Assistant Professor Qian Song Joins UMass Boston Gerontology Faculty

By Martin Hansen-Verma

Qian Jasmine Song, a demographer and sociologist with broad research interests relating to the health of an aging population, has joined the UMass Boston’s Gerontology department faculty as an assistant professor.

Song, who most recently was a NIH/NIA postdoctoral fellow at the RAND Corporation, comes to the McCormack Graduate School from Santa Monica, Calif., with her husband and three-year-old son. After living in a variety of places across the U.S. over the past 12 years, she said had been looking forward to the move to Boston.

“It’s a very beautiful city,” she said. “The ethnic and intellectual diversity, and the whole Boston intellectual community are really attractive to me, as well.”

Song sees Boston as an ideal place to pursue her research interests, examining the effects of migration on physical and mental health outcomes of older adults.

In one line of research, Song said, she would work to “bridge the migration and family literature in studying health and well-being of older adults.” She will also study how institutional discrimination creates health disparities for people in middle-age and older adults. She is also interested in how early-life experience shaped by institutional discrimination contributes to health disparities in later life.

Song said she is motivated by the prospect of her work helping people affected by large social or institutional forces. “Personally, I would like to do research that would help inform policies to improve well-being of individuals and older adults,” she said.

Song’s work has been published in journals including Demographic Research, Journal of Aging and Health, International Migration Review and Social Science Research. She earned two graduate degrees – an MS in Biostatistics and a PhD in Sociology – from the University at Albany, SUNY.

Song has already gotten to know some UMass Boston gerontology students at the RAND Summer Institute and met others on campus. “I think they are all nice people, intellectual people who really care about their work, and there is a diversity of research interests,” she said. “Some are interested in migration work, families, and international work, and the faculty have interesting intersections with my work.”

When working with graduate students, Song said, “it is important to get to know them, and connect on the interpersonal, as well as professional level.” She starts by trying to understand students’ interests and priorities.

“I know in some places, people think being able to get an academic job is considered a success and anything else is considered a failure, but I don’t think that way,” she said.  “It’s more important to be who you really want to be, and I’m going to help you achieve your goal. In my opinion, your personal well-being is most important.”

Song’s days have been hectic since her move, with so many boxes that need to be unpacked. She looks forward to settling in and finally having “a nice, slow day,” when she can enjoy some good food, relax with some movies or books, and finally get back to jogging.

“I’ve been jogging for years, and it has been an anchoring thing for me,” said Song. “I moved a lot in recent years, but every time I moved, when I was able to put on my sneakers and go for a run, I felt like I was getting back to my regular life.”

She sees connections between meditation and running. “It sounds a bit weird, but I think it’s kind of like life, I think exhausting your body, recovering, and starting the cycle again is kind of a Zen experience. It helps you clear your mind.”

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