A photo of Alister Bates.

Alister Bates, PhD

  • Division of Pulmonary Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



My research focuses on human airways and how they change with various disease conditions. I am interested in airway behavior in children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and premature babies born with tracheomalacia (TM) and congenital abnormalities. My goals are to identify how airway problems affect patients’ symptoms, inform and evaluate surgical and therapeutic interventions, and differentiate the effects of airway abnormalities versus lung disease.

With a background in aerospace engineering, I previously worked for Formula One designing racing cars. This experience led to an understanding of aerodynamics. I have more than eight years of experience applying airflow knowledge to human airways, and I’ve worked at Cincinnati Children’s for more than three years. We have the world's first virtual models of human airways that move realistically base the motion on high-speed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The effects of airway diseases can be hard to measure in patients. It is also hard to know which treatments will be effective. We create virtual models of airways from MRIs. We then use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate how air flows through the airway. This model shows us where in the airway are regions with high resistance. We can virtually alter the airway to predict how it would change after treatment. We also calculate the effect that treatment would have on airway symptoms. Our goal is to predict the best treatment approach for children with OSA and premature babies with TM.

My group's research led to “Best of Pediatrics” presentations in 2019 and 2020, hosted by the American Thoracic Society. I am a K99 grant recipient from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PhD: Imperial College London, London, UK, 2015.

BA, MEng: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, 2008.

Services and Specialties

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Center BPD


Airway disease; computational fluid dynamics (CFD); airflow; respiration; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); tracheomalacia

Research Areas

Pulmonary Medicine



Human upper-airway respiratory airflow: In vivo comparison of computational fluid dynamics simulations and hyperpolarized 129Xe phase contrast MRI velocimetry. Xiao, Q; Stewart, NJ; Willmering, MM; Gunatilaka, CC; Thomen, RP; Schuh, A; Krishnamoorthy, G; Wang, H; Amin, RS; Dumoulin, CL; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. PloS one. 2021; 16:e0256460.


Increased Work of Breathing due to Tracheomalacia in Neonates. Gunatilaka, CC; Higano, NS; Hysinger, EB; Gandhi, DB; Fleck, RJ; Hahn, AD; Fain, SB; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2020; 17:1247-1256.

Comparison of weighting algorithms to mitigate respiratory motion in free-breathing neonatal pulmonary radial UTE-MRI. Gandhi, DB; Higano, NS; Hahn, AD; Gunatilaka, CC; Torres, LA; Fain, SB; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. Biomedical Physics and Engineering Express. 2024; 10:035030.

Tracheomalacia Reduces Aerosolized Drug Delivery to the Lung. Gunatilaka, CC; McKenzie, C; Hysinger, EB; Xiao, Q; Higano, NS; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. Journal of Aerosol Medicine and Pulmonary Drug Delivery. 2024; 37:19-29.

The interaction between neuromuscular forces, aerodynamic forces, and anatomical motion in the upper airway predicts the severity of pediatric OSA. Xiao, Q; Ignatiuk, D; McConnell, K; Gunatilaka, C; Schuh, A; Fleck, R; Ishman, S; Amin, R; Bates, A. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985). 2024; 136:70-78.

Phase-Contrast Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Inhaled Xenon Reveals the Relationship between Airflow and Obstruction in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Xiao, Q; Stewart, N; Willmering, M; McConnell, K; Woods, J; Fleck, R; Amin, R; Bates, A. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2023; 208:e5-e6.

Computational assessment of upper airway muscular activity in obstructive sleep apnea - In vitro validation. Ignatiuk, D; Xiao, Q; McConnell, K; Fleck, R; Schuler, C; Schuh, A; Amin, R; Bates, A. Journal of Biomechanics. 2022; 144:111304.

Predicting tracheal work of breathing in neonates based on radiological and pulmonary measurements. Gunatilaka, CC; Hysinger, EB; Schuh, A; Xiao, Q; Gandhi, DB; Higano, NS; Ignatiuk, D; Hossain, MM; Fleck, RJ; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985). 2022; 133:893-901.

Laryngotracheal separation through the cricoid ring for management of tracheobronchomegaly. Kao, DD; Buck, LS; Hysinger, EB; Bates, AJ; Gunatilaka, CC; Rutter, MJ. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 2022; 161:111266.

Virtual Bronchoscopy of Neonatal Airway Malacia via High-Resolution, Respiratory-gated Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Higano, NS; Gandhi, DB; Xiao, Q; Gunatilaka, CC; Hysinger, EB; Fleck, RJ; Woods, JC; Bates, AJ. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2022; 206:e42-e43.