Scientific Leadership
Scientific Leadership

Steven N. Austad, PhD
Scientific Director

(photo: Joe de Sciose)

Steven N. Austad, Ph.D. - AFAR Scientific Director,
Distinguished Professor and Chairman,
Dept. of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Austad joined the Board of the American Federation for Aging Research in 2007 and has served as Scientific Director since 2014.  He is active member of the board Scientific and Executive committees and has served as reviewer for AFAR’s research grant programs since 2003.

A multi-award winning researcher, his scientific interests concern many aspects of the biology of aging and the evolution of life histories, from molecular processes to evolutionary demography. He investigates aging in a number of species.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English literature, he enjoyed a variety of unusual jobs, ranging from taxi driver in New York City to lion trainer in Hollywood.  This latter experience re-awakened a latent interest in what makes animals tick and led him to graduate school in biology. 

Dr. Austad joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2014. He began his faculty career as an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, doing field research in the U.S., South America, and Papua New Guinea.  He later moved to the University of Idaho, where he spent 11 blissful years living in the forest before moving to his current position in 2004.  During one of his field expeditions, he discovered that opossums aged at an incredibly rapid rate, turning from vigorous adults to decrepit codgers in less than a year.  His curiosity piqued, he began investigating aging in other species, both long- and short-lived, his interests gradually shifting to a more medical perspective.  He has won multiple research awards, and serves on the editorial board of the most significant journals in his field.  His research now concentrates on the cellular and molecular biology of aging in a wide range of animal species. 

In addition to his research, Dr. Austad has a passion for communicating the excitement of science to the lay public.  He has written for National Wildlife, Natural History, International Wildlife, Scientific American, and for the National Geographic Society.  His trade book on aging (Why We Age, John Wiley & Sons, 1997) has been translated into 7 languages.  He has lectured widely, served on the Science Advisory Board of National Public Ration, and helped design museum exhibitions on aging.  With his wife, Dr. J. Veronika Kiklevich, he published a book of bizarre animal stories (Real People Don’t Own Monkeys, Sourcebooks, 2001), and he is currently working on a book analyzing the criminal justice system from the perspective of a scientist.

In 2015, Dr. Austad was honored with the prestigious Longevity Prize from the Fondation IPSEN for his work on “Comparative Longevity in the Animal Kingdom.”