Stuckeman School graduate student earns Alumni Association Dissertation Award | The Penn State Stuckeman School Skip to main content

Stuckeman School graduate student earns Alumni Association Dissertation Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Stuckeman School graduate student Debora Verniz, who is a doctoral candidate in architecture, has been awarded the 2020 Alumni Association Dissertation Award from the Graduate School at Penn State for her research work in planning affordable housing structures in low-income areas.

The Dissertation Award is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishments.

Verniz’s dissertation, “Understanding the formal structure of Brazilian informal settlements,” focuses on Favelas, low and middle-income unregulated informal settlements in Brazil. As an outcome of her planning and research, she built a tool for planning affordable housing for people who live in these settlements.

A Stuckeman School studio course was created as a result of Verniz’s research during which she collaborated with other graduate students who are also interested in intervening on Favela settlements. The studio ended up developing computational tools in order to produce affordable housing models.

With the help of other graduate students in the course, Verniz was able to design an immersive environment with advanced technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

“My research has a very important social impact because the lack of affordable housing is a problem all around the world, especially here and in other developing countries,” Verniz said. “Developing tools to plan affordable housing so we can improve the lives of people that are in need is very important to me. It is estimated that almost 1 billion people live in informal housing or in places that do not have the minimum conditions for living safely.”

Verniz, who is from a small town near Sao Paulo, Brazil, reflected on the accomplishment, saying, “Winning the award was such a nice surprise. When I was notified, I felt very happy that all my work was recognized. It’s not easy to leave your family and not be able to visit often. I felt like all my hard work and effort paid off.”

Following her graduation in May, Verniz would like to teach at a university in the United States and she is actively applying for faculty positions.

“Graduating is a bittersweet feeling! On one hand, it’s the accomplishment that all students work towards, but on the other hand, it makes me a little sad knowing that my life will drastically change after this. I will miss the student life,” she said.

Portrait of Debora Verniz