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Steven Austad headshot.

Distinguished Professor,
Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research
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3138 East Science Hall, Science & Engineering Complex
(205) 934-8308

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

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.A., UCLA, English Literature
  • B.S., California State University, Northridge, Biology
  • Ph.D., Purdue University, Biological Sciences

I am originally from Southern California, but as my family moved a lot I had 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 Ph.D. 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. About 80 of those columns have now been collected into a book (To Err is Human, To Admit It is Not and Other Essays: Thoughts on Criminal Justice, Health, Holidays, Nature, and the Universe. 2022. Resource Publ. 266 pages). Also in 2022 I published a trade book on unusual activities in studying the biology of aging. It is called Methuselah's Zoo: what nature can teach us about living longer, healthier lives (MIT Press).

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  • Research Interests

    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? Moreover, 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. Finally, it has been discovered in recent years that the sexes often respond very differently to treatments than extend life and health. Something that dramatically slows aging in one sex may have no effect on the other sex. We have recently begun exploring why this is so.

  • Recent Courses
    • BY 429/629/491: Introduction to Evolution
    • BY 436/636/736: Biological Processes in Aging
  • Trainees

    Current Lab Personnel

    • Jared Miller (graduate student)
    • Katelynn Corder (postdoctoral fellow)
    • Jessica Hoffman (postdoctoral fellow)
    • Ashley Turner (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Select Publications
    • Austad, SN (2022). Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Healthier Lives. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 320 pp.
    • Austad, SN (2022). To Err is Human, To Admit It is Not and Other Essays: Thoughts on Criminal Justice, Health, Holidays, Nature, and the Universe. Resource Publications, Eugene, Oregon. 266 pp.
    • Austad SN, Finch CE. (2022). How ubiquitous is aging in vertebrates? Science. 376(6600), 1384-85.
    • Austad SN (2022). Sex differences in health and longevity. In Hazzard’s Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, 8th Edition. Halter JB, Ouslander JG, Studenski S, High KP, Asthana S, Supiano MA, Ritchie CS, Schmader K (eds). McGraw Hill: New York. Ch. 5, pp. 83-94.
    • Austad SN, Ballinger S, Buford TW, Carter CS, Smith DL Jr, Darley-Usmar V, Zhang J. (2022). Targeting whole body metabolism and mitochondrial bioenergetics in the drug development for Alzheimer’s disease. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B. 12(2), 511-531.
    • Hoffman JM, Dudeck SK, Patterson HK, Austad SN. (2021) Sex, mating, and repeatability of Drosophila melanogaster longevity. Royal Society Open Science. 2021. Aug 118.8(8):210273.
    • Austad SN, Buford TW, Allison DB, Ballinger SW, Brown AW, Carter CS, Darley-Usmar VM, Hartman JL, Nagy TR, Smith DL Jr, Sun L, Zhang J. (2021). University of Alabama at Birmingham Nathan Shock Center: comparative energetics of aging. Geroscience. Oct;43(5):2149-2160.
    • Hoffman JM, Kiklevich JV, Klavins K, Valencak TG, Austad SN. (2021). Alterations of lipid metabolism with age and weight in companion dogs. Journals of Gerontology A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 76(3):400-405. Aug 4 (epub ahead of print).
    • Austad SN, Hoffman JM (2021). Beyond calorie restriction: aging as a biological target for nutrient therapies. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 70, 56-60.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • Director, UAB Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging
    • Scientific Director, American Federation for Aging Research, New York
    • External Advisory Committee, Mayo Clinic Kogod Center on Aging, Rochester, MN
    • 2018 George C. Williams Prize with Jessica M. Hoffman. International Society for Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health.
    • 2018 Outstanding Teacher Award. UAB University Honors Program.
    • 2016 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • 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