Kiran Maini Gerhardsson (Doctoral student in environmental psychology at Lund University; Illustrator/architect at Pecan Studio) met Steve Fotios, April 2017.
Training and career history
KMG: The interview is taking place in your office with this fantastic view.
SF: A beautiful view of the overcast day. You probably now have got the CIE official overcast sky.
KMG: Since 2005 you have been working here at the School of Architecture at Sheffield University, doing research on lighting, and teaching about lighting. First, briefly, what is your research about? (We will get back to your research later.) Second, which students do you teach?
SF: My research is about three things – lighting for pedestrians, spatial brightness in terms of the effect of lamp spectrum on brightness of interior spaces, and research methods. I teach undergraduate and post-graduate students of architecture and PhD students.
KMG: I have divided the questions into three sections – training and career history, your teaching activities and finally your research. So how did you get to where you are today? Let us start with your training and post-graduate studies/post-doc.
SF: I left school at 16. I did not go university – I went straight to work because that is what you did where I came from.
KMG: Where were you born?
SF: Bristol. Immediately after leaving school I did training in building services engineering – heating, water pipes, and air conditioning – which meant I made cups of tea for other people, I tidied up the stock room of pipes and fittings, and I went on site to fit radiators. After several years of doing that I went to university, to UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) to study building service engineering. I wanted to become a school teacher so I took a degree in building services engineering thinking that it would be a relatively easy degree. By relatively easy, I mean easier than a subject in which I had no experience – I thought I was going to fail because I thought a degree would be really hard. So I went to the university, joining the course in the second year because of my practical experience, and I passed really well. At the end of those two years, I did a teacher training year, a PGCE (the post-graduate certificate in education). I went to the University of York and studied teaching to be a maths teacher. At the end of that PGCE year, I decided I did not want to be a maths teacher. Schools are extremely tough places to work because teachers are not always supported properly by the government. And I was at the end of my PGCE thinking – what am I going to do? Luckily, I got a phone call from UMIST asking me to apply for a one-year part-time post to cover the teaching of a member of staff taking sabbatical leave. I thought this would be better than school teaching so I was quite pleased. On my first day there, my to-be supervisor (Geoff Levermore) told me I would also be doing a PhD in lighting! I did not have much clue about lighting or about what a PhD was. But I got down to it – and I really enjoyed it.
KMG: Was that a position in…
SF: It was a lectureship in building services engineering, so that is about thermodynamics, air-conditioning, heating, maths, and laboratory sessions. So I did lectures in those topics and research for my PhD. I had to start from scratch and learn about the topic and it was very interesting.
KMG: For how many years?
SF: I completed the PhD in four years.
KMG: Did you mix your own research with your PhD courses?
SF: There were no compulsory taught courses. The training was largely by reading and doing and studying –that was quite common. Now we tend to have more taught courses to ensure students gain some experience across a broad range of issues.
KMG: So you got a PhD in lighting. What was your thesis about?
SF: The perception of light sources of different colour properties, that is, lamp spectrum (different colour properties) and the perception means spatial brightness. I really enjoyed that – especially the final year at writing up where I got to read lots to try and understand it and read things again and again.
KMG: How many pages? Any published articles?
SF: 400 or so pages in the thesis. At the time I published five papers, and have since published some more. In 2015 I finally finished the literature review!
KMG: Were you part of a lab or a group, or did design the research on your own?
SF: There was no lighting group but my supervisor, Geoff Levermore, had some experience of lighting because he used to work with Thorn Lighting. He is now known more as an energy and climate person rather than lighting person. He had been inspired by a presentation he had seen by Joe Lynes.
KMG: So you were practically on your on which is a very different situation. Was there any partnering at that time with business companies? You mentioned that your supervisor previously worked at Thorn.
SF: He had worked beforehand (I think it was Thorn Lighting) where I think he was an applications researcher and he may have designed luminaires –– but there was no ongoing involvement from other people.
KMG: Did you do any teaching at that time?
