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Obituary: Binyam Nardos, instructor in occupational therapy, neurology, 39

Research focused on rehabilitation and learning

February 8, 2022

Binyam Nardos, PhD, an instructor in the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died unexpectedly Jan. 29, 2022, in St. Louis. He was 39.

Nardos joined the faculty in summer 2021 as an instructor in occupational therapy and neurology. As an instructor, his focus was research methods, evidence-based practice, and neuroscience. His research focus was neural mechanisms of learning in rehabilitation. Through everything he did in academia, he worked to mentor students from underrepresented populations, with the goal of advancing their careers in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM) fields.

“Binyam was kind and caring, with a sharp intellect and wit,” said Lisa Tabor Connor, PhD, associate dean for occupational therapy. “He put everyone who interacted with him at ease. He exuded warmth and had genuine interest in people and how to make the world a better place. We will sincerely miss him. He was beloved by his students.”

Nardos earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2004 from Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa. He went on to earn a doctoral degree in neuroscience in 2015 from Washington University, where he was a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow. While in graduate school, he also was honored as a Cognitive, Computational, and Systems Neuroscience Fellow through the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience.

His postdoctoral training, from 2015 through 2021, was at Washington University, under the mentorship of Bradley L. Schlaggar, MD, PhD, and then at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland, Ore., where he was mentored by Damien Fair, PhD, and Mary Heinricher, PhD. There, he was awarded the OHSU Fellowship for Diversity & Inclusion in Research, reflecting work he had done with a science-focused youth-outreach program.

His hometown was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and he had strong ties to the Ethiopian community in St. Louis. While in graduate school at Washington University, he was co-founder of a book drive that resulted in $2,000 and 2,000 medical books being sent to the medical school libraries at Addis Ababa University, the main teaching hospital in his home country’s capital city.

He is survived by his mother, Zewditu Kebede; his sister, Rahel Nardos (Damien Fair); and his brothers Surafel Nardos, Brook Nardos, Kirubel Nardos, and Gedion Nardos. He was preceded in death by his father, Nardos Abebe.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, in the historic chapel at Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minn. Interment will follow at 3 p.m. at the cemetery. Those wishing to view the funeral service online may do so via Zoom.

With the death of Nardos, a friend, colleague and instructor to many at the School of Medicine, university leaders want to stress that mental health support is available for students on the Medical Campus via Student Health Services at 314-362-3523 or the Student Assistance Program (NexGen) at 800-327-2255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For faculty and staff, resources are also available.