Scarlett Miller, director of the Engineering Design program and associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, has been named director of the Penn State Center for Research in Design and Innovation (CRDI).
Established in 2008 by Matt Parkinson, director of the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory and professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering, CRDI helps facilitate research partnerships and collaborations across Penn State in the fields of design and innovation.
Miller, an expert in human-computer interaction, engineering design and human factors product design, credits CRDI’s designXchange workshops with contributing to her success as a new faculty member at the University in 2011.
“It was my first connection to Penn State,” she said. “Part of the workshop series was building connections across the University and providing seed funding to faculty members to start a project.”
It was through this series that Miller met then-Penn State colleagues Sam Hunter and Irene Petrick. Now, Hunter is a professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Petrick is the senior director of industrial innovation in the Internet of Things Group at Intel. These introductions developed into core relationships resulting in numerous National Science Foundation-funded collaborations, as well as Miller’s courtesy appointment in the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology. As director of CRDI, Miller plans to continue fostering and advancing faculty relationships.
“I want CRDI to help create connections between faculty in these innovative and cross-cutting areas,” Miller said. “I want CRDI to be that connector.”
Miller explained how her experience working across multiple University entities and institutions, including the College of Medicine, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the College of Health and Human Development, highlights the importance of interdisciplinary connections.
“One of the things I know from my involvement in interdisciplinary projects across Penn State and the national research community in the design and innovation space is that there are very limited single discipline grants,” she said. “The role of a center like CRDI is to help foster relationships between faculty members across different disciplines and different institutions that might feel siloed.”
Timothy W. Simpson, interim head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs and Paul Morrow Professor in Engineering Design and Manufacturing, echoed the importance of interdisciplinary efforts like Miller’s.
“I’m excited to see how Dr. Miller will apply her design and creativity research not only to the interdisciplinary research initiatives of the center but also to the faculty engagement strategies and operation of the center itself,” he said. “Her collaborations with faculty in psychology and the College of Medicine are going to open brand new research avenues for CRDI.”
Miller’s goals for CRDI also include increasing student and industry engagement through networking, fellowship opportunities and providing new pathways for industry professionals to access University researchers.
“In design and innovation, the potential for impact is huge,” Miller said. “Projects in that space are at the crux of many disciplines, which means CRDI’s impact could be amplified across fields.”