Research Fellow Amir Baniassadi, PhD, Named 2023 STAT Wunderkind

Dr. Baniassadi studies environmental health with a focus on the health and well-being of older adults within the built environment.

Amir Baniassadi, PhD, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, has been named a 2023 STAT Wunderkind

STAT, a journalism outlet covering health, medicine, and the life sciences, selected the 2023 Wunderkinds from a pool of more than 200 nominees across North America. This award recognizes 28 early-career scientists and clinicians who are doing groundbreaking work and blazing new trails as they attempt to answer some of the biggest questions in science and medicine. 

STAT says it set out to celebrate the unheralded heroes of science and medicine, poring over hundreds of nominations from across North America in search for the next generation of scientific superstars. “We were on the hunt for the most impressive doctors and researchers on the cusp of launching their careers, but not yet fully independent,” said the STAT announcement. “This year, as in past years, we’ve found inspiring stories and innovative research. All are blazing new trails as they attempt to answer big questions in science and medicine.”

According to the STAT announcement: “Engineer Amir Baniassadi moved from studying heat to researching how heat affects elderly people.”

While Dr. Baniassadi was getting his PhD in environmental engineering at Arizona State University, he studied simulation after simulation of what would happen in cities like Phoenix if the power went out in the middle of summer. But no matter how much he learned about cooling cities and mitigating heat, he couldn’t help but think about the people inside those hot buildings and what was happening to them.

So for his post-doctoral fellowship, he switched to studying humans themselves, giving elderly people Oura electronic wearable rings and outfitting their homes with sensors to measure how temperature affected how they slept and their cognitive ability. 

While Baniassadi had studied heat exposure for six years, he had always been able to afford air conditioning. It wasn’t until his research brought him inside people’s homes that he truly understood.

“I sat with a 93-year-old person inside their home during a July heatwave, and it was unbelievable how hot it was in their home,” he said. “And they were sitting naked and refused to turn their conditioning on because they said, ‘Oh, I want to save on electricity bill.’”

“I had no idea what it means to sit in a room where it’s 90% relative humidity and 90 degrees Fahrenheit . . . I knew it’s bad. I knew you should avoid it. I knew how to calculate or simulate or prevent predict[ions] in the future. But I didn’t know what it means,” said Baniassadi. 

The empathy and understanding he’s gained since switching from engineering to doing aging research in people’s homes, he said, ‘helps me do better science.’”

About Amir Baniassadi
Amir Baniassadi is a T32 post-doctoral research fellow working on environmental health, and in particular, the health and well-being of older adults within the built environment. Before joining the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Dr. Baniassadi was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he researched climate adaptation and mitigation within the built environment. He has a PhD in civil, environmental, and sustainable engineering from Arizona State University and a BSc degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tehran. He is a research fellow in medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

About STAT
STAT delivers trusted and authoritative journalism about health, medicine, and the life sciences. Millions of new readers turned to STAT as the publication sounded the alarm early on about the COVID-19 pandemic. STAT journalists go deep in tough-minded coverage of the business of making medicines, health tech, science, and public health.

STAT takes you inside academic labs, biotech boardrooms, and political backrooms. They cast a critical eye on scientific discoveries, scrutinize corporate strategies, and chronicle roiling battles for talent, money, and market share. They examine controversies and puncture hype. With an award-winning newsroom, STAT gives you indispensable insights and exclusive stories on the technologies, personalities, power brokers, and political forces driving massive changes in the life science industry — and a revolution in human health. These are the stories that matter to us all.

About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching, and redefining the possibilities of aging. Hebrew SeniorLife cares for more than 4,500 seniors a day across six campuses throughout Greater Boston. Locations include: Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-Boston and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-NewBridge in Dedham; NewBridge on the Charles, Dedham; Orchard Cove, Canton; Simon C. Fireman Community, Randolph; Center Communities of Brookline, Brookline; and Jack Satter House, Revere. Founded in 1903, Hebrew SeniorLife also conducts influential research into aging at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, which has a portfolio of more than $85 million, making it one of the largest gerontological research facilities in the U.S. in a clinical setting. It also trains more than 1,000 geriatric care providers each year. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit our website or follow us on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.