-Principal Investigators or Co-Investigators have secured federal funding from the National Science Foundation, Federal Highway Works Administration, Missouri Department of Transportation, Army Research Lab, and gift-in-kind from companies like Facebook, Steelcase, and Eaton/Cooper Lighting. Faculty have also been successful with internal research funding securing over $250,000 over the last five years. It is the result of a conscious shift in our perspective on grants from a discipline-centric approach to a problem-centric one to maximize opportunities. Our investment in research infrastructure and stable collaborations with other units positions us very well further boost our research productivity over the next five years. These external and internal grants provide numerous research assistantship opportunities for our graduate and undergraduate students.