SF: Yes, my post was teaching and the PhD was done on top of the teaching.
KMG: How much teaching, approximately?
SF: It is so long ago I cannot remember.
KMG: When was that?
SF: I started my PhD in 1993, when I started teaching at UMIST, and finished 1997. Twenty years ago! That is quite a long time.
KMG: Moving on, you may have already answered my next question: Was your subject, which is lighting, a choice of your own or of others?
SF: It was a choice of others. I had never given much thought to doing a PhD beforehand. And if someone would have said to me what topic, I would have been clueless.
KMG: You had plenty to choose from because you did building engineering: ventilation, water and energy.
SF: I think it was fortunate. I am quite pleased that it happened because it is an interesting topic. I like the mix of science and psychology.
KMG: Did you have any turning point in your career, for example, a point when you made an important decision which clearly affected your line of work/research career?
SF: Yes. My first five years of teaching were at UMIST, at the school of building engineering. If your goal is energy efficiency and you want to make a contribution to the world of sustainability, then in engineering you can make a boiler more efficient. That is what you can promote – a consideration of boiler efficiency. After those five years, I moved instead to the School of Architecture at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. The point of that was that as an engineer you can influence people to use a more efficient boiler. If you work with architects you can design out the need for a boiler in the first place which is a better approach. So I moved from engineering to architecture.
KMG: Indeed, that is a turning point.
SF: I spent a year in Aberdeen. I then moved to Sheffield Hallam University and since 2005 I have been at the University of Sheffield. That is 12 years just flying by very quickly.
KMG: The course I mentioned I took at Aalborg University Copenhagen, the main literature was written by Peter Tregenza who used to be the head of the department here. Was he your predecessor at the University of Sheffield?
SF: I first met Peter Tregenza when he was my PhD examiner. Then, when I moved to Sheffield Hallam I started work on the editorial board of Lighting Research & Technology where he was chairman. I moved to this university in 2005 when Peter retired. So I am guessing they were looking for somebody to continue the lighting research, and being that I was at Sheffield Hallam, that was convenient for the university and for me.
KMG: It is an excellent book by the way “The Design of Lighting”. It is especially good for architects who do not have engineering background.
SF: Yes, it is a good book – a good mix of theory and design.
KMG: Who would you say has inspired you as a teacher? Any particular literature or designer?
SF: That is interesting. The person I have found most inspirational is Peter Boyce, because he does good presentations and he can think of imaginative ways for doing experiments. As an engineer teaching at the School of Architecture, there is not a demand for deep theory or mathematics. I try to give architects enough things to think about, enough keywords and what questions to ask when they are working with a lighting consultant.
KMG: So is this at the bachelor level?
SF: Yes, on the undergraduate course. They do studio work as well. I look at their individual projects. You do not get long but you look at their projects and raise comments like: have you done a daylight calculation? have you chosen a lighting strategy?
KMG: When you teach the undergraduates, what gets their attention – what do they find interesting with regard to lighting?
SF: They find interesting the magic of perceptual illusions. The things they do not find so interesting are the factual issues of lighting. No one really wants to know about the lumen method. That is the challenge, you have got to do your best to make it interesting. It is a lot more fun than when I use to teach drainage.
KMG: I suppose it must be challenging to get architects to be interested in artificial lighting and not just daylight. What do you think?
SF: No, there is a challenge to get them interested in technology as a whole because the focus of most students here is the history and philosophy of architecture. For some students lighting will be a subsidiary topic, but others will come and visit me to talk about it and have interesting questions.
KMG: I had some questions about LumeNet but now I know what it is. It takes place every other year…
SF: It happens every year. In even years it is called LumeNet, which is about lighting in general, in odd years, like this year (2017), it is called the Academic Forum and it is organised by Jens Christoffersen and takes place with the VELUX Daylight Symposium. Essentially it is the same format.
