After completing a double master’s in Architecture and Human Technology Interaction, Anne Grave decided to do a PDEng (Smart Buildings & Cities) in order to put her knowledge into practice on a major project.
Anne Grave did two master’s degrees simultaneously – one in Architecture and the other in Human Technology Interaction (HTI). “In traditional architecture, the architect is usually in charge and it revolves around aesthetics and physical buildings, but I often find there’s a lack of focus on the user. That’s why I chose to do a minor in HTI, to learn how people experience and interact with spaces. It was such an interesting combination that I subsequently decided to do a second master’s in it. For my thesis, I set up a project to research how patients’ rooms can be designed so as to minimize patient stress.”
Anne finished both her master’s degrees in 2017. “I felt as if I had come to a crossroads at that point; I either had to choose architecture, designing buildings from behind a desk which would mean missing out on the scientific side, or stay in science which would mean letting go of the design aspects. While I was struggling to decide, one of my lecturers nominated me for this PDEng position. I was asked whether I was interested in this research opportunity within Engineering to explore how to develop accommodation for people with dementia – so two years of both research and design.”
“Due to my unusual double master’s programme, I had spent my whole final year of my studies working alone. That’s pretty uncommon within architecture because you tend to work on your own assignments within a group of around 15 people. I knew that if I decided to do a PhD, it would mean working alone for another four years. That was one advantage of the PDEng: here, I could conduct research in collaboration with other partners, businesses, universities of applied sciences and healthcare institutions, and it only takes two years. But what appealed to me above all was the topic, plus the chance to combine research with design.”
Anne spent two years working on the research project and in parallel she did various courses related to professional development and entrepreneurship. “For me, the PDEng was also a way of further broadening my knowledge, because I felt I didn’t have a strong enough foundation to enter the world of work and try to combine both research and design straight after my master’s. I’ve now gained two years’ experience of working in a team with various companies, the universities of applied sciences in Arnhem/Nijmegen and Amsterdam (HAN and HvA), and various healthcare institutions. We worked on a prototype for a smart home that supports the day/night rhythm of dementia sufferers using projections, light and sound signals to accompany everyday activities such as getting up in the morning, eating meals and going to bed.”
Anne completed her PDEng in December 2019. In 2020 she got a job in the TU/e’s Smart Architectural Technologies department as a researcher on various projects. “I’ve now decided to do a PhD after all, and hope to be finished by early 2025. I started my doctoral research in January 2021. That’s a slightly unusual step after a PDEng, but it’s a great opportunity for me to continue working on this topic – improving the quality of life for people with dementia.”
“I’m really pleased to have been able to do a PDEng, not least because I had the chance to work in a large, multidisciplinary team. I learned a lot, not only about real-life processes – both within healthcare institutions and businesses – but also about the use of ICT and AI within our project. So it just goes to show that even if, like me, you’ve done two master’s degrees, you still don’t really know much about how things are actually done in practice. The PDEng bridges the gap between high-level education and real-life applications. That’s a good learning goal for yourself, but it also benefits the institutions you collaborate with; in reality, businesses and organizations often don’t have time to conduct research and implement new methods.”
“For a lot of graduates, a PDEng can be a valuable stepping stone to their future career. It gives you the opportunity to gain experience, meet new people in your field and exchange knowledge, which expands your professional network. It’s a great way to strengthen your position in your chosen field, plus to apply your scientific knowledge in practice even if you haven’t finished learning yet.”