Kent State Environmental Symposium Offers Impressive Slate of Speakers and Activities

What is the role of BioDesign in addressing environmental issues we face locally and globally? What does it mean to "design with life?"
Kent State University researchers have some ideas on these matters and will soon put them on full display at one of the institution's top-tier research forums: the Seventh Annual Environmental Science and Design Symposium. The event is just one way the university is making Biodesign a year-long research focus for students and faculty.

Registration is now open for the conference, which runs from March 16-18, and features speakers from Kent and the national and international research communities, including keynote speaker Rachel Armstrong, PhD, of Newcastle University in the U.K.

Formerly the Water and Land Symposium, the conference is now in its second year as the marquee event for the Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative (ESDRI), a collaborative inter-disciplinary effort among Kent State researchers to study and solve problems related to the world's natural and built environments.

"As we continue to develop this initiative, it's gratifying to have ESDRI at the helm of this symposium for second year," said ESDRI co-director Chris Blackwood, Professor of Biological Sciences. "The symposium brings together investigators, community members, practitioners and policymakers from within and well beyond Kent State. It certainly is a valuable undertaking for the university, but more importantly, it has real impact on how we collectively deal with environmental issues facing society."

This year's symposium, themed "BioDesign: Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability," welcomes scholars from Kent State, Newcastle University (UK), University of California — Berkeley, Penn State University, the University of Toronto at Scarborough, and other institutions to present talks and research posters on a variety of topics, ranging from natural resources management to art, architecture, and design thinking.
 Rachel Armstrong, PhD, Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University, will open the symposium with a gallery of her work, entitled "Parallel Biology," on March 16 at Kent State's College of Architecture and Environmental Design. She'll then present the keynote address, entitled "Facing 21st century Nature: Configuring fresh approaches through BioDesign," the following night in the Kent Student Center KIVA. 

In addition to Dr. Armstrong, Kent State also welcomes Maria Paz Gutierrez, M.Arch, Associate Professor in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. Her participation in the Symposium is the culminating event of her participation at Kent State as the ESDRI Visiting Lecturer for 2019/2020.

Kent State speakers include Christie Bahlai, Ph.D., Asst. Professor of Biological Sciences, and Elena Brebenal, MFA, Asst. Professor of Art.
 Beyond an impressive slate of speakers, the symposium will include a workshop on design thinking led by J.R. Campbell, MFA, Executive Director of the Design Innovation Initiative, entitled "Accelerating Sustainability: Science, meet Design Innovation." The afternoon includes concurrent sessions on: "Wetlands by Design"; "Ecological Analogues and Living Architecture"; and "Biodesign: exploring the intersection of art, design, biology and sustainability."

The event culminates with a research poster session, typically displaying 40-60 student and local research projects addressing environmental issues from a wide variety of disciplines.

For the second year, the event also features a student-focused career fair. Kent State invites students, prospective employers, advertisers, and sponsors to register for the symposium and career fair.
"We are very excited about our slate of speakers and topics," said symposium chair Margarita Benitez, Associate Professor of Fashion Design and Merchandising in the Fashion School. "Just as exciting, though, are the amount and caliber of student research we'll display, and the opportunity for engaging all attendees in critical conversations about BioDesign."

To learn more about the symposium, including dates and times, speakers, sessions, and registration requirements, visit the symposium website at All attendees must register in advance for the symposium. In addition, students attending the career fair must register by March 10 for both the main event and the career fair.


The Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative engages a broad range of scientists, designers and practitioners, spanning dozens of academic disciplines, fields, and programs. Colleges represented within the ESDRI include the College of Architecture & Environmental Design, the College of the Arts, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Public Health, and the College of Education, Health & Human Services.
Through this initiative, designers and researchers seek to understand and leverage the interacting geological, biological, human and social systems that impact and regulate the availability of clean water, clean air and food; sustain diversity of life on Earth; and promote well-being.

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POSTED: Monday, February 17, 2020 02:36 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 10:38 AM
Dan Pompili