Student & ECR Spotlight –Marzieh Ghanbari is working on Virtual Reality in Urban Health research and planning – Investigating the Impacts of Geographical Attributes on Walking Behavior and Stress Levels

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I am currently a Marie Skłodowska Curie Ph.D. fellow at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), working as part of the SURREAL_ITN project funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 program (grant agreement No. 956780). Under the supervision of Prof. Martin Dijst and Dr. Camille Perchoux, I am investigating the impacts of geographical attributes on walking behavior and stress levels, using Virtual Reality technology.

In terms of my academic background, I hold a master’s degree in Urban Design from Iran University of Science and Technology, complemented by a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from Shiraz University. During my Master’s, my interest in utilizing Virtual Reality (VR) to assess urban environments was ignited.

Prior to becoming a PhD student, I gained valuable experience as a part-time university lecturer, teaching “Urban Space Analysis” at Shiraz Technical and Engineering College.

What is your main research interest?

My main area of interest lies in exploring the relationship between urban environments and human physical and mental health. In addition, I am passionate about utilizing virtual reality technology to understand how urban environments affect people’s behavior.

How do you explain your current research/job to friends and family?

In a simplified explanation, I explore how urban environments can encourage people to be more physically active, particularly through walking, while also reducing stress levels. I investigate the geographical attributes within cities that have the greatest potential to positively impact our health.

Using Virtual Reality allows us to explore a wide range of scenarios and manipulate different attributes, such as green spaces, transportation options, building density, and more. By involving people in this process, we can gain insights into their preferences and better understand how these attributes influence their decisions regarding physical activity and stress levels.

What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field?

In my opinion, a significant upcoming development in the physical activity field will be enabling individuals to create their own environments in designers using technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR offers the opportunity for people to engage in immersive and interactive simulations of different environments, creating spaces that encourage physical activity while heightening enjoyment and accessibility.

By involving individuals in shaping their environments through such technologies, we can encourage greater participation and adherence to physical activity behaviors.


If you would like to get in touch with Marzieh, you can do so via her Twitter and LinkedIn handles.