I had the plan for a PhD methods conference in mind for several years. This was partly because of frustration with the scheduling at a lot of conferences. You typically get a 15-minute slot for a presentation, some of which is wasted by the chairman reading your CV – (and that is pointless; I do not care who you are, I want to know what your research says!) After the presentation there is rarely adequate time for questions. I want to hear what the questions are from other people and hear the speaker’s responses. Plus, conferences tend to be audience-focussed in the way they pick things; while weak research but with a really flashy (yet possibly erroneous) conclusion is likely to be selected, it can be tricky to get a presentation for research which is critical but not outwardly exciting. Furthermore, if you are a student you might not have funding to go to a conference. So my long term plan was an event for PhD students that would be free to attend, to cut out the funding problem, where each student would get a long time, an hour per student, and where we talk about the methods and not the result. I had this plan in mind for ages. I did find it tricky to engage people but then at the 2009 Experiencing Light conference in Eindhoven, I met Jens Christoffersen and his PhD-student Ásta Logadóttir. Jens was really supportive. He said: “That sounds good. I know that Ásta would like to attend something like that.” So, me and Jens put it on. Jens is now at VELUX but was then at SBI (Danish Building Research Institute). So it was because of him that VELUX was able to support the first event which was in Lausanne in 2011.
KMG: So both events are for PhD students.
SF: The Academic Forum focuses on daylight, and LumeNet focuses on anything to do with lighting. We put students in small groups of eight to ten, and in each group there will just be two senior researchers – not the students’ supervisors – just those two and nobody else. And we limit it to two supervisors to try and reduce arguments between the supervisors: we do not want to focus on their differences, we want to focus on the students. We ask the students to make a short presentation, five to ten minutes, about their methods and then we can critique the method, encourage them to think of setting good objectives, to think of the method, to thing how the method can be improved or changed, or if they are doing the totally wrong thing. So far it has been really successful.
KMG: I would have liked to go to this one in Berlin but it clashes with my research interviews. But I will book 2018 in Copenhagen instead.
SF: If it all goes to plan, we have got a week in the middle of August. Monday and Tuesday is a CIE symposium on research methods. Ásta and me are the lead organisers, with Jennifer Veitch, Kevin Houser and Werner Osterhaus. Then, after a day off for fun in Copenhagen, Thursday and Friday will be LumeNet.
KMG: Is the CIE thing only for you who are involved?
SF: No, it is for anyone who wants to study research methods – a standard conference. We are trying to get a reduced fee for students, so hopefully for PhD students it will be a useful week. Hopefully, we can do something positive.
KMG: LumeNet is a really good initiative, impressive.
SF: I think it is important to help PhDs. Two things that I have done that are positive; setting up LumeNet and the other one is – we call it Bright Lights.
KMG: I read that. Actually, that inspired me to do this interview. There was an interview made by a PhD student with Peter Boyce. So I read that and found it really interesting because it was a long interview. I thought I would take the opportunity to do a more structured interview with you.
SF: If you have not met Kynthia (who did the interview with Boyce) she is doing a PhD with Maryline Andersen at
EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). She is brilliant. I met her at the Academic Forum in London two years ago. I like her because she engaged in discussion of methodology. What a lot of people will do is when you raise issues that question their results is to say “No, I´m not interested.” Kynthia is good because she says: “That could have an effect. What do I need to do about it?” So, that is good attitude.
KMG: So “Bright Lights” is kind of a newsletter.
SF: It is whenever somebody does it. Kynthia got in touch with Peter, in fact, they both came here for the day to do it. She did the interview and wrote the transcript. And Jim Uttley, who is a researcher here, interviewed Wout van Bommel, who is a long established road lighting researcher. “Bright Lights” is open to anybody if they send me the interview.
KMG: So you are the editor.
SF: Yes, but it is not editing, I just format things. The intention of it is, for example, imagine if you are a new researcher of lighting and you go to a CIE conference, and you do not know anybody there. Especially, if like my PhD experience, you study on your own and come from a place where nobody else is doing lighting research, so you have not gone with anyone of your colleagues from university. And you go to these events and know nobody there. It is quite strange. By doing this, it means like Jim, who interviewed Wout, they have something to talk about when they go there. Or Kynthia, next time she sees Peter at a conference they have something to talk about. So it helps with the social mixing.
