Faculty of Interdisciplinary Experts
The USC Davis School’s faculty represents the major professional and disciplinary fields related to gerontology. They are distinguished, award-winning scholars and professionals who are highly regarded for their teaching abilities as well as their professional and research credentials. Students of the USC program learn directly from the leaders in gerontology and aging services who are driving the research that is shaping our understanding of aging.
Assistant Professor of Gerontology
Cleopatra Abdou did her doctoral work in social and health psychology, with a minor concentration in quantitative psychology/statistics, at UCLA. After finishing her Ph.D. in 2008, she spent two years as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the University of Michigan, where she trained in social epidemiology and population health. Her research is dedicated to understanding how cultural orientations, views of the self, and the broader social environment promote health and well-being through their influences on the brain and body over the lifecourse, beginning with the intrauterine environment, and across generations. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Michigan Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Assistant Professor of Gerontology
Dr. Ailshire’s research addresses questions that lie at the intersections of social stratification, urban sociology, and the sociology of health and aging. In particular, her research focuses on the importance of the neighborhood environment and social relationships in determining health over the life course. A consistent theme throughout her work is an interest in gender, socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic inequality in health.
Current projects include research on social factors associated with poor sleep; neighborhood determinants of racial and ethnic disparities in obesity; socioenvironmental
Dean, USC Davis School of Gerontology
Executive Director, Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center
William and Sylvia Kugel Dean’s Chair in Gerontology
Dr. Cohen trained in Stanford and held his first faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1999. Until 2012, he was a professor and Vice Chair for Research at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, as well as the Co-Director of the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes Research Center.
He received numerous awards for his research, including a National Institute of Aging “EUREKA”-Award, the NIH-Director-Transformative RO1-Grant, and the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging.
He holds several patents for novel peptides and is the Cofounder of CohBar, a biotechnology company developing mitochondrial peptides for diseases of aging. Dr. Cohen has published over 300 papers in top scientific journals focusing on aging, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, growth hormone/IGF-biology and the emerging science of mitochondrial-derived peptides, which he pioneered.
Dr. Cohen is president of the Growth Hormone Society and served on the Endocrine Society Steering Committee. He sits on multiple NIH study sections and on several editorial boards as well as on the American Federation of Aging Research Board.
Dr. Cohen is leading several new initiatives at the USC Davis School, including the development of a center for digital aging, and a major focus on the creation of tools for “personalized aging”, an approach he has been spearheading for the purpose of garnering the latest technologies such as genomics towards individualizing healthy aging strategies, that has been featured in the Milken Global Conference and in the Bloomberg Longevity Economy Conference.
AARP Chair in Gerontology. Director of Training, Multidisciplinary Research Training in Gerontology
Eileen Crimmins is currently working on a number of projects. “The Role of Biological Factors in Determining Differences in Health by Education and Income Level” is being undertaken with Teresa Seeman of UCLA. Crimmins also works on Healthy Life Expectancy in the Older Population defining healthy in a variety of ways. In addition, she is working on male/female differences in health and mortality as well as differences by gender in life stresses and strains. Crimmins is the director of the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health (CBPH). The purpose of the Center is to integrate medical, biological, and epidemiological information to model and predict population health trends. The Center provides pilot project money for relevant research and supports a series of seminars and workshops on the two campuses.
Assistant Professor in Gerontology, Division of Biogerontology
Sean Curran is a Southern California native born in Anaheim, CA and raised in Whittier, CA. Sean received his bachelors degree in Biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999 and then went on to receive his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2004. He completed his post-doctoral training in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
James E. Birren Professor of Gerontology, and Professor of Molecular & Computational Biology
Professor Davies was born and raised in London, England and is a dual citizen of Great Britain and the United States. Educated at London University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California at Berkeley, he was previously a faculty member at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. Before moving to USC’s Andrus Gerontology Center in 1996, Professor Davies was Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the Albany Medical College, where he was also professor of Molecular Medicine.
Professor Davies is the (founding) Editor-in-Chief of the premier scientific journal in the field, Free Radical Biology & Medicine and President of the International Society for Free Radical Research. Professor Davies is a Fellow of the Society for Free Radical Biology & Medicine; a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America; a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; winner of the Harwood S. Belding award of the American Physiological Society; and holder of various medals, honorary degrees, and fellowships from several universities and foreign scientific societies.
Assistant Professor of Gerontology
Dr. Enguidanos has a multidisciplinary background evident in her educational and professional history. She obtained her BA in Psychology at UCLA, Master’s degree in Public Health at California State University, Long Beach, and her doctorate degree in Social Work at USC. She has more than 10 years experience conducting research in aging, with a focus on geriatric health and end of life care issues, with specific projects in the area of geriatric care management, physician-patient communications, and new models of end-of-life care.
