New Book!


Last year I had the privilege to be part of a unique team of students and professors who brought together a diverse group of professionals working to change energy behavior at home for a one day summit at Duke University as part of the Bass Connections in Energy Program. Together, we wrote a book: Innovations in Home Energy Use: A Sourcebook for Behavior Change, and that book is now available on Amazon! Check it out.

Baby Steps

It took my first child 10 months to figure out how to get up on two feet and propel himself forward. From newly minted professional engineer in training (EIT!) fresh out of undergrad, it has taken me almost ten years to get my own two feet under me in this crazy academic profession.

A month later and the kiddo is toddling determinedly around the house poking his nose in any new place he can find — the dog food, under the sink, up the stairs. The water bowl seems to hold particular interest as we return again and again the the conundrum of an untouched bowl of water waiting, wanting to be touched, splashed, held in all its unholdable liquidyness.

Meanwhile, I have papers and books going out the door, data getting crunched, new chapters forming, job applications written and submitted…. if I stop to think about all these small things that are adding up to big change, I am overwhelmed. A new job, a new place to live, a new life for me and my family. Best to install those child locks on the cabinets and return to the daily practice of checking the proverbial water bowl, dipping my hand in the practice of writing, and data crunching, and meetings, and questions, and presentations, and applications.

We are walking, even if we don’t yet know it. Practically running. And the baby, he’s not so much a baby anymore.

Science is happening NOW.

The stationary sensor network is in place, and it’s been a busy week making that happen.

My last post indicated I was testing the equipment. That was the easy part. I also had to build 14 solar shades and figure out how to attach the housings to the approved and available infrastructure (road signs and traffic poles).

Building the solar shades was easy enough. Before long, there was a pile of them sitting in my living room.


The rest meant multiple trips to the hardware store… with kiddo and husband in tow. This worked out well. The kiddo slept (we went right before closing), and since he runs a small OEM (original equipment manufacturing!) parts business, my husband can run around a hardware store naming different types and dimensions of screws, recommend not cutting steel tubes with a chop saw, and tell me how likely the test assembly we threw together is to rust in a salt fog test. Hopefully there is no salt fog in Durham.


The sensors and housing are attached to two types of infrastructure: street signs, and traffic poles. The traffic poles were easy. Zip ties, rated for outdoor use and 75 pounds made easy work of installing those six sensors. The street signs required a little more creativity. Rather than buy extra parts, I intended to use as much of the hardware provided by Onset with the solar shade. The plan worked beautifully. A three foot, perforated steel pipe bolted to the mating street sign post, and the solar shade and sensor were attached with an M5 screw and the two U-bolts provided by Onset. But this is getting a little ahead of myself.

With a plan and hardware in hand, the sensors had to be launched and installed in the solar shades.


I launched the sensors Monday with a delayed start for Tuesday afternoon. Then everything went into the car: ladder, extra parts, tools, snacks, and a data sheet to record installation time and location.

Tuesday promised to be the rainiest day of the week, and I still got lots of volunteers to help with installation. What a great lab team! We started at 9 am and finished around 3:30 pm. A solid day in the field, and it only rained in the morning. Go figure.


As of now, there are 12 sensors out in Durham, North Carolina, recording temperature and relative humidity every 15 minutes. If you see one while driving around, give it a wave, and know science is happening NOW!

Next goal: crossing my fingers and hoping each of the sensors is still there when I go back out to collect the data…


Sometimes the best way to work on one project is to take a break and work on another.

That has been the goal the past week or so as I prepared a super short 5 minute presentation for the GradX event put on during Graduate Student Appreciation Week by the Duke Society Fellows and the Duke Graduate School. I was just one of about fifteen presenters spread over three hours of talks on everything from the economic roulette of choosing a major, to how stem cells change their environment.

I used the opportunity to distill my thinking about a paper that I have been working to prepare for publication. But, even distill is an understatement–I barely scratched the surface. You can see the entire event on the archived live stream feed here. My talk starts at 2:45.00.

Now back to regularly scheduled research!

Full of Steam Ahead

The currency of the doctorate is publications. Or so I’ve been told. In all other respects, time in the doctoral world is fluid—a sometime viscous, sometimes thin fluidity. This week, projects that have been lingering, linger on, while new projects are tumbling forward with great rapidity. And the challenges of getting it all done with an infant are every present.

Last week, the LIT HoMES summit was a fantastic success. As the lone doctoral student on the project team, I will be heading up the editorial duties for the follow-on publication—a book that will likely be made freely downloadable with on-demand printing. I’m excited to be learning the ropes of this new world of publishing on the one hand, and managing a number of diverse author groups on a tight deadline on the other. Getting my name on a book cover and attached to some book chapters won’t be half bad either! In fact, it’s one of my life goals, so there’s that.

But while the book takes off, an article in preparation for several years lingers on with the promise of new analysis and a complete re-write on the horizon. Sometimes it’s hard to stay excited about something that seems so ephemeral in its finalization. Since it’s an idea that is at the core of what brought me to my program, to this state, and to academia, the desire to keep at it comes from someplace deep. Or from an enthusiastic co-author. Flowing on.

So what of that adorable infant? He’s doing great, but the child-care situation is not. Being a mother in the professional world is tough, seems backward, and at times is challenging in its ridiculousness. More on that in later posts. While the kiddo sleeps, it’s time to get back to work!

Website Soft Launch

This is an exciting day of madly cramming website development into nap time. With a summer packed with field research on the horizon, this sure seems like the perfect time to get a web presence for this project off the ground, while planning and development are still in their nascent stages.

Over the coming months, I hope to share with you the process of completing the dissertation phase of my doctoral research including the preparation, execution and follow-through required to get to the finish line. My optimistic goal is to get updates on the blog on a regular basis, plus there is tons of content to post including data from the campaign, comments on current events and literature review — but I also have a two month old, a puppy, a crazy awesome husband and a lot of work to do! So, here goes nothing!