KMG: And another thing, that I find, is when you attend the student training workshop before a conference, at least you know the people in your group. That is a good way to start off.
KMG: Any publication you are particularly proud of? (scientific papers, any books…)
SF: Generally, the most recent one I have written! In this case it is a review of the Kruithof curve and was published in LEUKOS (The Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America).
The Kruithof curve plots illuminance against colour temperature to reveal combinations that are alleged to be pleasing – essentially high CCT at high illuminance and low CCT at low illuminance. If you read the original paper, you see the graph and the caption. That is it – that is all he tells you. We do not know how he did it. And that should say to you: “ignore it”. You do not know what experiment he did to derive this curve. But that is mostly ignored and the Kruithof curve has been widely repeated regardless. I understand from anecdotal comments that Kruithof never meant for it to be used as it has been, as a generalizable rule of thumb.
I checked for all the credible evidence I could find and when I redrew the curve I found a flat line. And a flat line graph is a pointless graph because a flat trend does not tell you anything except that the two variables are not related.
People interpret the Kruithof graph and say there is a relationship between colour temperature and illuminance in that higher illuminance should have higher colour temperature. When you look at credible evidence, it is not supported. What I did was I found all studies I could of the relationship between colour and illuminance for pleasant lighting. If you look at these – this is a graph of brightness plotted against colour temperature – it is flat, no relationship. We have pleasantness plotted against colour temperature – it is flat. All these lines are different studies… This is brightness plotted against illuminance and it does go up which is expected – the higher the illuminance, the brighter. The last one is pleasantness plotted against illuminance and what these tend to show, in each of these studies, is when we go from a low level up to about 300, 400, 500 lx we get a slope, after that we get a flat line. So avoid low illuminance but when you get to 500 lux or more you get a flat line and no further benefit. So what I essentially did was to say that the Kruithof graph does not work. But I suspect that conclusion will be ignored because people like a nice simple rule.
I did this work because you will see in many proceedings that researchers somewhere in the world are saying they have a new experiment to validate Kruithof. I found this paper here by (name omitted) where he allegedly supported Kruithof. When I read that I could tell that is was stimulus range bias. The problem is that his experiment would not have done anything except support Kruithof. It was a really badly designed experiment. That frustrated me so that is why I did my review.
Myths that are widely cited become fact. It is then really difficult to say anything new if that new thing is better supported by research because it is tricky to change mindset. If people think that graph must be right because everybody else says it is right it is tricky for anybody to come along and say anything different. So this was my favourite because it was interesting to write.
KMG: A different kind of paper. People normally do not do that – get to the bottom of things already established. So that is good.
SF: We need more of it because there are a lot of myths in lighting.
KMG: What would you say is the biggest lighting challenge in your research field?
SF: The biggest challenge is not an academic one, it is more a professional one – it is getting research funding. I think Mark Rea and his colleagues at the LRC are brilliant examples of how to do it well. They focus their research on [lighting] applications. A lot of lighting is not that exciting to the wider public. Like, this lighting works okay, we have got windows, so why do we need more research…
KMG: Yes, people will manage. That is what I found in my interviews. They do not even change the broken bulbs.
SF: Even though we know through research that lighting can affect my mood, how well I can read, or my safety when I am walking. But it is not very exciting. People with funding would rather give it to virtual reality, bio-medics, the latest technology or something like that, but not to lighting itself, not human factors. The biggest challenge is to persuade people to give funding.
When we have got funding, and we have been lucky here to get funding for pedestrian lighting research, I think we can do good things with it. The challenge is to show that current international and national standard for lighting for pedestrians have little or no basis. They are just carrying on with what we did before. And what we did before was we did what was possible, not what was needed. I guess in about 1930 somebody put a 50 Watt lamp on a six-meter post, found that this gave five lux, and that became the standard. Not because it was right but because that was what you could do. Once you have got a standard it is tricky to change, take, for example, the Kruithof curve, once it is there, people do not like change.
