German scholar’s journey Down Under: From Desert Rose to doctorate

German scholar’s journey Down Under: From Desert Rose to doctorate

Jacqueline Thim’s doctoral thesis bridges engineering and architecture to advance sustainable building practices

In a tale that spans continents and embraces innovation, Jacqueline Thim, hailing from the picturesque city of Augsburg in Germany, embarked on a transformative odyssey upon her arrival in Australia in 2017. Her decision to vie for a UOW Solar Decathlon scholarship, and sign up for the Desert Rose House project, set in motion a narrative of academic exploration and personal evolution.

“I was initially drawn to the Solar Decathlon as an opportunity to immerse myself in designing and building a sustainable house, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the academic depth it offered, including a PhD program,” Jacqueline said.

Jacqueline embraced the challenge wholeheartedly and at the Solar Decathlon competition in Dubai in 2018, the Desert Rose team clinched second place overall. This triumph further fuelled Jacqueline’s passion for sustainable design and laid the cornerstone for her PhD at UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre.

Equipped with expertise in energy-efficient house planning from her German studies – a Bachelor of Engineering and a Master of Engineering from Technical University of Applied Sciences Augsburg – Jacqueline's PhD bridges the gap between engineering and architecture, with a focus on solar design and energy-efficient appliances, passively improving energy efficiency and moisture resilience of buildings in Australia.

Her doctoral thesis, “Investigation of the Heat and Moisture Performance of Naturally Ventilated Wall Systems in Residential Buildings in Australian Climates”, seeks to advance sustainable building practices.

“I have always been passionate about sustainable architecture and building design. The PhD at UOW equipped me with in-depth knowledge of academic research and fluid mechanics,” Jacqueline said.

Balancing academic accomplishments with personal milestones, Jacqueline welcomed her daughters, Maya and Isabel, into the world during her PhD journey. She and her partner, Mark Single, met during their collaboration on the Desert Rose House project.

“We became a couple while we were in Dubai at the competition at the end of 2018. He is my soulmate and has been my strongest support over the past five years,” she said.

Despite the demands of motherhood and the labyrinthine challenges of the COVID era, Jacqueline maintained a focus on her studies throughout with the steadfast support of her PhD supervisors.

One of the highlights was an internship with Cox Architecture, the firm that designed the multi award-winning Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, the first building in Australia to achieve Living Building Challenge certification and the first building in the Illawarra to hold 6 Green Stars for the sustainable design, construction and operation.

“Undertaking the 10-year post occupancy study of the SBRC as part of the APR internship with Cox architecture offered me a great opportunity to apply the research skills acquired throughout my PhD.”

Recently, Jacqueline was accepted into a UOW iAccelerate program, essentially a litmus test for aspiring startup businesses, clinching a prestigious "Female Founder Scholarship". Her business idea is to make affordable, eco-friendly, natural fibre-based insulation products made from renewable resources.