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Design and Innovation Building Grand Opening: UCSD’s front door to community collaborations

In November of 2021, the UC San Diego Design Lab unveiled their long-awaited new home in the recently constructed Design and Innovation Building, or as it is affectionately referred to, the DIB. The DIB will serve as a hub for academia, industry and community innovators to participate in design events, lectures, and other working partnerships within the design community that aim to create human-centered solutions to the complex problems facing our region and beyond. The grand opening of the DIB showcased the potential for such gatherings, boasting the presence of organizations like the UCSD Design Co., Girls Who Code, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, to name a few. Such groups showcased current and past projects to the students, professors, and industry leaders in attendance. 

The opening of the DIB marks a momentous occasion in the history of the Design Lab, as the building itself, which is a multi-use environment bringing together multiple disciplines under one roof, represents the journey and philosophy at the heart of the Design Lab’s mission–making UC San Diego a world center for design research and education that fosters a new way of thinking, which addresses the core issues with a systems point of view, and emphasizing the role of people in the complex systems of the modern world.

Interdisciplinary Powerhouse: Pinar Yoldas is a Perfect Fit for the Design Lab

Pinar Yoldas describes herself as an interdisciplinary designer, artist and researcher whose current research revolves around speculative biology, in which she designs and creates what could possibly be the next steps of evolution regarding human tissues, organs, and bodies. Evolution, in the eyes of Yoldas, includes the potential for humans in the future to possess modular bodies in which humans can interchange or add on additional sexual organs. 

She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Department at UC San Diego and a member of The Design Lab. While she earned her PhD in Visual and Media Design from Duke University, her interests and credentials don’t stop there. Yoldas also holds a MFA in Game and Interactive Media Design from UC Los Angeles; a MA in Visual Arts from Bilgi University; a MS in Information Technologies from Istanbul Technical University; and a Bachelors of Architecture with a minor is Sociology from Middle East Technical University. Combining her passions for science, art, and undoubtedly, education, Yoldas has impressively served as a bridge throughout her career between five different disciplines and serves as an inspiration for the pursuit and practical application of interdisciplinary science and art studies.

Nazima Ahmad is Putting People Over Profits by Connecting Art and Design at the Design Lab

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our communities are more important than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways in which we experience and perceive community—sometimes even causing us to feel that it has vanished. The past two years have been an uncertain time for those involved in the arts, with many creative professionals being impacted by dwindling audiences and interest. Nazima Ahmad, a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab, noticed the crumbling connection between artists and consumers and sought to find a way to mend it. Working with fellow designer Michelle Hoogenhout, the two were able to come up with City Canvas, a concept developed in collaboration with the Arts and Commission Department of the City of San Diego that won the 2020 SCALE San Diego Urban Innovation Challenge that works to make connecting with local artists easier for San Diego residents.

“Working with the city on that project was all-around trying to figure out how to promote the creative economy of San Diego,” says Ahmad of the goal of the project. Not only was the project a great success at Design Week, but it is also what led Ahmad to The Design Lab.

How They Got There: Janet Johnson

Graduate student Janet Johnson is currently working towards her doctorate degree in Computer Science, while also conducting HCI research in the UCSD Design Lab, primarily focusing on XR (extended reality).

So, what is Johnson’s research?  Johnson conducts HCI research, primarily focusing on XR. As Johnson describes it, “XR is an umbrella term for augmented reality, augmented virtuality, mixed reality, and virtual reality.” She says to think of it as a spectrum where one end is the real world alone, the other is complete virtual reality, and everything in between is varying mixes of the two. Johnson’s research primarily focuses on this mixed middle ground. “The majority of my research focuses on how we can use mixed reality or extended reality to help a novice…get help from an expert.” She then poses the example of both surgery and CPR. Johnson’s research explores ways for an expert to provide instructions to the novice as if though they were in the same room. Her goal is to help bridge the distance between novices and experts, both physically and skill wise, while also decreasing the amount of time a person receives aid. “By the time a medical personnel arrives at the scene, it’s already been 7 to 10 minutes, so each minute counts for the person’s life,” she explains. “You don’t have time in that 10 minutes to train the people around to be able to do CPR or any other sort of resuscitation, same with surgery.” 

As Johnson continues to conduct her research in this field, she’s excited for what the future holds for this technology and the ways she can contribute to it.  
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