KMG: So the challenge here is questioning standards.
SF: Yes, what we tend to do is to try and find new empirical evidence. And it is tricky to change people’s behaviour. I can understand that because it can be frustrating. If you were an engineer you do not want every few years some academics saying “you are doing it wrong, do it my way” – And a few years later do it again. It is not fair. So I can understand that reluctance to change. The problem is poor research in the past. Or non-existent research in the past.
KMG: In your own research, do you remember the last time you were surprised by the research results?
SF: That is interesting. I was surprised when I got so much consistency in the Kruithof study between all those studies, … Look at how flat they are is whereas the Kruithof curve says there is a slope.
KMG: That is good because that is what research ought to do. You do not want to research what you know already, do you?
SF: I have got a really brilliant research assistant called Jim Uttley who is a wizard with statistical analysis. We have done some really interesting analyses of lighting and pedestrians. In two articles, submitted but not yet accepted, first of all, we show that ambient light (essentially daylight vs dark) affects the number of people who walk. We did it with a clock-change method. So imagine something like five or six o’clock in the evening in one week there is light. After the clock changes, it tends towards darkness…
KMG: Daylight saving time?
SF: Yes. The reason for your journey is still the same, for example, you are leaving work to go home, your alcohol level is likely to be the same, your motivation for this particular journey is the same for this walk. But the only thing that has changed is the ambient light. We used that method to show a much higher probability of people walking or cycling when it is light than when it is dark. That showed that lighting matters. Then we used the same approach to look at light on pedestrian crossings using accident records. We found that in ambient light there is a lower risk of accidents on the pedestrian crossing – if there is light, accidents go down. But we also found that if you compare accidents on a crossing vs crossing a road elsewhere that you are of higher risk of accident. What I think, this shows is people’s confidence. People using a lit crossing after dark think they are visible to the car. We overestimate our own visibility as pedestrians. So you use a crossing and think: “it has a couple of lamps, I must be visible”. But you are less visible than you think you are. So maybe you do not give the car enough time to break or the car does not see you because you have no reflective clothing. What we should be doing is wearing flashing LED-bands when we walk, then you will be much more visible. But it is not fashionable.
KMG: So you still get surprised by your results. That is good. Moving on, are there any problems with lighting, which we use to have, that are not as pressing as in the past?
SF: One of the problems was that the choice of lamps was limited. In outdoor lighting the choice was, until recently, low-pressure sodium, high-pressure sodium, or mercury vapour. These lamps have fixed qualities. You cannot change the spectrum of it and the distribution was kind of broad and fluffy. While LEDs give us more opportunity, that is probably wasted at the minute. Now that they use less energy the answer tends to be put more light out. And that is not always the best solution
Let me show you something that is unfavourable. Have you come across semi-cylindrical illuminance? The sensor is an upright cylinder, so instead of measuring a flat surface, it measures the surface of a half cylinder. There is a lot of talk to say this is the best measure for outdoor lighting. The reason for this – it is kind of these myths again – is that it is a curved surface, it measures lights from all directions. What people will generally say is, well faces are 3D and that sensor is 3D, therefore that must be better. But if you just have one number, say 10 lux of vertical illuminance or 10 lux of cylindrical illuminance, which one is better? You cannot say, because one number on its own does not give that information. It does not tell you if the light is coming from the side or the front. It just tells you a number and it is just not enough on its own.
SF: Problems of lighting, too many myths, not enough facts, not enough credible evidence and conferences that do not give enough time for discussion. Those are my main thoughts.
