Alumni Spotlight

Skylar Tibbits ’07

Skylar Tibbits ’07 is a trained artist and computational architect working on "smart" components that can assemble themselves. His research focuses on developing self-assembly technologies.

He graduated from Philadelphia University with a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree and minor in Experimental Computation. Tibbits starting building installations and writing code during his time at PhilaU. He said the University allowed him to challenge conventions which lead to his interest in new technologies.

After earning his degree, Tibbits continued his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In two years, he received a Master of Science in Design and Computation and a Master of Science in Computer Science. Tibbits was hired by MIT after his graduation and is currently a lecturer in the Department of Architecture teaching undergraduate and graduate design studios.

Tibbits is also the founder and principal of SJET LLC, a small design practice which is research-based practice crossing architecture, design, fabrication, computer science and robotics.

In 2011, Tibbits received a TED fellowship. TED is a nonprofit organization bringing people from the worlds of Technology, Entertainment and Design together. Tibbits is currently a 2012 TED Senior Fellow. As a fellow, he attends conferences, presents and gains exposure. “It’s a nice opportunity for development,” said Tibbits.

Tibbits’ fellowship has been rewarding because it allows him to travel and connect with people that have different experiences. He is grateful for having the ability to teach and focus on research. “It’s wonderful working with brilliant students,” said Tibbits. Research allows him to work on many different scales, methods and materials. “Research has been beneficial to me and keeps me excited.” Along with rewards, come challenges in life. For Tibbits, one challenge has been proposing new visions in research. He notes it is difficult to implement new technologies because some people are afraid of it.

When asked about balancing work and life, Tibbits said the two can’t always be balanced. “For me, architecture is a passion. PhilaU taught me that. What I do doesn’t feel like a job and I want to do it every day.” Work dominates his life because it is what he wants to do. The ability to travel on a regular basis provides him with some balance, new experiences and the opportunity to relax.

Since graduating from PhilaU in 2007, Tibbits has quickly become a trailblazer in his profession. He credits PhilaU for teaching him to push boundaries. His advice to current students and recent graduates is to break the mold to find new and exciting things. “Legacy is the biggest thing that kills innovation. Fight your own legacy and conventions because that brings innovation.”