Finding Inspiration in Research

Rion smiling in front of a Christmas tree outdoors

Written by Rion Levy, Design Research Team Lead: University College

Prior to coming to the Innovation Hub, my design research experience was sporadic. I have a few years of informal, self-led design research experience under my belt, but most of my formal training has been tied to the Academy. I’ve worked as a part of a team, as a team lead, and independently in the humanities, social sciences, and in design research.  

At my high school, I developed a two-year research program working with sexual harassment survivors. I completed a year-long Research Opportunity Program researching the digital archives of the Stationers’ Company. I located and read through thousands of pages of hand-written documents, looking for a select number of publishers my advisor was interested in. 

icon of a person pointing towards a book

A team of seven other students and I received the Experiential and Work Integrated Learning Ontario Student of the Year Award for our contribution to Dr. Russo’s ArcGIS Teaching the Midde Ages: The Decameron project. We started to develop digital teaching aids for high school teachers, researching digital and physical archives to supplement our telling of the text. 

Most recently, I completed my undergraduate thesis on the poet Peter Orlovsky.  This project was fairly independent. I came across Orlovsky’s name several times and couldn’t find any answers on him when I looked for them. So, I decided to dedicate a year toward archival and literary research to begin to answer the question as to who he was. 

Reflections on the iHub 

At the Innovation Hub, I’m the Team Lead for the Reimagining University College Project. In this work I have not only been able to apply the different techniques I’ve learned so far, but I have also been growing as a researcher and as a team member. In my role, I focus on the big picture behind the research my team is conducting.  

a person smiling with a lightbulb in their head with a yellow background

One of the main things I’ve learned is that everyone researches differently. So far, my team has asked me many questions where the best answer I can give is simply “yes, no, and somewhere in the middle.” Our work is nuanced. There is no definite answer when working with people. Every situation will be different. Luckily, my team and I tend to respond to my answer with a laugh before we dive into why there is never a definite answer when it comes to research and design thinking. 

When researching the stories and feedback of people who are excited and willing to share, we face the challenge of ourselves. How I respond to any situation will be different to how any of my team members will. We never enter our research knowing exactly what we’re going to find. This uncertainty is my favourite part. It encourages us to always be on our toes, thinking critically and responsively, and this keeps me engaged and excited for my work. 

In my position as a Team Lead, I have been improving my interview techniques, communication methods, workshop facilitation tactics, and so much more by leading and working alongside my team. I am constantly in awe of their resilience and the creativity they bring to our project; two traits that I believe represent the Innovation Hub more broadly. 

My goal in conducting all these forms of research is to learn what inspires me most. I want to discover what kinds of research I thrive in doing. I want to develop a broad range of research skills to be able to apply them in various research avenues. Overall, I want to grow as a learner. 

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