International Women's Day - Dr Hiral Patel

Today is International Women' s Day. To celebrate we are speaking to Dr Hiral Patel, Research Assistant in the School of the Built Environment, about how she is striving to make a positive difference to people's lives.

Research/teaching specialisation
Having trained as an architect and whilst working in the industry, I became increasingly interested in not just how buildings are constructed, but more importantly in how they are used. I am currently researching the DEGW archive, which is located in the University of Reading Special Collections. I am passionate to learn about the relationships between organisations and the buildings they occupy.

What inspired you to work in academia in this area?
Working in academia has given me an opportunity to pursue critical questions that surfaced while working in the industry. Through my doctoral research and current project, I have been able to learn, reflect, be creative and work across different disciplines.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become a successful academic?
There have been several moments when I felt a taste of success: completing my PhD, finishing curatorial projects around the DEGW archive, publishing a book chapter and so on. However, I believe success in academia is gradual, requires perseverance and constant reinventing of oneself. I am still waiting to experience that moment of feeling I have become a successful academic.

What advice would you give to prospective students wanting to become involved in this area of research, or to embark on an academic career?
Voicing the concerns of building users and inhabitants to designers is a matter that requires urgent attention. We need richer ways to understand use of buildings and translate this understanding into better design. An academic career in this area would require taking risks by venturing into different disciplines, as well as keeping an open mind to try unconventional approaches.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?
I am grateful to my professors and research collaborators for always guiding me through the uncertain path of research. However, if I have to name one person who has always inspired me, it has to be my mother, Kalavati Patel. Her constant nurturing of my personhood is an inspirational act of selfless love.

What are your aspirations for the future?
I want to make a positive difference to the lives of as many people as I can by enhancing their experience of the built environment. This will involve a collaborative effort with many others to develop a more responsive, research-based and inclusive approach to the design of our environments. InternationalWomensDayLogo


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