Name: Dr Andrew Karvonen
Research institution: Manchester Architecture Research Centre, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester
Research career length: 4 years
Research Council: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: Manchester, England
Brief summary of research: Sustainable cities and the built environment
High school diploma (USA)
BSc in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
MSc in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington-Seattle
PhD in Community and Regional Planning, University of Texas at Austin
Environmental Engineering Consultant
Sustainable Building Consultant
Making our cities more sustainable requires new thinking and new technologies. It also means understanding more about which new ways of living are most likely to be adopted and why. Andrew Karvonen is a social scientist and design practitioner whose research asks these questions, exploring the social, cultural and political aspects of urban sustainability.
My research is inspired by a continual appreciation of cities, and a fascination of studying how they change over time. In particular, I look at the social, cultural and political aspects of urban sustainability. Sustainability is really about ensuring that our technologically advanced world is able to function in a way that uses materials and energy efficiently, producing as little waste as possible. Making our cities more sustainable requires action from governments, industry and the public. It involves adopting the latest efficient technologies and ensuring that companies, markets and consumers buy into it. My research attempts to understand what motivates the different ‘players’ to participate and how they choose to act, in the development of sustainable buildings, neighbourhoods and cities.
In my projects on sustainable cities, I carry out research and analyse data, publish and present my findings, manage budgets and coordinate meetings, communicate my work to members of the public and write research grants. I also teach Undergraduate and postgraduates , and have various administrative and committee responsibilities related to teaching, research, and public service. I review the work of others in journal articles and funding proposals, and carry out private research as a consultant.
I earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering but was never satisfied with the training I received, or with my subsequent work as a practicing engineer. However, I was inspired to study urban development through my work as a sustainable building consultant and realised that I had questions that could only be answered by completing a PhD . This turned out to be a life-defining experience as I was able to explore many avenues before settling on sustainable urban development as my chosen research area.
The process of conducting research is very fulfilling. It requires critical thinking and creativity to connect ideas with actions. Facing the challenges that research presents is a long but very satisfying process. I particularly enjoy interacting with other researchers, discussing and debating ideas. Communicating research results to a wide variety of audiences is perhaps the biggest challenge for all researchers, but when successful, provides an opportunity for sharing your passion with others.
In the end, research provides opportunities to improve all our futures.