Prize-winning PhD candidates explore energy-efficient buildings and the power of music

Shide Salimi and Hubert Gendron-Blais are the latest recipients of the Concordia Stand-Out Graduate Research Award
December 3, 2019
The Stand-Out Graduate Research Awards recognize the ability to convey the importance of one's work to the general public. | Photo by Nerses Khachatryan on Unsplash

Shide Salimi and Hubert Gendron-Blais — PhD candidates in civil engineering and the humanities, respectively — are this fall's recipients of Concordia's Stand-Out Graduate Research Awards.

The awards are given twice a year to Concordia students who have produced exemplary research in the categories of “Technology, Industry and the Environment” and “Person and Society.”

The prize recognizes excellence in research that was published in the previous seven months and the ability of the researchers “to convey the importance of their investigation to the general public.”

Winners of the award are given $1,000 each, with a possible $500 top-up if applicants are successful in the Relève étoile competition.

Shide Salimi: "We're all trying to lower energy consumption around the world." Shide Salimi: "We're all trying to lower energy consumption around the world."

Improving energy performance in buildings

Shide Salimi is trying to save us all energy.

"My research is about making buildings more energy efficient, smarter and more sustainable," she says.

"In order to find out how occupants are going to impact the energy efficiency of buildings, we need to know how they behave and how they interact with their surrounding environment."

Her research paper "Occupancy prediction model for open-plan offices using real-time location system and inhomogeneous Markov chain" was published last April in the journal Building and Environment.

Salimi tracked her colleagues in their research lab for almost two years, collecting and analyzing the data to create an occupancy prediction model.

This model allows her and her colleagues to determine exactly how a building's systems — everything from heating to shading and lighting — can be tailored to its occupants' habits and preferences.

In so doing, a smart building would be able to adjust its energy consumption levels in real-time, by shutting down certain sectors or systems that aren't being used, for example.

"I created a model that is able to estimate future occupancy, and we can use it to create an energy profile for any building and discover how to make it more energy efficient," she continues.

"This is important because we're all concerned about climate change and we're all trying to lower energy consumption around the world. Buildings account for a large portion of global energy consumption, so this will have a positive impact on that."

In addition to the Stand-Out Graduate Research Award, Salimi recently won an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship and will be starting a postdoc at Harvard University in January.

Hubert Gendron-Blais: "I'm looking at how sound and music can help us understand how communities are lived and experienced on an affective level.” Hubert Gendron-Blais: "I'm looking at how music can help us understand how communities are experienced."

Research-creation at the intersection of music, philosophy and politics

A PhD candidate in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Hubert Gendron-Blais pursues research-creation initiatives through a mix of music, philosophy and politics.

Last May, his article "Music, desire and affective community organizing for repair: Note for the piece 'Le désir est un exil, le désir est un desert...'" was published in the British journal ephemera: theory and politics in organization.

"I'm looking at how sound and music can help us understand how communities are lived and experienced on an affective level," he says.

"Which means not based on economic interests or cultural identity or religious identity, but just the intensity of what happens between people. That's the main focus of my process.

"My thesis mixes different elements, including French philosophy and music theory."

A musician, Gendron-Blais composed a piece for a friend who, he says, was experiencing feelings of "political distress."

The piece "Le désir est un exil, le désir est un desert..." uses sounds from the California desert, and figures on a compilation produced by the Montreal label Jeunesse Cosmique, Vivre: Le futur nous appartient 2k19.

The article published in ephemera functions as an accompaniment to the composition, examining the nature of political distress and its impact on individuals in today's society.

"It's about the capacity of music to address issues of political distress, especially distress that emerges after big social movements. It looks at how music can inform community movements but also how community movements can help us make music," he explains.

Gendron-Blais was also recently awarded a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship and will be continuing his research at McGill University next year.

Learn more about Concordia’s Stand-Out Graduate Research Awards.


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