The Class of 2019 will welcome Christina Ciardullo ’02 as its Commencement Speaker on June 6, 2019. Ciardullo is a senior architect at LAVA in Berlin, Germany and the co-founder of SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture), which develops human-supporting design concepts for space habitats. A graduate of Columbia University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and astronomy, Ciardullo went on to received a Master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University and has begun a Ph.D. at Yale University’s Center for Ecosystems and Architecture. Read on to hear more about how Sacred Heart influenced her path to space and be sure to see the full article in the Spring issue of Horizons.
Which Sacred Heart Greenwich courses influenced your college coursework and career choices?
I took a lot of diverse classes at Sacred Heart. Ones that stand out are the Great Thinkers class, AP Chemistry, AP Physics and Science Research. It was Mary Musolino’s first year teaching Science Research and the Gillespie Science Building had just opened. Most of the girls in my science classes were thinking about going into medicine, and after Science Research class I decided I was going to be a true scientist and work in a lab. But, in college, I went on to study astrophysics and philosophy because of the combination of the theology, great thinkers and curiosity that went into it all. For me, science was always encapsulated in this greater context of philosophy and theology. How do we think about the world, how do we come to understand the world, and by what means do we understand it? The diversity of courses at Sacred Heart in concert with the philosophy and theology background made me into a different kind of scientist.
Now, as an architect, I get to be the translator between many voices. I work with scientists to make buildings respond to the natural environment and principles of physics and mechanics, and with philosophical questions concerning how people live. I also work on NASA projects on habitats which require working with radiation experts and structural engineers while at the same time considering very human questions of what it means to live in a place that is isolated and far from home. As the architect, you bring it all together to meet the needs of a particular project.
What was your science research project at Sacred Heart?
I worked on a project about bioremediation, using bacteria to clean pollutants out of wastewater. I went to the wastewater treatment plant in Stamford, CT regularly to see if bacteria would work better than traditional chemical treatment methods. Interestingly enough, this is quite similar to some of the closed-loop ecological systems work we consider when working with building projects.
What research projects are you working on now?
I’m participating in a NASA sponsored project to 3D print a Martian habitat and working on closed-loop ecosystems for buildings both on earth and in space. In some ways, it’s science fiction. We take what’s in the realm of possibility and knowing what’s possible, we decide where we should focus our research. We’re at a point in time where we have a lot of tools we could use to build in outer space, like 3D printing and inflatables. There’s a lot of science, but it requires a vision for how to apply it. It required incorporating a human and philosophical perspective into what might otherwise be straightforward engineering. NASA recognizes the need to keep pushing these visions so we can inch toward bringing these projects to life.
What advice will you share at graduation with the Class of 2019?
You don’t have to choose to be a particular box. There are more opportunities to create your own career and path than you think. For me, choosing architecture was a way to bridge science with philosophy and arts side of me. But I’m still on the road figuring this all out, only a bit further down than the soon-to-be graduates. There’s still so much more to come, and we have to maintain a sense of curiosity about the world to keep trying to learn and understand.