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Q&A with Mina (Vina) Rahimian

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Mina (Vina) Rahimian

Mina (Vina) Rahimian, a native of Iran, is a second-year Ph.D. candidate in the Design Computing Research Cluster in the Department of Architecture, graduate assistant for the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and founder/organizer of the “City, Energy, Information” symposium and workshop, which will be held Feb 3-4, 2017 in the Stuckeman Family Building on Penn State’s University Park campus. The symposium is free and open to the public. The workshop is by invitation only.

How would you describe the symposium to people interested in attending?

On one hand our cities are facing serious energy-related issues, and on the other, we’re in an era in which new technologies are impacting our lives and how we interact with our cities. “City, Energy, Information” is about adopting technology and information as tools toward an energy-efficient future.

What made you decide to create and host the symposium?

Our Ph.D. program in Stuckeman is pretty new, and not many people are aware of what research in architecture looks like and how multidisciplinary it can be. It’s about much more than history and theory. My intention and hope is for people from other disciplines to get to know more about one of many multidisciplinary research discussions that architecture is involved in.

Can you summarize your own research?

I’m generally interested in the fields of the microgrid, smart grid, and big data. My research focus might not seem very architectural, but you would be surprised how much architecture has to do with it. I’m conducting research on evaluating and optimizing microgrids' energy performance relative to their urban form features and spatial variables. As an output of this research, I'm developing a software tool that runs energy assessment and evaluation operations on spatially designed microgrid scenarios.

What were you doing before you came to Penn State?

In 2013, I came to Penn State to do my post-professional master’s degree in architecture. Before that I was doing my undergrad in architectural engineering in Tehran, Iran.

What do you like best about the Penn State Department of Architecture?

The thing that I like best about my department is the fact that you are free to work on any research you may desire. You are allowed and most welcome to research beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture. For example, my research is very multidisciplinary, as it requires knowledge in statistics, architecture, urban planning, and computer science. The faculty is very supportive and open to new ideas.

When did you know what you wanted to study?

You’ll be surprised, but it was summer 2016! I had the opportunity to spend my entire summer in San Francisco, and I got the chance to meet great scientists and researchers in the tech industry. I can say my vision about the path I was taking got clearer during that time. I feel I found my way!

What are your plans after Penn State?

After majoring in architecture and statistics, I would like to get into the tech industry.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

As a woman, a wife, and a researcher, definitely Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer at Facebook) has been the most influential person in my life.

What makes you a good role model for young women thinking about studying architecture?

The good thing about architecture is that it is very multidisciplinary in nature. When someone sees it from outside, this is something they might not realize. I think I can be a good role model in terms of being confident in doing multidisciplinary work and not being afraid of exploring territories that have not traditionally been defined in the realm of architecture.

What advice would you give students, particularly young women thinking about studying architecture?

Be confident in what you do, and always remember that YOU are the expert in what you do!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Being an expert in what I’m doing, hopefully in the tech industry.

What is the hardest thing about living in a different country/culture?

Being away from family and missing birthdays, weddings, and even funerals is certainly the hardest part.                                                                                                                   

What is exciting about this symposium?

The conversation emerging from this symposium will be very diverse. We have researchers coming from Google’s spinoff “Sidewalk Labs,” Arup, Fraunhofer, and MIT Media Lab. What makes it more interesting is that the Department of Architecture is hosting it. This can be a starting point for more multidisciplinary events and dialogues happening at Stuckeman.

Who is sponsoring the symposium?

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities (where I am a graduate assistant), Stuckeman Center for Design Computing (SCDC), and the Department of Architecture are sponsoring it. The “City, Energy, Information” symposium would have never happened without the support of Michael Bérubé and Lauren Kooistra at the IAH, Jose Duarte (Director of the SCDC), Lisa Iulo (Director of Energy Efficient Housing Research Group), and Mehrad Hadighi (Head of the Department of Architecture).

For more information about the “City, Energy, Information” symposium and for a schedule, visit the symposium website: