BioBE postbac Mitch Rezzonico is headed to grad school!

Mitch Rezzonico, who recently obtained his baccalaureate from the University of Oregon in 2017, has been learning bioinformatics with Dr. Sue Ishaq in the BioBE lab since last summer, in order to gain hands-on experience in preparation for a career in bioinformatics and medical research.

He is one step closer to that goal, as Mitch was just accepted into the University of Oregon’s Bioinformatics and Genomics Master’s Program!  The program is a combination of in silico academics and training internships offered through a variety of local institutions.

Mitch graduated with departmental honors for his Biology degree, as well as completed a minor in Chemistry.  After completing his master’s, Mitch plans to pursue a medical degree, and eventually combine the two into a research position.  His long-term career goals involve applying bioinformatics to public health issues, such as antibiotic resistance or personalized medicine.

Best of luck, Mitch!

BioBE joins UO’s newly-launched Institute for Health in the Built Environment

The Institute for Health in the Built Environment has officially launched at the University of Oregon, and BioBE is pleased to announce it has joined as a founding laboratory, along with the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory and Baker Lighting Lab.  The Institute will facilitate the flow of ideas, research, design, policy, and practical action into improving the sustainability of the built environment for the health of ourselves and the environment.

More information about the Institute launch is available here, and a website with information, news, and events is forthcoming.

The new institute’s mission is to develop design concepts for the realization of healthy and sustainable inhabited space. Faculty researchers aim to do this by forming unconventional collaborations to conduct research where architecture, biology, medicine, chemistry, and engineering intersect, and then translate their findings into design practice with the involvement of a consortium of invested industry partners.



Rich case studies

I recently gave a lecture on research methods to Siobhan Rockcastle’s ARCH 410/510 Human-Centric Environments course at the University of Oregon. Choosing the design of the UO’s Lillis Hall (ca. 2000) and BioBE’s subsequent sampling campaign (2010) as a case study, I had an opportunity to tell stories about both the architectural and energy design process and the later microbial research of one of my favorite buildings.

Lillis has been a rich vehicle of learning. I was reminded of the variety of design studies ESBL performed – site analysis, physical and computer simulations, natural ventilation controls sequence specification, and full-scale prototypes (the Energy Studies in Buildings Lab is the architectural side of BioBE) – and the diverse data BioBE collected in our first large scale project – bacteria communities using 4 methods of collection, architectural design and construction documents, building controls systems trends, Registrar class data, field observation and audits, sensor data acquisition, photos, and more became part of the rich dataset.

I took away from the lecture a renewed appreciation for case studies such as Lillis. As a design project it incubated several long-term and fruitful partnerships within the building industry. With regards to BioBE, and besides contributing 3 papers to the relatively new (at that time) scientific literature in the field, Lillis was a tremendous way during the Center’s launch to get architectural and microbial ecology experts to understand each other. It provided a wealth of learning opportunities at many levels for the scientists and students alike. In my mind, these are critical-path collaborations towards solving our grand challenges.

– Jeff Kline

Upcoming presentations at Indoor Air 2018

BioBE researchers will be giving two oral presentations at the Indoor Air 2018 conference this summer!  This will be the 15th Conference of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ), and will take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 22 to July 27 2018.  Both talks will present data from our large weatherization project, funded by the EPA.


Paper #398 “Shut the front door: seasonal patterns in window operation drive fungal and bacterial community dissimilarity between indoor and outdoor air.”  Roo Vandegrift1,*, Suzanne L. Ishaq1, Jeff Kline1, Ashkaan Fahimipour1, Jason Stenson1, Ryann Crowley2, Hannah Wilson1, Dale Northcutt1, Erica Hartmann3, Deborah Johnson-Shelton2, G.Z. Brown1, Jessica Green1, Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg1

1 Institute for Health in the Built Environment, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
2 Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR, USA
3 Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA


Paper #685 “Microscopic roommates: The biological sources of indoor air bacteria of single-family homes in Portland, Oregon.”  Suzanne L. Ishaq1,*, Roo Vandegrift1, Jeff Kline1, Ashkaan Fahimipour1, Jason Stenson1, Ryann Crowley2, Hannah Wilson1, Dale Northcutt1, Erica Hartmann3, Deb Johnson-Shelton2, G.Z. Brown1, Jessica Green1, Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg1

1 Institute for Health in the Built Environment, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
2 Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR, USA
3 Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA



Tour of the Baker Lighting Lab

BioBE researchers spend quite a bit of time writing grant proposals.  In particular, over the last few months I (Sue Ishaq) have been co-writing proposals which expand our understanding of indoor lighting on human health and behavior, the indoor microbiome, and energy usage in buildings.  These project proposals are collaborative efforts between BioBE, Energy Studies and Buildings Laboratory, and the Baker Lighting Lab.  We’ll have more updates in the next few months as those are reviewed.

