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The IEA Welcomes New VP for 2024

Updated: Apr 10

Following the 28th International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment, Dr. Mehdi Ghiai was nominated for the Vice Presidency of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association. Dr. Ghiai will serve as Vice President for the 2024-2026 term. 

Dr. Ghiai is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's School of Architecture and Design. He obtained his Ph.D. in Architecture from IAU, Iran in 2012. Before joining the University of Lafayette Louisiana in 2023, he was a Visiting Scholar at Texas Tech University where he specialized in sustainability research and teaching, and served as a Tenure Assistant Professor in Architecture at Azad University in Iran from 2012 to 2021, where he refined his expertise in sustainability.

Dr. Ghiai's research focuses on environmental sustainability, sustainable development, building performance, post-occupancy evaluation, and building energy modeling. His experience in sustainability and the built environment is demonstrated through his 20+ peer-reviewed articles, a book titled “Elderly Care Center: Design Principles for Sustainability”, and numerous conference papers. With 15 years of practical architectural experience as a registered architect in Iran since 2008, he brings a wealth of expertise to his diverse research and academic roles. Additionally, Dr. Ghiai has been A LEED AP BD+C affiliator since 2022, underscoring his dedication to sustainable architectural practices.

How did you get involved in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association?

My involvement with the IEA stemmed from my presentation at IICE 28 last year, where I discussed resilience in the face of climate change through the lens of architecture. Engaging in various presentations during the conference provided me with valuable insights and experiences.

What are your primary objectives as the Vice President of the IEA? 

As Vice President of the IEA, my primary objective is to address the prevalent environmental challenges worldwide. We must mitigate the adverse effects of these changes. I aim to establish an interactive platform where researchers, students, and stakeholders can collaborate to identify and tackle environmental issues through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach. This begins with defining the IEA's mission for 2024 and developing this year’s conference theme, Climate Adaptation and Pathways to a Sustainable Future, to maximize its impact. I believe the IEA should offer inclusive opportunities for individuals to share ideas on environmental topics such as climate change, environmental justice, and sustainable development. Additionally, collaborating with local communities to address environmental issues and leveraging the insights from researchers' contributions can be beneficial in finding local solutions.

How has your research and practical experience shaped your perspectives on today’s prevalent planetary and human challenges? 

My career in both education and practice within the field of architecture has directly exposed me to the interaction between people and the environment, encompassing both the natural and built environments. Over my 15 years of experience, I have identified key environmental challenges and recognized the significant impact of the built environment, such as buildings and urban spaces, on our lives and the emergence of issues. Consequently, I have directed my efforts toward emphasizing sustainability goals in my teaching, research, and professional endeavors. In tackling complex environmental problems, I believe in adopting multi-dimensional approaches. In my research, I have focused on comprehensive areas that cater to occupants' needs while also addressing environmental sustainability concerns. For instance, I have delved into Indoor Environmental Quality, which not only prioritizes occupants' health and productivity but also considers energy efficiency, material usage, and resource management. Additionally, I adhere to the principles of the triple bottom line for sustainability, ensuring that economic, social, and environmental aspects are integrated into solutions, thereby holistically addressing environmental issues.

In your opinion, what makes approaching climate change so complex? 

I view the greatest challenges of climate change as primarily stemming from governmental approaches. I believe that sometimes political parties fail to adequately prioritize the issue and understand the devastating impact climate change can have globally. All parties need to recognize the harmful consequences associated with climate change and its effects on communities as a top priority.

In your own words, what is interdisciplinarity? 

Interdisciplinarity is the approach of examining issues from various perspectives and understanding how different fields of study can contribute to a specific subject. For instance, climate change can be analyzed through multiple lenses within various branches of science. In my research, I typically identify relevant disciplines and explore how they can collectively address the research question. I aim to integrate diverse experiences and knowledge to generate comprehensive and impactful results.

What are your expectations for this year’s International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment?

My expectations for this year's IICE are high—I anticipate a successful event that will unite researchers from diverse disciplines worldwide. We are striving to cultivate inclusive and relevant conference themes, complemented by workshops and discussion panels. I firmly believe that this conference serves as a pivotal moment, preparing us all to commemorate the 30th anniversary of IICE in 2025. I aim to expand contributions from various disciplines related to environmental subjects. From social sciences to engineering, from humanities to biology, and all related fields, I believe that if we seek solutions to environmental challenges, we must listen to all voices and engage in collaborative discussions.

What advice would you give students who are preparing to enter such a critical and relevant field of work? 

This is an excellent question! I'm genuinely enthusiastic when I see students showing sensitivity towards environmental issues. As the next generation of leaders, their heightened awareness about the environment and climate change can significantly influence their roles. By understanding the problems and potential solutions, they can make impactful contributions. I encourage all students to engage in events like IICE to acquaint themselves with relevant areas for research or practical work in the environmental field and to establish networks with other students and experienced researchers. 

How do you plan to foster collaboration and engagement among members of the IEA?

As Vice President, I plan to organize regular local events to facilitate networking and idea exchange and host discipline-specific meetings to identify areas for collaboration within each field. Additionally, I will actively seek out opportunities for collaboration within and outside the association, while also identifying areas for volunteer work in the local community. By implementing these strategies, I aim to create a dynamic environment where members are engaged, motivated, and actively working together towards common goals.

What strategies do you believe are most effective in addressing the communication gap between scientific research and public understanding of environmental issues?

Effective strategies to bridge the communication gap between scientific research and public understanding of environmental issues involve clear communication, engagement with media, partnerships with community organizations, education, and outreach programs, utilization of digital platforms, and storytelling. The IEA can contribute by promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, facilitating knowledge exchange, advocating for evidence-based policies, organizing public outreach events, and supporting community empowerment initiatives. Through these efforts, the IEA can help ensure that accurate and accessible information reaches the public, fostering a better understanding of environmental issues and promoting collective action for sustainability.

How do you plan to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion within the association and its activities?

Ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion within the association and conference involves several key steps. Firstly, actively promoting diversity in leadership positions and decision-making bodies within the association, ensuring representation from different backgrounds and perspectives. Secondly, implementing inclusive policies and practices to create a welcoming environment for all members, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other characteristics. Thirdly, providing resources and support to underrepresented groups, such as scholarships, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities, to facilitate their participation and advancement within the association and finally, fostering open dialogue and collaboration on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, encouraging ongoing education and awareness-raising efforts among members to create a more inclusive and equitable community.

How do you envision the association contributing to international efforts to address environmental challenges and promote sustainability?

The Interdisciplinary Environmental Association (IEA) can contribute significantly to international efforts aimed at addressing environmental challenges and promoting sustainability through various avenues. Firstly, by fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from different fields, the IEA can facilitate the development of innovative solutions to complex environmental problems. This collaboration can lead to the generation of new knowledge, technologies, and strategies that can be shared and implemented globally. Additionally, the IEA can serve as a platform for the exchange of best practices, lessons learned, and success stories, enabling countries to learn from each other's experiences and accelerate progress toward sustainability. Furthermore, the IEA can advocate for evidence-based policies and practices at the international level, influencing decision-making processes and promoting greater environmental stewardship

How do you stay informed about emerging trends, technologies, and research findings in environmental science and related fields?

Professionals in environmental science and related fields stay informed by subscribing to scientific journals, attending conferences, following reputable websites and social media, participating in professional associations, and engaging in continuing education. These avenues provide access to the latest research findings, emerging trends, and technological advancements in the field.

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