KMG: I am curious about your research, the procedural aspects. How do you get participants? I know you do so many kinds of research, for example, outdoor lighting, workplaces…
SF: It is really tricky to get participants and to get those who are doing it because they wish to volunteer and not as a favour to the experimenter. If I have got PhD students doing experiments and they just get their friends to do it, that may not be credible answers because their friends may be doing it reluctantly and not fully participating. So what I have to do is to get funding for participants. We tend to pay people 10 pounds an hour Just to make it worth their while to give up their lunch time or give up an evening after work. It has got to be worth their while otherwise they will not come and do it. If it is worth their while I think it is more likely they might participate with integrity rather than doing it reluctantly. It is a challenge. Especially when seeking for older people as well – that can be tough.
KMG: How do you reach them?
SF: We try and get a mix. It depends on the experiment, what we are trying to achieve and whom we are trying to represent. Some of it will just stick to students. So long as they are naïve about the aims and we know what state of vision they are in, that is fine.
KMG: How is your research funded and has the conditions changed over time?
SF: Mostly it is from one of the government research councils EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). And the funding is getting tougher to get. It is quite a challenge. The most stressful part of a job, because clearly, your career is dependent on getting funding.
KMG: And you put so many hours in writing the applications.
SF: Yes. It is frustrating…
KMG: What is the approval rate? For you personally.
SF: Probably about 30% success, at a guess. Typically for an EPSRC application, the success rate is 10–15% I think. It is tough. I would quite like to see random allocation of funding sometimes. So we can save all this time. So they could say: “Here is 100 000 pounds, who are we going to give it to?” Would that be better or worse than peer-review – I do not know. Because peer-review has got advantages and disadvantages so I am not convinced it is the optimum method but probably the best we have got.
KMG: What in your work are you most proud of?
SF: It would have to be setting up LumeNet, setting up Bright Lights, the CIE research methods report (212:2014) – that was just a personal ambition, essentially it says use a null condition and counter balance which should be commonly done but is not. Then I received the CIE Waldram award in 2015. They only give them out every four years at the quadrennial sessions. Because it is rare, it makes it worthwhile.
KMG: Where do you hope to be in five years, or so, from now?
SF: Still here…
KMG: With a lot of funding…
SF: Yes, with a lot of funding, still with good students and good researchers.
KMG: How many do lighting here?
SF: At the minute, I have got two permanent researchers on external funding and four PhD students.
KMG: Where are they from your PhD students?
SF: From all over the world. We have got Zeynep from Turkey and she is studying daylight, Yichong from China and Aleks from Portugal who are studying pedestrian lighting, and Hussain from Kuwait who is studying cycling. At the minute we have Benedetta from Rome who is just visiting for a few months. She is doing pedestrian lighting as well. So she has just come here to work in Sheffield for a few months. Because Sheffield is great.
KMG: I totally agree!
KMG: Your research is always with an experimental design.
SF: Yes. Now, this is a project we recently finished and it is for Highways England who does lighting for drivers on main roads. This is your views of the apparatus [SF shows a photo]. This was built by Chris Cheal who has been working with me for about fifteen years and he is brilliant at making apparatus. So this is a box about five meters long and few meters wide, a couple of meters high. It presents to you a scene of a road ahead.
KMG: Like a scale model?
SF: Yes. So these cars would move and you had to hit a button if they moved into the middle lane. They do random lateral motion like cars do, and every now and one will go to the middle lane. There is also an obstacle that looks like a tyre that appears at random:. If you see that you press the footbrake. At the same time, there is a moving fixation mark – you have to watch it – and every now and again it changes to a number and you have to read it, just to check that you are watching.
KMG: So you want to test their attention?
SF: Yes, to check attention. We would change the lighting and see how the change in illuminance and spectrum affected detection. We were looking in two things in particular here: the effect of fog (we built this chamber so we could squirt fog into it, so it was a sealed thing to stop fog escaping), the lit to unlit transition so you would have the lighting on and headlights and suddenly the lighting would go off, simulating when you drive on the motorway and all of a sudden you come to the end of the lit way, just to see how the change in your response in that first few seconds.
