Research & Discovery Around the World

Jefferson research has global impact: pursuing knowledge and applying new information, ideas and methods to improve life for individuals, communities and nations. Our student and faculty researchers are engaged in study projects and collaborative programs in scores of countries, across six continents.

Architecture professor Christopher Harnish’s research focuses on health infrastructure and urban environments in low- and middle-income countries. Through evidence-based, participatory design methods and resilient environmental performance strategies, he’s created designs for community, education, arts and healthcare facilities.

“We explore design processes and products that meet the needs and resource levels of much of the world’s population,” Harnish explains. “This is especially important in the global South, where poor engagements and understanding of cultures and contexts often lead to failed international interventions. What is technically ‘cool and exciting’ to an American is often excessive or impractical in Malawi.” 

Chris Harnish and biomedical engineering students from the Malawi University of Science and Technology captured drone footage that Jefferson students use to help redesign Malawi's Kamuzu Central Hospital.

Building a Better World: Malawi

Working with Harnish, architecture student Ryan Elizabeth Clark’s research centered on pediatric care in rural Malawi, where rapid population growth causes gaps in preventive care. Clark discovered that customizing each clinic through local fabrication and art is critical for a community’s economy and acceptance, but she also knew that expedience and construction quality control are important to the government and the international community. As a result, she developed a building prototype that judiciously employs both prefabricated assemblies and local materials and methods. Hardi Shah’s undergraduate research project sought to provide timely treatment of motor vehicle accident victims in developing countries: she designed a mobile triage trailer capable of bringing medical supplies to patients at major accident sites and providing a sheltered triage space. The strategy provides more rapid care and reduces the impact of mass-casualty events on local healthcare facilities. These kinds of architectural research and development projects undertaken by Jefferson faculty and students have the potential to improve community-based services throughout Africa and the world.


Water World

The Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce enables students to gain valuable real-world experience by working collaboratively on industry-sponsored projects. Many of these applied research projects have global impact. For example, a team of students created WorldWater, an energy-efficient water filtration system that provides a reliable source of clean drinking and surgical water during natural disasters. The students conducted research, studying Level II field hospitals that are established during natural disasters, and talking with disaster medicine experts and filtration engineers. The result of their work is a compact system that is easy to store, transport and install, and includes a subscription service to ensure maintenance. 

Save our Skills helps to preserve Burkina Faso's textile culture.

Fashioning Culture, Globally

Marcia Weiss directs Jefferson’s internationally respected Fashion and Textile Futures Center. She is also a world-renowned fiber designer whose work has been in dozens of solo and juried shows and invitationals. For Weiss—whose current body of work involves double-cloth ikats inspired by artisanal textiles of Central Asia and West Africa—much of the opportunity for creativity in textiles and fashions comes from weaving cultures and materials in unique ways.

One of her initiatives: working with the group Save our Skills, which is striving to preserve the artisanal textile processes in Burkina Faso. The group is working to establish a certification process for artisans, to develop and endorse their skill levels. “Global connections and collaborations are an important part of our students’ applied research and design work,” she explains. “For example, we’re collaborating with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to create original textiles and an original fashion ensemble—part of a design challenge for the Handweavers Guild of America international conference.”

Jefferson Fashion is among the world’s best, according to industry-watchers at Business of Fashion and Fashionista. And two Jefferson graduate programs offer particularly powerful opportunities to develop global fashion concepts and grow international professional networks in the industry. The MS in Global Fashion Enterprise emphasizes experiential learning and its students can travel to Spain, London, Hong Kong and Japan to interact with professionals and organizations across all facets of the fashion industry. In the MS in Fashion Design Management, students from Jefferson and Politecnico di Milano work together for two semesters—first in-residence in Philadelphia, then in Milan, a city entrenched in the European luxury market—focusing on topics such as design strategy and branding and the incorporation of new technology.

International Relations professor Raju Parakkal

Building a Better World: Romania

International Relations professor Raju Parakkal was a visiting professorin-residence at the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, Romania. Dr. Parakkal, who is researching the economic phenomenon called the “middle-income trap” in the case of Romania, will delve into the question of whether a technology-led growth strategy will help Romania — which is slowly earning the tag as the “Silicon Valley of Europe” — enter the ranks of highincome countries. Scholars in Bucharest hope that Dr. Parakkal’s work will inform some of Romania’s future economic policies and growth strategies. 

Light image designed by Lyn Godley: Blue Waters/Blood Waters

Studying a World of Light

Light affects how we perceive and engage with the world around us; it also affects our emotions, focus and performance. Jefferson researchers are partners in Light4Health, an international collaboration to develop n innovative research-based curriculum in lighting design education.

The project is underwritten by Erasmus+, the European Union’s program to infuse research discovery into education to address emerging societal needs. Jefferson’s collaborators include universities in Denmark, England, Germany, Russia and Sweden. Industrial Design professor Lyn Godley, who leads the Light4Health project at Jefferson, has designs in numerous international museum collections—and a track record of developing innovative, cross-disciplinary education programs that link design with business, engineering and science. Her key partner on the project—neurology professor George Brainard, PhD—directs Jefferson’s Light Research Program, which is developing lighting solutions for the sleep disruption that astronauts experience in space.