Weitzman News

Posted December 15, 2021

PhD Candidate Wins 'Building and Environment' 2021 Best Paper Award

Nancy Ma, a candidate for the PhD in Architecture affiliated with the Center for Environmental Building & Design, has won the Building and Environment 2021 Best Paper Award. One of three papers awarded among 4,500 submissions, "Adaptive behavior and different thermal experiences of real people: A Bayesian neural network approach to thermal preference prediction and classification" was co-authored by Liang Chen and Jian Hu with faculty advisors Professors Paris Perdikaris, SEAS, and William Braham, Weitzman, and published in Building and Environment Vol. 198 in July of 2021.

The paper documents an original Bayesian neural network (BNN) algorithm to tackle the problem of high uncertainty in the prediction and classification of building occupants’ thermal preferences. The research of Ma, Chen, and Hu offers insight into quantifying human-building interaction during architectural design as well as making a positive impact on building energy consumption and occupant wellness in the indoor environment.

Building and Environment is an international journal that publishes original research papers and review articles related to building science, urban physics, and human interaction with the indoor and outdoor built environment. The journal established the Best Paper Award in 2007, as a measure to encourage publishing high-quality papers, and recognize authors for their papers’ originality, contributions to the field, quality of presentation, and soundness of science.

Ma’s research interests lie at the intersection of indoor environmental analysis and occupant wellbeing, seeking to understand and influence building design using multidisciplinary simulation, experimental, and field study approaches. In these approaches she applies objective (instrumental) as well as subjective measures (questionnaires, interviews) in the research study procedure. In particular, her research interests include indoor air quality, thermal comfort, occupant health, perception and behavior, environmental sensing, building energy efficiency, data-driven models, and machine learning. She is skilled at sensor coding, statistical modeling, data analysis and visualization, and building performance simulation.

Ma has collaborated with researchers from other study fields, institutes, departments, and universities. Her current projects include the impact of building envelope design on indoor ozone and inhalation exposure; Internet of Things for measuring the influence of energy-related decisions on indoor environmental quality funded by Kleinman Center for Energy Policy; in-lab and in-field analysis of environmental factors on sleep quality and quantity in collaboration with the Sleep Lab of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Penn Perelman School of Medicine., for which she recently received a grant award from the GAPSA - Provost Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Innovation.

Ma is working as a research associate at both the Center for Environmental Building & Design and the Thermal Architecture Lab. She holds a Bachelor of Environments and a Master of Architecture from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Read the full research paper.