Siobhan “Shevy” Rockcastle, Chair of the Baker Lighting Lab, and I have been brainstorming ideas, and today I went over to the Baker Lab to check it out in person.  The Lab is decorated with concept-design lighting projects from previous students, which are not only beautiful, but extremely creative.  Here are a few of my favorites!

Participate in a research survey online

Looking to participate in research?  Amir Nezamdoost, a graduate research fellow in Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory, is collecting survey data for his PhD dissertation.  Amir’s dissertation is about developing a rating system to score the quality of window view based on human visual perception and judgmental preference.  He is running a piloting survey online, and looking for participants to try it out! The survey should take less than 5 minutes.

If you’d like to participate, please click here. Feel free to share it with your friends!

Ph.D. Student in Architecture | University of Oregon
Graduate Research Fellow | Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory
Committee Member of LEED IEQ Technical Group
Advisory Committee Member of Illuminating Engineering Society
Student Member of the IALD, ASHRAE, SBSE, SLL



ESBL/BioBE welcome new Assistant Professor of Architecture!

ESBL and BioBE are thrilled to announce that Dr. Siobhan “Shevy” Rockcastle has joined the team as a new Assistant Professor of Architecture, and Chair of the Baker Lighting Lab, in the Department of Architecture on the main University of Oregon campus in Eugene. She will be adding her expertise in architectural design, human perception, environmental dynamics, and building performance with a focus on occupant well-being, particularly with lighting. Dr. Rockcastle’s current research uses virtual reality to map human responses to daylight and composition in immersive architectural environments.

In addition, she is studying the impacts of climate on perception, emotion, and comfort in architecture; the use of virtual reality to study subjective, behavioral, and physiological responses to space; the impacts of light exposure on human health through hormonal responses in the brain; and impacts of sunlight composition on perceptual evaluations of architecture. Students interested in any of these topics are encouraged to contact Dr. Rockcastle to learn about current research opportunities.

Shevy earned her professional BArch from Cornell University in 2008 and her SMArchS degree in Building Technology from MIT in 2011. She has taught design studio and seminar courses in environmental systems at Cornell University, Northeastern, MIT, and EPFL. Her professional work experience includes KVA matX, Snøhetta, MSR, Epiphyte lab, and Gensler. As a continuation of her thesis at MIT, Siobhan’s PhD dissertation used experiments to measure the impacts of daylight and spatial composition on perceptual responses to architecture and proposed simulation-based algorithms to predict these responses under varied climatic conditions. She has published numerous peer-reviewed journal and conference articles on this work and combines scientific publication with applied creative practice.

She is also a co-founder of OCULIGHT dynamics, a Swiss company offering daylight design support through custom simulation-based tools.

Welcome to the team!

Twelve Days at the University of Oregon

Written by Dr. Rich Corsi, edited by Sue Ishaq and Jeff Kline.

Several months ago, I connected with Dr. Kevin van Den Wymelenberg at the University of Oregon about the interaction between indoor microbiology and indoor chemistry, and several other common interests.  We also discussed the possibility of having me visit the University of Oregon during my fall semester leave from the University of Texas at Austin.  I visited the University of Oregon for 12 days in October, and I am so glad that I did.

Kevin walks in fairly large circles while wearing a lot of hats at the University of Oregon.  He is the Director of the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory (ESBL), and Co-director of the Biology of the Built Environment (BioBE) center, and this summer and fall has been serving as the interim Head of the Department of Architecture. The BioBE center is a unique initiative funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Microbiology of the Built Environment (MoBE) program.  Prior to my visit I was already aware of, and impressed by, how BioBE has effectively built a community of scholars that bridge two disparate disciplines; architecture and microbiology, in a transdisciplinary manner.  That impression was underscored and reinforced during my visit.

