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Credit: ANNE HAMERSKY

Michael Siminovitch describes his education and career as an “evolutionary process.” With degrees in industrial design, architecture, and human factors engineering, most of his focus for the better part of the past two decades has been on lighting and energy efficiency. As director of the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) and a professor of design at the University of California at Davis, Siminovitch is forging new industry partnerships between manufacturers, utilities, researchers, and even other lighting programs in Thailand and China. For students, it is a rich introduction to real-world lighting issues, one that encourages a creative approach to problem solving.

What is your teaching philosophy?
To expose students to multiple perspectives in which they're constantly challenging themselves with new ideas and new technologies.

What is the CLTC's approach to lighting education?
Students are “hands-on” with ongoing laboratory to marketplace efforts. They see real technology and design working together.

How are universities evolving?
Universities have tremendous stresses today financially. They're trying to maintain relevance and vitality. They look at the CLTC as a research experiment. We operate off of many smaller industrial agreements; it's a different paradigm than the individual with a single research grant.

How do you present new lighting technologies to students?
I try to pull in these new innovations (i.e., LEDs) and get them into the classroom as soon as possible. Once students understand the basics of lighting, and can ask the right questions, they can deal with change.

Is there enough communication between educators?
My rule of thumb is there's never enough communication. We should always be challenging our thinking in terms of how we teach. Tomorrow's lecture should not be the same as the one that we gave today.

What are your thoughts on the idea of a common curriculum?
I'm very supportive of sharing information, but I'm not supportive of common learning packages. This kind of uniformity is counterproductive to allowing a diversity of teaching— and learning.

What advice would you give students and recent graduates?
Try to get as many varied experiences as possible so you'll really understand the whole process—concept, design, and manufacturing.