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Ajay Pillarisetti, PhD, MPH
  • Discipline: Environmental Health Sciences
  • Research interests: The impacts of energy use—typically at the household level—on air pollution exposure, health, and climate change
  • Hometown: Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Current city: Oakland
  • Pronouns: he/him
  • Hobbies: Films, jogging, hiking, cooking

In January 2022, Berkeley Public Health welcomed new Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences Ajay Pillarisetti. Dr. Pillarisetti received his MPH in Global Environmental Health from Rollins School of Public Health in 2007 and his PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from Berkeley Public Health in 2016. Our staff writer, Eliza Partika, sat down to talk with him about his work and hopes for the semester.

Where did you live and work previously?

My family and I were in Atlanta, where I was an assistant professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. Prior to that, I was at Berkeley as a graduate student and postdoc with the late Professor Kirk R. Smith.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been fortunate to work with outstanding colleagues on projects in many places around the world—most recently in India, Mongolia, and Nepal. In all cases, we were working together to characterize exposures to air pollution from household sources and quantify related health impacts, testing out novel intervention strategies, or both. As part of my work, I have run capacity-building workshops on a variety of topics in about a dozen countries.

My work focuses on understanding the relationships between household energy use, health, and climate change. In Tamil Nadu, India, we’re using lower-cost sensors to quantify how much households contribute to ambient air pollution. In Jharkhand, India, we are surveying the same communities every few months over the phone to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on energy use. I’m also part of a large randomized controlled trial run out of Emory University that is evaluating the impacts of a clean fuel intervention on health in Guatemala, India, Peru, and Rwanda.

What are your hopes going into the new semester at Berkeley Public Health?

I’m thrilled to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to build new collaborations across the university, and to interact with the BPH’s amazing students. I’m looking forward to getting to see folks—online at first, and then hopefully in person very soon.