Distinguished Professor; Department Chair
email
Campbell Hall 464
(205) 934-8308

Research and Teaching Interests: Biology of Aging, Evolution, Ecology of Infectious Diseases, Scientific Communication

Steven Austad. Office Hours: By appointment

Education:
  • BA, UCLA, English Literature
  • BS, California State University, Northridge, Biology
  • PhD, Purdue University, Biological Sciences

I am originally from Southern California, but my family moved a lot, so I lived in every part of the United States before heading to college. After gaining an English Literature degree, I had a variety of jobs — newspaper reporter, taxi driver, wild animal trainer.... Training lions for the movie business awakened my interest in biology, so I went back to school, eventually getting my PhD in biology.

My early research was field-based. I have done field research in several parts of the United States, Venezuela, East Africa, Micronesia, and Papua New Guinea. Once I became interested in the biology of aging, my research became more laboratory oriented. Perhaps because of my background in English, I have always been eager to communicate the excitement of science to the public at large. In that capacity I have written popular books, planned museum exhibits, and produced a regular newspaper column on science.

CV:Download PDF

One of the more intriguing problems in biology is why animals age. No law of nature dictates that this should be so. Why can’t nature, which is so successful at producing healthy adults from single fertilized eggs, do the seemingly much simpler task of keeping that adult healthy through time? Morever, why do some animals like mice age quickly, while others like bats, birds, whales, and people age slowly. It is these question that focus and guide my research.

Aging is not just an abstract and intriguing biological problem. It is the number one cause of death and disability in today’s world, vastly more significant than Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or heart disease, because aging is the major risk for all of them plus a host of other health problems.

The long-term goal of my research is to develop treatments to slow the aging process, thus keeping people fit and healthy longer. My laboratory works with different animal species, especially those which are more successful at aging than humans. We work on exotic species, like clams that live more than 500 years, and hydra that don’t age at all, in order to discover such treatments. We also develop measures of laboratory animal health, so that we can assess whether a treatment that makes a mouse live longer also improves the quality of its life.
Fischer et al., "Health Effects of Long-term Rapamycin Treatment," submitted for publication to PLOS ONE, 2015
  • Huffman DM Justice JN, Stout MB, Kirkland JL, Barzilai N, Austad SN. (2016). Evaluating Health Span in Preclinical Models of Aging and Disease: Guidelines, Challenges, and Opportunities for Geroscience. Journals of Gerontology A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. doi:10.1093/gerona/glw106. Epub ahead of print. August 16.
  • Austad SN, Fischer KE. (2016). Sex differences in lifespan. Cell Metabolism 23:1022-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.05.019.
  • Austad SN. (2016). Sex differences in health and longevity. In Hazzard’s Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, 7th Edition. J Halter, J Ouslander, S Studenski, K High, S Asthana, C Ritchie, and M Supiano (Eds.) McGraw-Hill: New York. Chapter 8 (16 pp). ISBN-13: 978-0071833455.
  • Treaster SB, Chaudhuri A, Austad SN. (2015). Longevity and GAPDH stability in bivalves and mammals: a convenient marker for comparative gerontology and proteostasis. PLoS One Nov 30;10(11):e0143680. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143680. PMC4664256.
  • Austad SN. (2015). The geroscience hypothesis: is it possible to change the rate of aging? in Advances in Geroscience. F Sierra and R Kohanski (Eds). Springer: Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London. Chapter 1 (pp. 1-36). ISBN 978-3-319-23245-4. 666 pages.
  • Richardson A, Fischer KE, Speakman JR, de Cabo R, Mitchell SJ, Peterson CA, Rabinovitch P, Chiao YA, Taffet G, Miller RA, Renteria RC, Bower J, Ingram DK, Ladiges WC, Ikeno Y, Sierra F, Austad SN. (2016). Measures of healthspan as indices of aging in mice – a recommendation. Journal of Gerontology Series A Biological and Medical Sciences 71(4): 427-30. PMC4834833.
  • Fischer KE, Gelfond JAL, Soto VY, Han C, Someya S, Richardson A, Austad SN. (2015). Health effects of long-term rapamycin treatment: the impact on mouse of of enteric rapamycin treatment from four months of age throughout life. PloS One May 15;10(5):e0126644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126644. PMC4433347.
  • Austad SN, Bartke A. (2015). Sex differences in longevity and in responses to anti-aging interventions: a minireview. Gerontology 62(1):40-6. DOI: 10.1159/000381472.
  • Austad SN. (2015). Commentary: The human prenatal sex ratio: a major surprise. Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences USA. 112(16):4839-40. doi/10.1073/pnas. 1505165112. PMC4413335.
  • Director, UAB Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging
  • Scientific Director, American Federation for Aging Research, New York
  • Member, External Scientific Advisory Committee, Duke Lemur Center, NC
  • External Advisory Committee, Mayo Clinic Kogod Center on Aging, Rochester, MN
  • 2015 Fondation IPSEN Longevity Prize. Boulogne-Billancourt, France
  • 2011 Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction, American Federation for Aging Research, New York
  • 2008 Outstanding Alumnus Award, Purdue University, Dept. of Biological Sciences, West Lafayette, Indiana
  • 2003 The Robert W. Kleemeier Award for Outstanding Research, Gerontological Society of America
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