KMG: What would you prefer to research if you had the full opportunity to do anything, regardless of funding? Pedestrians, car drivers…
SF: Pedestrians and cyclist are my main thing. But what I would like is, generally on the roads of Britain, more pedestrians, more cyclists, more horses, and fewer cars. Generally fewer cars, because cars, I think, lead to conflict between people and they take up space and they blow fumes in your face. Not that we should ban cars but it would be good to address the mental change that occurs when people sit behind the wheel, that you own the space ahead…
KMG: And you are the privileged one.
SF: Yes. Do not let anyone get into the space in front of you; hit the horn, get out of the way…
KMG: I heard on the news this morning they are introducing an increase in the congestion charge.
SF: That is good. It helps us to reduce one aspect but how do they rate it, and we can see with VW, and probably the other vehicle manufacturers, that they have been lying about their emissions, and getting away with it – mostly. Who cares, the politicians? We have got politicians who do not care about anything but their own careers. The car industry has got big money, so they can pay for the spin, PR, lobbying and lawyers that mean they mostly get what they want.
Private interests and your best advice
KMG: So let me round off with just a few of questions: How is the lighting arranged in your home?
KMG: What is your lighting strategy?
SF: If it is dark I will switch a light on. People always come to my house and expect me to have fancy lighting. I have pendant lamps without lamp shades. This is partly because I am so busy – I am rarely there.
KMG: Well, that is a good excuse.
SF: The best advice I came across, was at Jennifer Veitch’s first lighting quality symposium. I was at a break-out session led by a lighting designer/architect and his rule was: “Hide the source and light the walls.” So where I have had the opportunity I have done this, placing light fittings behind the structural beams. I do try to do something. I know people are shocked when they come in and they see I have got just lights hanging down from the ceiling.
KMG: Do you have any other interests besides light – privately?
SF: I play music several times a week.
KMG: What instruments?
SF: All of them – nearly.
KMG: Do you have gigs every weekend?
SF: No, not every weekend, but most. You have to keep active. You have to have a hobby.
KMG: Yes, you do. Mine is hiking.
SF: This weekend I am doing part of the cross country Coast to Coast walk. The Coast to Coast goes from the Lake District, through the Yorkshire Dales. I have a friend who started Saturday and she is going all the way across. I am just walking from there to there [showing on the map on the screen Kirkby Stephenson to Richmond].
KMG: What is your best advice for a doctoral student doing her second year like me?
SF: Come to LumeNet. Do not believe everything your supervisor says! Supervisors obviously cannot know everything. That is one reason why I set up LumeNet, so that my PhD students could get a broader range of views.
KMG: That is why it is good to have two supervisors and to talk about your research to different groups of people.
SF: When you have finished your PD are you going to go back to architecture or are you going to stay in lighting research?
KMG: I am a practitioner and an illustrator, and at times I miss those commissions. But, more and more, I have come to enjoy teaching. I find it nice not knowing what to do because my main goal is to write a good thesis, and I prefer not to have other strategic interests affecting me. And I have two more years to go.
SF: A thesis is so much work; until you have finished it you will not appreciate how much work you have put into it. There is a whole lot of work. It is a challenge. For this period you have to cut out all other parts of life – and focus.
KMG: In the UK you have a different way of presenting your thesis. In Sweden, it is a public event.
SF: I have attended some of these, as a member of the audience and as opponent. I noticed that in the ones I have been to, the level of questioning was not as deep as in the UK. In one case I was thinking that the answers given were totally wrong but the opponent carried on anyway. It felt like the decision was already made. The public defense was a show for the audience to give the student a level of stress. In oral exams here, it is just the student and probably two examiners, and they can ask anything in really deep detail. The exam can go on for as long as they like – it can be hours. But there is no audience. You have got to cope as a student with really critical questions. So that is the stress – no audience but critical questions. Whereas the ones I have seen in Europe, the questions are not so deep, there is usually a much shorter period, the stress comes from the performance with an audience. It is different ways of doing that.
KMG: Thank you so much, Steve, for this interview.