Research Conversations with Fope Bademosi
Researching global challenges and inspiring STEM students
As a researcher, educator, and self-professed techno-optimist, Fope Bademosi works to redefine how we engage with the built environment. A life-long interest in construction practices, paired with a passion for new technologies led Fope to her role as a Circular Economy and Construction Researcher. Fope, an Autodesk intern alumna, discusses her career path and how she’s doing her part to help shape the future workforce of construction leaders.
How did your background lead to Autodesk?
Growing up I was pretty much a tinkerer. I have always been interested in making things. My dad is an architect, so I often found myself in his office or on construction sites after school. This developed my interest in buildings and how they were constructed. I thought I would go to school for architecture, but while applying for undergraduate programs I was placed in the building construction program. When I was applying for grad school, I thought it would be good to follow that same path and I applied to the construction management program at the University of Florida. Being Nigerian and African, my goal going into grad school was to research affordable housing in sub-Saharan Africa. I continued with that until the last semester of my program when I took BIM class. It was game changing to me: it was so easy to use, very intuitive and collaborative.
These experiences with software really disrupted things for me. As a result, in the last semester of my masters I shifted my focus from affordable housing to construction technology. That encouraged me to do a PhD with a specialization in advanced construction technologies. During my studies, I ended up being the TA for the BIM class I took, so I was teaching the products from Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACS) offerings and developed a great relationship with the Autodesk Education Experiences (AEX) team. They really helped me be successful in teaching that course; furthermore, it was through this team that I learned about internships with Autodesk.
I applied for and was offered an internship in the summer of 2018. As a construction management intern, I worked on market research with the AEX team, exploring the expansion of Autodesk offerings across construction management programs in the US. During my internship, I was able to help the team put together a curriculum for BIM 360 in construction management programs. My final deliverable during my internship was to conduct research into Industrialized Construction and produce a white paper on integrating the top five market trends into existing construction management education programs. After graduation, I took a position as an assistant professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, which was looking to expand the curriculum with BIM courses and software training. However, I started the job two months before the pandemic hit, and even though we were able to adapt to online learning it was a challenging time to be in academia.
In this context, I saw the job posting with Autodesk for a construction researcher in 2021 and I decided to go for it. I believe being a former intern was a plus and I’ve always managed to stay close to the people I worked with. They were huge supporters of my career, even when I was in academia. Now I’m fortunate to be working alongside them again. As I reflect one year later, it really feels like I’ve come full circle!
Tell us about your role at Autodesk.
I am a Circular Economy and Construction Researcher on the architecture, construction and engineering (AEC) Industry Futures team. My role at Autodesk is to collaborate on research on both theoretical and applied topics related to the AEC industry, which includes developing new technologies and practices to improve the construction industry and working with customers and industry professionals to implement our research findings.
I’m currently researching new approaches to building materials, supply chains, construction waste streams, and economic models related to the circular economy in construction. The construction industry remains horribly climate unfriendly. It generates a lot of waste, with construction and demolition creating more than 600 million tons of waste debris annually in the U.S. alone. That’s twice as much as the municipal waste collected from homes and businesses in cities! A circular economy offers the single most significant opportunity for radical climate action in construction, which could deliver a 40-60 percent reduction in embodied emissions.
Tell us about an exciting project you’ve worked on while at Autodesk Research.
That would be the Dar Bridge project. What I was most excited about, which was also the most challenging, was the ability to 3D print something like that to scale. Prior to the bridge, the biggest thing I personally 3D printed was a tabletop-type artifact. 3D prints of a 5-meter bridge just blew my mind; firstly, because it’s a full-size pedestrian bridge, and secondly, it’s incredible we used recycled material that is recyclable. We really looked at the environmental aspect–it’s exciting working with a team that is dedicated to not just innovation, but also sustainability. Having a company like Dar, who are very innovative and trying to optimize processes for building infrastructure while also finding more sustainable ways of doing it was really cool.
What is some of the most useful advice you give to aspiring students in STEM?
Together with my work at Autodesk, I collaborate with Kellyanne Mahoney from the ACS team on educational outreach with pre-college and college students. We show them the different career pathways that are available to them. In my experience as a professor in construction, I had very few students of color. For students to see someone who looks like them and who can advocate for them is inspiring–representation matters.
As far as advice goes, I tell students that a willingness to learn is particularly important, paired with being courageous enough to challenge norms and suggest new methods that may be more effective. Finally, they need to love math. Many students mention that they’re going into construction because they don’t like math, but it’s important not to be afraid of math–you are going to be using it forever in construction!
What are some challenges you face as a female in a primarily male-dominated industry?
Early in my journey, I developed the mindset that I must work twice as hard as my male counterparts for my achievements to count. Of all the people working in construction, women comprise only 10.9%. Even smaller is the number of women on the front lines of a job site: only 1 woman for every 100 employees in the field. However, we’re fortunate to have a lot of incredible leaders in the industry now who are paving the way for women and girls. I’d like to follow in their footsteps.
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