Current Students’ Research Stories

Rosie Manzo, class of 2019

My current research with Ben Shirtcliff, Ph.D.,  seeks to address how built environments foster inclusivity and healthy lives through supportive public space in small town Iowa. I have been working on measurable elements of the built environment that affect community engagement in social and physical activities. Working with members of the ISU Kinesiology Department to develop new initiatives aimed at decreasing health risks, like obesity, through social and physical interventions. We use Perry, Iowa and its fast changing demographics as a case study.


Mahsa, class of 2019

For the past year and a half, Mahsa was trained and successfully researched how public space supports the socioecology of youth in urban environments. The primary method is through social media (YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, etc.). Adolescents are notoriously difficult to study in public space but are relentless users of social media, and, often, post activities that take place in public space. We look at different activities (skateboarding, dancing, parkour, festivals, etc.) in specific sites through the lens of social media to understand the relationship between built environments and adolescent behavior.


Zhongzhe Shen, class of 2018

In the past two years, I have worked with Professor Caroline Westort on programming robots to assist landscape architects. A field-based robot assistant could offer landscape architect a new understanding of the kinesthetic experience of occupying the landscape. Robotics is establishing a new symbiotic relation with landscape architecture and pushing the disciplines’ boundaries of advanced technologies application. Recently, we have been experimenting with Arduino to demonstrate the possibility of using the robot in site-remediation projects.


Austin Dunn, class of 2018

Austin works with Professor Chris Seeger at the Geospatial Technology Program, part of ISU Extension for Community and Economic Development. He assists on a range of mapping projects for clients, such as the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Department of Transportation. Currently, Austin is working on developing new methods for measuring “walkability” in Iowa communities, using GIS to model the pedestrian environment. Additionally, Austin assists with teaching by helping to facilitate GIS Workshops and authoring biweekly GIS Tasksheets, which guide users on a range of GIS tasks.


Ngoc Ho, class of 2018


I am part of a team that works on the “Community Visioning Program,” led by Professor Julia Badenhope. The program assists small Iowa communities to “bridge the gap between the demand and availability of design resources needed to improve transportation systems.” Currently, we are producing the 2017 Community Visioning Annual Report, which reflects a step-by-step overview of the visioning process and implementation strategies for meeting community goals. Working directly with the community, we listen, learn, and analyze its needs, values, and different cultural aspects. Based on the collected information, we produce data-informed planning and design ideas and resources to assist the community in making transportation improvement decisions and raise the quality of life. The community then works closely with technical experts and landscape architects from the private-sector and with Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture to develop a transportation enhancement plan reflecting their values and identity.

Huaxuan Wu, class of 2018

I am working with Professor Caroline Westort a new research about algorithms aided design, a parametric structure using rhino and grasshopper. In addition, I assist Professor Westort in LA 557/LA457, Parametric Landscape Design class.


Carol Ustine, class of 2018

Working with Professor Julia Badenhope on the “Community Visioning” program. Anchored by a committee of residents, communities work closely with technical experts from Trees Forever, a private-sector landscape architect, and the Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture to create a transportation enhancement plan reflecting the values and identity of the community. We are currently working on the Annual Report for the communities that benefited from the team in 2017. The selection of the communities for 2018 was recently completed, and the very excited team is vigorously in the process of producing assessment boards for the community meetings and focus groups. I am glad to be a part of this meaningful program that has benefited many small communities around Iowa.

Zhi Chen, class of 2018

I am working with Professor Abbie Gaffey of the ISU Extension on neighborhood planning for the City of Waukee. This project aims to build a better community through housing and design for locals and those who come from West DesMoines. We use housing need surveys distributed through the local church and talk with locals of different cultural backgrounds. In addition, I create a “windshield survey” of the existing houses. We will then analyze the data and produce initial plans for the city.


Nuo Man, class of 2017

This year I work with Professor Julia Badenhope on design research related to the Community Visioning program.  The Community Visioning Program integrates technical landscape planning and design techniques with sustainable community action to assist community leaders and volunteers in making sound and meaningful decisions about the local landscape. The program empowers local leaders through a planning process that results in a transportation enhancement plan reflecting the values and identity of the community. At the moment we are producing the 2016 Community Visioning Annual Report.

For more information see website:

Fangzhuo Miao, class of 2016

Miao has been working as a Research Assistant to professor Julia Badenhope on her Community Visioning research program for two years. This semester he is also assisting Professor Carl Rogers with his undergraduate grading course, LA 381, Shaping the Land.

Wenjuan Feng, class of 2016

Wenjuan is a Research Assistant to professor Carl Rogers in the Community Design Lab, where she is engaged in various projects, including the Coe College and the SW 9th Corridor projects in Cedar Rapids; the Horizons triangle edible garden project in Centerville city park, and “Healthiest Ames Complete Street Project” in Ames, IA.


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