UAB names new chair of Biology

Steven Austad, Ph.D., is the new chair of the Department of Biology.

Steven Austad, Ph.D., has been named chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology. Austad comes to UAB from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he served as professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology and interim director of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies.

Austad sAustad is a leader in aging studies; beginning Jan. 1, 2014, he will serve as the scientific director for the American Federation for Aging Research. He also serves on the initial review board for aging grants for the Ellison Medical Foundation, on the external advisory committee at the Mayo Clinic Kogod Center on Aging and the public policy committee for the Gerontological Society of America. He received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles; a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Northridge; and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Purdue University. Austad also writes “On Aging,” a biweekly column for the San Antonio Express-News.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Dr. Austad. Clearly a forerunner in elucidating the fundamental molecular mechanisms that control aging in many life forms, including humans, he is a game changer for the College of Arts and Sciences and UAB,” said UAB College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Palazzo, Ph.D. “The Department of Biology is a jewel in the crown of the College, and we look to Dr. Austad to lead us to new heights. In addition, given his contributions to our understanding of the aging process from invertebrate organisms to humans, he will be a key asset to the Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging and help catalyze the development of important relationships with other schools as we seek to enhance our interdisciplinary basic biomedical research and training programs.”

“I am very excited about coming to UAB to join the team of world-class educators and researchers,” Austad said. “It is clear to many of us that the 21st century will be the century of biology. Biological discoveries over the coming decades will enhance the quality of human life in many ways and help us meet the future’s environmental challenges. I expect UAB to be at the international forefront of biological training, research and discovery in these areas and want to do what I can to help put us there.”

Austad’s research interests are in comparative biogerontology as well as development methods for the assessment of animal health span. He has penned a number of publications and chapters, and his book “Why We Age: What Science is Discovering about the Body’s Journey Through Life” has been published in many languages, including Chinese, Russian, Finnish and Japanese.

While at UAB, Austad said his mission is to go beyond the science lab.

“I also hope to help expand and enrich intellectual, social and economic connections between the university, the Birmingham community and the state.”