Monthly Archives: March 2013

An Illuminating Talk about Virginia Tech’s Smart, Sustainable LumenHaus, with Dr. Denis Gracanin

Elizabeth_SavageElizabeth Savage is currently an M.S. student in Biomedical Engineering pursuing work in Dr. Rafael Davalos’ lab on contactless dielectrophoretic (cDEP) microfluidic technology for rapid isolation of tumor-initiating cancer cells. She is also a member of the MultiSTEPS interdisciplinary program, in which trainees are prepared to solve problems at the intersection of biology and engineering through interdisciplinary coursework and research experience, while building an interactive community of students and professors from diverse disciplines. Elizabeth is the spotlight speaker series chair.


Our first Spotlight Speaker Seminar was given by Dr. Denis Gracanin, Associate Professor of Virginia Tech’s Computer Science department. It was a fascinating discussion of the need for an interdisciplinary perspective to build an environmentally sustainable home that is smart and can be controlled virtually. This home takes inhabitant-centered living to a whole new level, where doors can be opened and TVs turned on simply by gestures. Using pre-set programs, energy usage can be adapted for long-term conservation efforts or for short-term needs like hosting parties, meeting environmental and economic constraints while remaining flexible in catering to the personal desires of the inhabitants.

 He discussed with humor and insight the need for humility and openness during interdisciplinary efforts. Dr. Gracanin noted how his thinking was changed by collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines. In this case, the result of the collaboration among architecture, computer science, electrical engineering, and other disciplines was an award-winning smart solar house that was Virginia Tech’s entry into the 2009 Solar Decathlon.

Attendees were inspired, based on the lively question-and-answer session followed the speaker’s talk. A video recording of Dr. Gracanin’s talk will be available on the IDR website. For more information about LumenHaus, visit or

Our next Spotlight Speaker will be Friday March 29, with Dr. Laura Jackson of the EPA.