Dr Diana Varaden, Research Associate, Environmental Research Group, School of Public Health

“I strive to identify how best we can communicate air pollution as a health risk to the public”

After I completed my MSc in environmental technology at Imperial, I started a job as an air quality consultant, working on projects involving monitoring and modelling air quality. Through my educational background and work experience, I was able to recognise the sources and magnitude of the air pollution problem in our city and its impact on human health.  

However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the public could understand the importance of tackling the air pollution problem if they could not see it! The opening sentence of my personal statement when applying for my PhD studentship eight years ago was – ‘Air pollution, the invisible killer, needs to be unmasked! How can we do it?’ Finding the answer to this question was and still is the focus of my research.  

My research largely involves working with members of the public, enabling them to be an active part of the research process, and helping them to design, implement and interpret their own air quality monitoring projects. I am interested in interdisciplinary work bridging natural science, social and health disciplines and in identifying the benefits of involving lay individuals in the research process. 

The interdisciplinary nature of my research allows for a better understanding of how people are exposed to air pollution and where the risks are the highest, while also providing understandings around how people conceptualise, perceive and act on air pollution.  I strive to identify how best we can communicate air pollution as a health risk to the public, ultimately leading to improved public health. 

Currently, I am working on the design and implementation of the engagement, involvement, and participatory strategy for the WellHome study, a community-based research project in West London exploring indoor and outdoor air pollution and its impact on asthma. 

Outside of work, my two boys keep me busy! My weekends are filled with birthday parties, family bike rides and rugby fixtures. My favourite things are the smell of autumn, Christmas, and a good Argentinian malbec. 

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