Me, Kevin, and Sue in front of our artistic interpretation of our research!

I delivered two seminars during my visit, both in the School of Architecture and both entitled Living in a Material World – How the Surfaces that Surround You Affect What You Breathe.  One of these was delivered on the main campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene, and the other to the School of Architecture’s program in Portland.  The latter also contains the ESBL’s climate chamber facility, which is a highly-controlled and impressive instrument for studying indoor environmental quality.  The seminars were well attended, and the questions and discussion which followed each were both insightful and creative.

I also interacted with numerous individuals during my visit, most of whom are dedicated to improvements in building energy consumption, as well as expanding knowledge related to indoor air quality and particularly microbiomes of buildings. We discussed their ongoing projects, including one involving the effects of lighting on bacteria in residential dust and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Link: ) and another on  home weatherization funded by  the U.S. EPA.  This led to a broader discussion about future research with BioBE’s Sue Ishaq and ESBL’s Jeff Kline, about the impacts that home weatherization and operation, as well as human behavior can have on indoor chemistry, for example, the use of air fresheners or cooking, which release highly reactive unsaturated organic gases and particles to indoor environments.  We even wondered whether indoor chemistry would impact microbial communities, and our discussions sparked a few pilot projects between myself, BioBE/ESBL, and one of my colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin.

There were many other great interactions during my visit to the University of Oregon, including one with Isabel Rivera, a Ph.D. student who is doing important work on indoor air quality and thermal comfort in elementary school classrooms in Chile.  I conveyed to Isabel some of the findings from my own studies on indoor air quality in schools in Texas, as well as ideas for low-cost measurements of pollutants emitted from unvented space heaters in Chilean schools.

Not all of the time during my visit was for work.  Eugene is a great city for walking.  The weather was fantastic and fall colors were in the height of their flare.  I walked everywhere.  I walked and walked and walked, then rested a bit and walked some more.  A highlight was visiting the historic Mims home near downtown Eugene.


Another highlight was attending an Oregon Ducks football game (they beat the Utes).  My ex-PhD student, Elliott Gall, now an assistant professor at Portland State University, came down to Eugene for the game.  Great fun – and I have learned to appreciate both the quack attack and the hand gesture “O” (for University of Oregon). All in all, I was impressed by everything Eugene, at the center of which was the University of Oregon and the people at ESBL and BioBE.

Go Ducks!

Design Champs: Daylight and Microbes

This week, BioBE held the third session of our “Design Champions” webinar series, which we have been developing over the last few months as a means of actively communicating our work with industry professionals.  Design Champs brings together a small number of industry participants, to better facilitate a targeted discussion on topics relevant to building design, energy, and health in the built environment.  Design Champs is a great way for us to summarize the current body of research on a particular topic, present our work, and brainstorm with industry professionals about what next steps we need to take to fill knowledge gaps.  This week, Jeff Kline, Ashkaan Fahimipour, Mark Fretz (our new Outreach Director), and myself (Sue Ishaq) connected online with a handful of architects from Oregon, Washington, and California to talk about “Daylight and Microbes”.

Mark presented a historical perspective on the use of light in architecture, and how factors like the price of glass shape the way buildings were and are designed, and even impact human health.

I added an overview of selected research into the effect that light has on bacteria, and how early results narrowed the focus of work into using light, particularly ultraviolet light, as a bactericidal treatment.  Yet, research has also found that other wavelengths affect bacteria in beneficial and detrimental ways, that other factors (like the presence of oxygen) can influence how dramatic that effect is, and how complex communities of microorganisms react differently than monocultures.

Next, Jeff presented a slide deck to illustrate the technical aspects of the work that BioBE has been doing to research light and microbes, including the design and creation of “lightboxes”.  This set up the last section for Ashkaan, who presented some of the results from our project studying different lighting regimes on the bacterial community in dust.  The manuscript from this project is currently in review, but we’ll be presenting on it more thoroughly once published.

BioBE is still developing the format for Design Champs, but we hope to host them every few months.  If you’d like to learn more, please email Jeff ( or myself (!