School of Architecture

Monday 25 June 2018

​With a background in architecture and design, an obession with emerging technology and a passion for environmental conservation, UQ Architecture PhD student Pat Manyuru shares how her study has taken her from Kenya to Australia. 

Tell us about your career path and how it has evolved over time?

My career in architecture and design started in Nairobi, back home in Kenya. When I graduated with first class honours and after working in spatial design and design technology, I decided to do my Masters, and my Master Thesis exploration led me directly to my PhD. The path, however, has been less linear and more like a tree, with branches in different areas that sparked interest in me. I would describe myself as first a digital creative, then an education researcher and finally an architect in training. While my interests are spread over different areas, the one area I have been most fascinated by has been that of video games and virtual worlds. I am grateful that I have been able to combine my professional development in architecture, with my passion in digital games. I am even more grateful for having found myself in UQ with the most elaborate support for my work that I could have imagined, spanning across three disciplines: architecture, civil, and information technology.

What’s your PhD about?

My PhD explores the use of video games as educational tools in design analysis. The architectural concept of circulation has been proven to be a difficult one to teach, mainly because it is challenging to educate about circulation before first engaging with and interacting in these circulation spaces. As part of my research, I have been using virtual environments in digital games to position students in buildings and spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible or dangerous to them in the real world. The circulation analysis process then becomes a game that engages learners using skills that they already unknowingly have at their disposal – skills in video games. Through these educational games, my work aims to enhance the training of design students, by educating them in the same virtual environments that they would be expected to demonstrate their acquired knowledge.

What does a typical day in the life of a PhD student look like?PhD student Patricia Manyuru assists with the virtual reality demonstration held on campus earlier this year.

It’s interesting because now that I think about it, no two days in the week are exactly the same. I will talk about my busiest day, which also happens to be the day that I look forward to the most. I start off in the morning with a quick half hour run. After meeting with my academic advisors in the morning, I make notes from the discussion, and then take part in “shut up and write” (highly recommend, to get a good head-start on the thesis), or attend a Graduate School Career Development Framework (CDF) workshop.

For lunch, my favourite spot is the little park by the lake, next to College Road. It’s leisurely and peaceful, if you’re ok in the company of water-hens and ducks. My afternoons are usually spent designing and testing the simulations that I create in virtual reality. This is admittedly the most time-consuming part of my day, but also the most rewarding. Once in a while I invite people to have a go.

It is always inspiring to watch people’s reactions in the virtual world, especially if it is their first time. I also take this time to answer questions from the students in the courses that I teach. My work-day ends at 6.30 p.m., when I make a detailed ‘to-do’ list of the things I hope to tackle the following day.

What are you enjoying most about studying at UQ?

Being a student at UQ, I am most grateful for the incredibly supportive people I have met. UQ is by far the biggest learning institution that I have ever been a part of, and that can be daunting at first. However it has been wonderfully fulfilling to interact with such a high calibre of people, ranging from internationally acclaimed academic lecturers, to industry experts who are well in touch with both their craft and the emerging technology of the ‘real world’. It has been especially gratifying to see their awareness in making UQ the most enjoyable research environment to work in.

What advice would you offer students looking to start a PhD?

My advice to future PhD students is to hit the ground running. It is common to spend the first few weeks, even months, feeling a bit clueless, but once you find a research interest that you are passionate about, and more importantly, a supervisor who is passionate about you and your topic, you should strive to make that momentum you best friend. But having said that, always make time to take a break – even something as simple as watching the sunset from the Eleanor Schonell Bridge can be a good reset button after a long day. 



Pat Manyuru has a background in architecture and design, an obsession with emerging technology, and a passion for environmental conservation. She completed her Bachelor of Architectural Studies with first-class honours from the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and was granted an international scholarship to undertake her Master of Architecture at Bond University in Queensland, where she was recognized and awarded for her performance in research analysis and representation. Upon the completion of this, Pat was invited to commence her PhD at the University of Queensland, on another full scholarship. Her work has been presented at national and inter-university conferences. Pat's current research explores the use of digital educational games in virtual environments to enhance student engagement in design education settings. She is particularly interested in improving the workflow involved in learning about concepts that are either too confusing to teach theoretically, such as circulation/navigation analysis, or that are too dangerous to explore physically, such as architecture for flood-risk areas.