Research Cafe

When you walk into a café and place your order, do you ever stop and wonder what led you to that decision?

Many factors can influence the decisions you make while standing at the counter. And researchers in Carnegie Mellon’s Social and Decision Sciences Department want to know what they are. So they set out to learn more about how people live and make decisions. Enter the Research Café.

So what exactly is a research café?

It’s part coffee shop, part research lab. Visitors can earn money or gift cards by participating in a study while they sip their coffee or enjoy their lunch. It’s quick, easy and – according to some – it’s fun.

Studies range from consumer spending and saving, to health behaviors (i.e. dieting & smoking), to the cause of happiness.

Learn more about the Social and Decision Sciences Department’s Center for Behavioral Decision Research, the Research Café and other projects.


Iron Man 2

If you’re among the millions who’ve seen Iron Man 2, you probably noticed the Grand Prix race car and Expo scenes (both featured in the trailer), along with Tony Stark’s ‘Hall of Armor.’

Those scenes and more were the work of Carnegie Mellon alum and talented set designer, Andrew Birdzell (CFA’06).

So how does one land a gig like that?

Birdzell believes in the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

In this case, when the rare opportunity to design elaborate, one-of-a-kind sets came a-knocking, Birdzell was ready for it. And he credits Carnegie Mellon for preparing him for the opportunity.

After working 12-hour days on the big budget Marvel Entertainment film for five months, Birdzell got to enjoy the movie – plot twists and all – along with the rest of the public. With fans eager for information, security was tight on set. Birdzell and his colleagues were only privy to the tiniest bits of the script that were absolutely necessary for their set creations.

Other alumni who had a hand in the making the Iron Man 2 movie a success:
  • Kenneth West (TPR’80), executive vice president and CFO of Marvel Entertainment
  • William Law (CFA’06), a fellow set-designer
  • Tricia Yoo (CFA’01), a set-costumer
Watch video on the School of Drama’s design program >>


Power On

What do Ph.D. students Billy Epting, Steve Rose and Eric Hittinger all have in common?

They’re all stars – EPA STAR fellowship awardees, that is.

This prestigious award given by the Environmental Protection Agency supports graduate-level candidates in environmental studies.

Epting is concerned about the unsustainable way humanity is meeting energy demands. So he’s working on advancements in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, as well as advanced batteries, which could someday mean a transportation sector with zero tailpipe emissions and a low lifecycle impact.

Rose is focused on wind power. He’s researching possible ways to smooth out the short-term variations in wind power without using energy storage.

Hittinger is working on integrating renewable energy. Simply put, he’s trying to figure out what technologies and policies are needed to increase the amount of renewable energy in our electric grid.

Speaking of Carnegie Mellon’s EPA fame, the university was recently named Conference Champion in EPA’s College & University Green Power Challenge.

And, earlier this year, Carnegie Mellon also made the list of the EPA’s top 50 purchasers of green power.

Pictured above: Billy Epting, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon.