Steven N. Austad
Steven N. Austad is a distinguished professor and Chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After earning an undergraduate degree in English literature from UCLA, he left academia for a number of years during which among other things, he drove a taxi cab in New York City, worked as a newspaper reporter, and trained large cats for television and movies. His interest in science awakened by his animal training, he returned to academics to study animal behavior more formally, receiving his PhD in biology from Purdue University. After postdoctoral research at the University of New Mexico, he accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolution Biology at Harvard University in 1986. Leaving Harvard as an associate professor in 1993, he moved to University of Idaho where he became full professor. From 2004 to 2013, he was a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He served as interim director of the Barshop Institute before moving to his current position in 2014.
In the past, his research was primarily field-based, particularly with opossums. He discovered that opossums off the predator-free island of Sapelo Island lived 25% longer than their cousins on the mainland Georgia. Betting against S. Jay Olshansky, he predicted that there will be someone at least 150 years of age by the year 2150.
His current research interests include figuring out why organisms age at different rates, particularly in especially long-lived organisms such as quahog clams and hydra. He is also interested in studying indicators of animal healthspan as well as the effects of rapamycin on mouse healthspan and sex differences in mechanisms of aging.
He is author of more than 200 scientific articles and more than 150 newspaper columns on science. His book Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering about the Body’s Journey Through Life has been translated into 8 languages. Between 2012 and 2013, he wrote a series of biweekly columns for the San Antonio Express News called "On Aging". He currently writes a similar biweekly column on science for AL.com as well as occasional pieces for the Huffington Post. These columns can be found at his website www.stevenaustad.com.