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From earth’s gravity to New Brunswick seniors: UNB researcher uses skills in exciting new ways

Dr. Ismael Foroughi, who holds the The Purdy Crawford/TD Bank Postdoctoral Fellowship in Accessibility.

When completing his PhD in geomatics engineering, Dr. Ismael Foroughi (PhD 2019) analyzed the height system of earth’s gravity field. During his final semester he was invited to take part in a project that would shift the focus of his research entirely, using geographical data in exciting new ways.

Today, with the support of the Purdy Crawford/TD Bank Postdoctoral Fellowship in Accessibility, Dr. Foroughi investigates the effect of geographical factors on the health and well-being of aging populations.

The Fellowship was created in 2017 through the generosity of alumni, corporate and community partners. The Fellowship, which Dr. Foroughi holds through 2021, supports UNB researchers who will help ensure that the people of New Brunswick have access to education, health care, and programs and services that help them reach their full potential.

The research areas of gravitational systems and frailty in aging populations may seem to be miles apart, but Dr. Foroughi points out that despite the vastly different fields, the research questions and design were the same. “In every research project,” he said, “there is a problem to solve, a question to answer, or a solution to find. Researchers are there to help with their [distinct] ways of thinking.” In his case, that way of thinking was geomatics. His research background gave him a valuable edge in his new field, as he uses geographical data in the definition of frailty among aging populations, something that had never been done before. By better defining the frailty index, he hopes his research might save lives and help senior populations live healthy and independently.

Dr. Foroughi expects the results of his research will be valuable for policy development and health resources planning in Canada, particularly in New Brunswick, including the accessibility of social support, home care and residential care for seniors. He notes the importance of evidence-informed decision making among governments, service providers and community stakeholders working in the prevention and management of frailty among aging populations.

Originally from Iran, Dr. Foroughi has been at UNB for nearly seven years and considers New Brunswick his second home. “I believe UNB is a place where you can prove yourself,” he said. “There are opportunities for everyone with any skill level.”

Interdisciplinary study and research are encouraged at UNB, where Interdisciplinary Studies is now the largest PhD program. Dr. Foroughi encourages graduate students to embrace opportunities to change their field of research. His own experience with a change in field has inspired Dr. Foroughi to develop a new course for others who might follow in his footsteps. The course, “Application of the Geographic Information Systems in the Social Sciences” will come to UNB in the summer semester of 2021.

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