Dr. Enguidanos has published the findings from her research in several peer-reviewed journals including Journal of American Geriatric Society, Journal of Social Work in End of Life & Palliative Care, Social Work in Health Care, Journal of Palliative Medicine, and Drugs In Society and is the editor of Evidenced-Based Interventions for Community Dwelling Older Adults, a book that examines research focused on improving the health of seniors living in the community.
ARCO/Keischnick Professor of Gerontology and Biological Science and University Professor, Director, Gerontology Research Institute
Dr. Finch is a Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences, and a founding member of the Departments of Molecular Biology and Neurobiology. He holds adjunct appointments in the Dept of Psychology, Dept of Physiology and Dept of Neurology. He is one of USC’s 12 University Distinguished Professors. Dr. Finch’s major research interest is the study of genomic controls of mammalian development and aging.
He received his undergraduate degree from Yale in 1961, where he majored in biophysics. He continued his work in cell biology and received his Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in 1969. Dr. Finch has received most of the major awards in biomedical gerontology, including the Robert W. Kleemeier Award of the Gerontological Society of America in 1985, the Sandoz Premier Prize by the International Geriatric Association in 1995, and the Irving Wright Award of AFAR and the Research Award of AGE in 1999. He has directed the NIA-funded Alzheimer Disease Research Center since 1984. Dr. Finch became a University Distinguished Professor in 1989, an honor held by twelve other professors at USC who contribute to multiple fields. He is a member of ten editorial boards and has written over 350 articles.
Assistant Professor of Gerontology
As a social and health psychologist, Dr. Gruenewald’s research focuses on the mind-body processes that play a role in healthy aging during older adulthood. A particular interest is understanding how older adults’ perceptions of their social usefulness and value affect their mental and physical well-being in later life. Her research has shown that older adults who feel more useful to others live longer and with better cognitive and physical functioning as they age. Her current work is exploring the psychological and biological pathways through which feeling useful promotes better health, as well as the activities and interventions that encourage feelings of usefulness in later life. Along with a team of investigators at Johns Hopkins University and UCLA, she is exploring whether participation in the intergenerational program, Experience Corps, which brings together older adult volunteers and young schoolchildren, leads to better mental and physical well-being in older adults and better academic and psychosocial outcomes in children. Dr. Gruenewald also explores the biological pathways that underlie connections between psychosocial factors and healthy aging. Her research examines methods for assessing dysregulation across multiple biological systems in the body, based on the theory that social and psychological factors affect many biological processes. As part of this research, she explores methods for measuring allostatic load, a multi-system index of biological functioning, and the impact of psychosocial stressors and resources on the development of allostatic load in later adulthood and subsequent risk of poor health
The Albert L. and Madelyne G. Hanson Family Trust Associate Professor in Gerontology, Associate Professor in Biological Science
Dr. Longo is the Albert L. and Madelyne G. Hanson Family Trust Associate Professor in Gerontology and an Associate Professor in Biological Science. He is interested in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of aging in yeast by using genetics and biochemistry techniques. He is also interested in identifying the molecular pathways conserved from simple organisms to humans that can be modulated to protect against multiple stresses and delay or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and other diseases of aging. The focus is on the signal transudation pathways that regulate resistance to oxidative damage in yeast and mammalian neurons.
Valter Longo was born and raised in Genoa, Italy, and received his undergraduate degree from University of North Texas in 1992, where he majored in biochemistry with a minor in jazz performance. He continued his studies at the University of California Los Angeles where he received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1997. He completed his postdoctoral training in neurobiology at USC.
Associate Professor of Gerontology and Psychology
Mara Mather is an Associate Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at the University of Southern California. She is a cognitive psychologist whose research focuses on memory, emotion, decision-making and aging. She received the Springer Early Career Achievement Award in Research on Adult Development and Aging in 2005 and the Richard Kalish Innovative Publication Award from the Gerontological Society of America in 2007. Dr. Mather also received the American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award and the Margret M. Baltes Dissertation Award in the Psychology of Aging for her doctoral research at Princeton University.
Dr. Mather is currently serving as associate editor of Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and is on the editorial boards of Emotion, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, Psychological Science, and Psychology and Aging.
Associate Professor in Gerontology, Division of Biogerontology
Dr. Pike graduated magna cum laude from University of Southern California in 1985 and earned his doctoral degree in biological sciences from Univeristy of California, Irvine in 1994. His graduate and postgraduate studies investigated neurodegenerative mechanisms implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Pike’s ongoing work remains focused on Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Using a variety of cellular, biochemical and molecular techniques across several experimental paradigms, his laboratory is studying the role of neuronal apoptosis in neural diseases and how these cell death pathways are modulated by neuroprotective interventions. Current research efforts are elucidating the neuroprotective mechanisms of estrogen and testosterone and their role in regulating vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology.
