Dina El-Zanfaly is a computational design researcher, architect and maker whose research focuses on radicalizing interactions between humans and machines in design and making to foster creativity and improvisation. She studies users’ sensory experiences as they design and make, and investigates how these perceptions inform the process of “learning to make.” She is a doctoral candidate in the Design and Computation group in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, where, as a Fulbright scholar, she also earned her Master of Science degree in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) in Design and Computation. In 2013, she co-established the Computational Making Group at MIT, an interdisciplinary research group that focuses on the relationship between abstract computation and active making. She is co-founder and co-director of Fab Lab Egypt (FLE), the first community maker space in northern Africa and the Arab world. Fab Lab Egypt provides both virtual and physical making environments for young makers, fostering creativity and innovation. She worked on integrating two digital fabrication labs in two STEM schools in Egypt with funding from USAID and aided in integrating digital fabrication labs into the STEM curriculum. Her work was selected by MIT to be highlighted in the July 2014 online MIT news release and main page.
Since her graduation in 2006, Dina has been teaching workshops and courses for graduate, undergraduate and middle and high school students. With the help of an Agha Khan travel grant, she recently designed and taught a Computational Making Workshop in an architecture studio for second year undergraduate students with Professor Mine Özkar at the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey. She has recently taught a new course at MIT in consultation with Terry Knight, “Computational Making: Light and Motion.” She was also in charge of organizing the Computation Group lecture series on themes of learning, making and interaction, in which prominent individuals from design and computation in academia and industry were invited to speak. Dina led the Design and Computation Forum in the academic year 2013-2014 and the reading seminar on “Computational Making” for three semesters.
She co-organized a workshop under the same theme at the Design Computing and Cognition Conference (DCC) in London in June of 2014. She also holds a MSc and a BSc professional degree in architecture from Alexandria University, Egypt, where she has taught for three years. Currently on leave from her position, she is finishing her doctoral studies at MIT. Before coming to MIT, she worked professionally as an architect on several prizewinning urban planning and architectural projects. Her most recent publications include a paper in Design Studies Journal, and two chapters in the book Unconventional Computing, published in 2013. Dina has also worked as a research assistant at Archnet at MIT, an international platform for architecture, conservation and urban planning. She worked on documenting and analyzing architecture in Egypt in the period between the 1940s and 1950s. The digitized work was presented in Al-Imarah, a prominent Egyptian architecture magazine during the 1950s. Dina has also been an invited critic at MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design, The American University in Cairo, and Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.
Dina has been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. For two years she acted as the student representative in the Design and Computation Group. After organizing several events through the Egyptian student association at MIT, she founded and structured a board for the association in 2012. She set the vision of the association’s board to establish the MIT-Egypt Seed Fund program, an exchange research program between MIT and other entities in Egypt. The program was launched three years later and expanded to be MIT-Arab World. Additionally, with support from MIT, she has toured the Middle East, giving talks and advice to youth on how to apply to MIT and other top US universities.
Dina continues to work on computational making, sensorial computing, design pedagogy and human-machine interaction. Her current research focuses on finding creative means of radicalizing learning to make and making to learn using new digital technologies.