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In essence, a city is just a hodgepodge of streets, buildings and green spaces where people live, work and play.
Cities are the seas we swim in. Yet only now are researchers studying the way urban environments impact on our moods and mental health.
One such researcher is former Edmontonian Dr. Robin Mazumder, an environmental neuroscientist whose research focuses on how urban stress affects us individually and collectively.
Mazumder, who grew up in B.C., worked for five years in Edmonton as an occupational therapist, where he noticed how disabled patients were cut off from participation in community, at least in part, by the physical environment.
He became prolific on social media and was one of the organisers of a famous, impromptu community snowball fight in the midst of a long Edmonton winter. That event — “magical” is how Mazumder describes it — drew hundreds of people outside on a winter day to play like children and raise money for charity.
Mazumder’s interest in community health and mental health led him to volunteer with the likes of Make Something Edmonton and the early days of EndPovertyEdmonton.
Mazumder was one of Avenue Magazine’s top 40 Under 40 in 2014. After leaving Edmonton to pursue his PhD, he was awarded the University of Waterloo’s President’s Community Impact Award in 2018.
Mazumder now speaks widely and regularly on how urban design can support well being. Issues of noise, safety and even public access are critical to health.
Does urban design cause or perpetuate poverty? Mazumder suspects it does.
Mazumder is currently doing postdoctoral research in the emerging discipline of neurourbanism, in Berlin, which is where the LiftEd Podcast reached him.
Cities like Berlin, he says, are rich in street life, which is an antidote to the dreary and unsafe moods created in too many urban areas.
“The streets are full of people because there are so many opportunities for people to sit and connect,” he says.
Edmonton might not yet have street life to match Berlin. But take heart.
“What makes Edmonton special to me,” says Mazumder, “is it’s the friendliest city I’ve ever lived in.”
About Dr. Robin Mazumder
Robin Mazumder is an environmental neuroscientist with a keen interest in how urban stress impacts individual, community, and societal wellbeing. His PhD research, funded by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, applied wearable technology in real and virtual settings to examine psychological and physiological responses to the urban environment. His research interests are informed by his clinical experience as a mental health occupational therapist working in the cores of Canadian cities, including Edmonton where he lived for five years. In addition to his research, Robin is an outspoken advocate for urban design that supports wellbeing and has given more than 30 keynotes internationally on the topic. He was named Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue Magazine in 2014, an "Edmontonian to Watch'' in 2015 by Metro Edmonton, and in 2018 was awarded the University of Waterloo’s President’s Community Impact Award in recognition of his leadership and advocacy. Robin is also passionate about science communication and has been interviewed by and written for major media publications, including the CBC, Huffington Post, Wired, and Vice. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Technical University of Berlin doing research in the emerging discipline of Neurourbanism, and is signed with literary agency Cooke-McDermid writing a book for the general public on the implications of neurourbanism on pressing societal issues.