UPS Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Policy and Planning
Jon Pynoos is the UPS Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Policy and Planning at the Andrus Gerontology Center of the University of Southern California. He is also Director of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification, and Co-Director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence which is funded primarily by the Archstone Foundation.
He has written and edited six books on housing and the elderly including Linking Housing and Services for Older Adults: Obstacles, Options, and Opportunities, Housing the Aged: Design Directives and Policy Considerations, and Housing Frail Elders: International Policies, Perspectives and Prospects.
Dr. Pynoos was a delegate to the last three White House Conferences on Aging and is currently on the Public Policy Committee of the American Society of Aging (ASA). He previously served on ASA’s Board and as Vice President of the Gerontological Society of America. He is a founding member of the National Home Modification Action Coalition.
Dr. Pynoos has been awarded both Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships. He holds undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University where he graduated magna cum laude.
Emeritus Dean of the Andrus Gerontology Center, Professor of Gerontology, Medicine, and Biological Science, Demographics and Health Care
Edward Schneider, M.D. is a Professor of Gerontology at the Andrus Gerontology Center and a Professor of Medicine at the USC School of Medicine, with a joint appointment in Biological Sciences and Molecular Biology. Dr. Schneider received his undergraduate training at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and went on to graduate cum laude from the Boston University School of Medicine, from which he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in May, 1990. Before coming to USC in 1986, Dr. Schneider was the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging and the Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging. Dr. Schneider’s research interests include: molecular genetic aspects of cellular aging, DNA damage and repair with aging, and health care costs of an aging population. Dr. Schneider sits on the editorial boards of more than half a dozen journals and was the first recipient of the William and Sylvia Kugel Chair of Gerontology.
Assistant Professor of Gerontology
A longtime member of the Trojan family, George Shannon received his Master of Science and doctorate in gerontology from the University of Southern California. He is an active member of Phi Kappa Phi, the All-University National Honor Society, the Golden Key International Honor Society and Sigma Phi Omega, the National Gerontology Academic Honor Society. In addition to his role in the gerontology program, he serves as director for the Rongxiang Xu Center for Regenerative Life Science at the Leonard Davis School.
Prior to his work in gerontology, Dr. Shannon worked as an actor for nearly 30 years, performing more than 50 plays in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, along with half a dozen films, contract roles on five daytime TV shows, and hundreds of TV commercials. He has merged these seemingly disparate careers to promote optimal aging among adults of all ages, including baby boomers and others who prefer to remain active and vital for as long as possible.
Associate Professor of Gerontology
John Walsh, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Gerontology and a member of the Neuroscience Program at USC. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of California, Irvine, and was awarded a Ph.D. in physiology and biomedical sciences from the University of Texas School of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Walsh’s research focuses on the electrophysiological analysis of brain areas that are targets of age related disease. Studies on aging, calcium, and free radical physiology are performed in Dr. Walsh’s laboratory as they relate to changes in synaptic plasticity and cell behavior. His research also examines how toxic environmental challenges affect nerve cell populations typically lost in Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Professor of Health Services Administration
Kathleen Wilber is the University of Southern California Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology and holds a joint appointment in Health Services Administration in the School of Planning, Policy, and Development. She has published over 60 articles, books, and book chapters including, A Secure Old Age: Approaches to Long-Term Care Financing with Edward L. Schneider and Donna Polisar published by Springer Publishing Company in 1997. Dr. Wilber regularly teaches courses in public policy, administration, systems management, managed care, and long-term care.
She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the recipient of a faculty fellowship from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation. She was awarded the Excellence in Teaching award from her department in 1992 and in 2000. She is on the editorial boards of Aging & Mental Health and Home Health Care Services Quarterly.
Dr. Wilber has a Ph.D. in Public Administration, a Masters in Social Work and a certificate in gerontology from the University of Southern California and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She earned her BA degree in American Social History from Manhattanville College.
Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging, Professor of Gerontology and Psychology
Elizabeth Zelinski, Ph.D., is a Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Dr. Zelinski has joint appointments in the Psychology Department, Neurosciences and the Study of Women and Men in Society (SWMS) Programs.
Dr. Zelinski graduated summa cum laude from Pace University and received her graduate degrees in psychology, with a specialization in aging, from the University of Southern California. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Claremont Graduate School.
Dr. Zelinski is the principal investigator of the Long Beach Longitudinal Study. This study evaluates cognition, memory and language comprehension in older adults as well as the relationship between peoples’ perceptions of their memory ability and their actual performance, and how these change as people grow old.