R. Lee Lyman’s childhood backyard was nestled between a tall plateau and rolling hills of wheat. Growing up in the southeast corner of Washington state, he knew that, if anything, he wanted to spend his life being outside. So when his uncle asked him and his brothers to help him look for buried arrowheads, his parents ushered the boys out to explore. “When you’ve got three boys who are 6, 8, and 10, you want to keep them busy. And that was one way to keep us busy — go dig holes looking for arrowheads.” When Lyman went to Washington State University, memories of those outings were fresh in his mind. By his sophomore year, he was majoring in anthropology. Working one of his first paying jobs as an archaeologist and having just completed a course about how to identify animal bones, Lyman found himself captivated by his ability to explain the bones in archaeological sites.
So-Yeon Yoon admits that while she has always liked computer games, even as a young child, she has also always enjoyed painting and drawing. Yoon describes her watercolor paintings and how for her the creative process is “very addictive”: “I like colors and creating something beautiful, and creating things on the computer actually gives the same kind of fulfillment.” She is attracted to three-dimensional (3-D) images and experimenting with different textures and colors. Thus it is perhaps no surprise that Yoon found herself drawn to the field of architecture and interior design—“a perfect match” in which her creative desires and her interest in computers could merge. Today, the assistant professor of Architectural Studies focuses her research and teaching on the areas of Human Environmental Psychology and Interior and Architectural Design. Her current research combines information technology with interior design and architecture, a composite field in which she applies technology, particularly virtual reality (VR), to interior design problems.
Bin Wu has been responding to real-world problems related to industrial systems design for twenty years. “When we talk about industrial system design,” he explains, “we are talking about how to put facilities, people, and information systems together so that this system can function for whatever purpose it was designed to serve,” whether to manufacture or to supply. Traditionally, says Wu, when designing an industrial system our main consideration was always productivity – how to produce or manufacture things more efficiently. Three years ago, however, the MU Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering received a wake-up call that changed the direction of his work.
José Garcia puts on and takes off many hats during the average week, owing to the extension, teaching, and research dimensions of his work as Extension Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology. For instance, as Coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at MU (CFSSA), Garcia spends most of his time doing outreach with rural communities throughout the state. A common misunderstanding some people have about the term “sustainable agriculture” is that it rejects technology, harkening back to an earlier time when people worked mainly with their hands. Quite the contrary, Garcia clarifies: sustainable agriculture uses the most recent technology in its approach to farming (and to food itself), in which economic viability and environmental impact, along with social responsibility, are at the center of every decision. In relation to this last dimension, approaches to sustainable agriculture ask such questions as the following: “How socially responsible are farmers? What is the impact of their operations on communities, families, and workers? And how connected to the community are they? ” Garcia explains the complexity of the situation: “All of those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration when making decisions because food and agriculture are totally connected to people, to communities, and to laborers.” Thus Garcia provides information and training to people about various aspects of agriculture – whether that involves farms, factories, schools, or other community organizations. He hopes to see a ripple effect, with the information he gives to various community educators in Missouri being spread throughout the state.
Going far beyond maps, as one might presume, “Geography is the study of human-environment interactions,” explains Soren Larsen, Assistant Professor of Geography at MU. The discipline as a whole covers activity ranging from physical geography (e.g., wind erosion and weather patterns), techniques (e.g., modeling air pollution with GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, to understand the interactions between humans and the environment), and something called human geography, a subfield that focuses on the political, economic, cultural, urban, and regional elements of human-environment interactions. Human geographers cast their eyes on “the impact of the environment on human behavior,” as well as “the impact of human activity on the environment.” Within human geography Larsen specializes in cultural geography. While traditionally that may have entailed mapping the distribution of various cultural traits to track changes over space and time, cultural geography today is much more process-focused, drawing heavily upon the methodologies and theories of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.
Because of her lifelong interests, So-Yeon Yoon was drawn to the field of architecture and interior design. It was “a perfect match,” one in which her creative desires and her interest in computers could merge. Today, this assistant professor of Architectural Studies teaches focuses her research and teaching on the areas of Human Environmental Psychology and Interior and Architectural Design. Yoon’s current research combines information technology with interior design and architecture. That is, she applies technology, particularly virtual reality (VR), to interior design problems.
Wu says it is important to raise awareness on energy efficiency in an academic setting. “If I have to scream, I will scream,” he says so earnestly. Wu provides an array of helpful examples on how to converse energy, such as replacing one light bulb: “All we need to do is to change our habits, leave our way of living a little bit. In the end, it is quite significant. There are so many things we can individually do that will collectively have an impact on our environment and on the next generation… and I just hope we all begin to take this with a sense of urgency.”
Following years principally involved in research, Wu now spends more time working with both students and the public on energy efficiency and the environment. As he puts it, “I feel very strongly that every one of us needs to do something and behave in responsible ways, individually or collectively, [to] do something about it.” As an educator, Wu gets the message out to his students, who he says are the future: , “It’s really a very fulfilling thing to do. I have been a professor for all of my professional life—doing research, writing books and other publications, and teaching. I can honestly say that what I’m doing now regarding energy efficiency is absolutely the most fulfilling.”
Bin Wu, Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, has been researching, teaching, and consulting within the field of industrial engineering for twenty years. “When we talk about industrial system design,” he explains, “we are talking about how to put facilities, people, and information systems together so that this system can function for whatever purpose it is designed to fulfill – for example, to manufacture or to supply. Traditionally, when we designed a system, the main efficiency considerations were related to productivity.” About three years ago, however, Wu received a wake-up call: his son’s birth created a sense of urgency to address environmental issues, and specifically energy efficiency. He realized then that when designing and improving systems, particularly industrial systems, “energy has got to be a very important consideration, if not the most important consideration.”
Most of Jose Garcia’s work involves doing outreach and teaching about sustainable agriculture to various groups of people, from farmers in rural Missouri communities to students, faculty, and staff at MU. There are three dimensions emphasized by use of the term “sustainable agriculture” explains Garcia. “Because food and agriculture are totally connected to people and to communities and to laborers,” sustainable agriculture refers to an approach to farming and food, in which economic viability, environmental impact, and social responsibility are considered in any decision.
Larsen, who started out as an undergraduate English major, found himself writing about place, a sense of place, and the identities associated with it. Seeking to understand cross-cultural variations in terms of a sense of place led him to the discipline of anthropology, and it was through ethnographic research that Larsen finally reached geography. His past research projects have involved sharecroppers in the Tennessee River Valley, who were relocated by the TVA dams, as well as with the Cheslatta, “a small Indian band in British Columbia, Canada, that had been relocated from its traditional lands in 1952 in order to make way for a hydroelectric project that was being constructed by the aluminum company of Canada.” In each case, Larsen sought to understand traditional land use practices, naming practices, and what places mean to people of different cultures.
“Geography is the study of human-environment interactions,” Larsen says of his discipline. It covers activity ranging from physical geography (e.g., wind erosion, weather patterns), techniques (e.g., modeling air pollution with GIS to understand the interactions between human and environment), and human geography. Human geographers focus on the political, economic, cultural, urban, and regional elements of human-environment interactions, looking at “the impact of the environment on human behavior,” as well as the “impact of human activity on the environment.” Within this subfield Larsen specializes in cultural geography, seeking to understand traditional land-use practices, naming practices, and sense of place.