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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

September 12, 2000 Contact: Jody Oesterreicher (312) 996-8277; joest@uic.edu


Noted demographer of aging S. Jay Olshansky from the University of Chicago joins the University of Illinois at Chicago as a professor of epidemiology in the UIC School of Public Health.

Olshansky and his colleagues contributed to the development of a paradigm for understanding mortality known as biodemography. This unusual approach to human aging and longevity draws on the disciplines of demography, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, and population biology, as well as epidemiology, anthropology and sociology.

Susan Scrimshaw, dean of the School of Public Health, recruited Olshansky to strengthen the school's gerontology program, which she says is now probably the strongest gerontology program in any school of public health in the country.

"He's a star, and UIC is recruiting stars," Scrimshaw said. "We are very excited about the quality and nature of his research. This research is critical to major public policy decisions, such as how much we should expect to spend on healthcare and how much funding will be needed for Social Security."

Olshansky said he came to UIC because it's an "outstanding school and is providing me with an opportunity to work with good people who, like me, are engaged in important public health research; to explore new interdisciplinary collaborations; and to teach. It's just a very good overall environment for doing what I do."

Olshansky's research on the upper limits to human longevity shows that humans are not well evolved for long life and that there are limits to what modern science can do to extend the human lifespan. His findings question the value of products and programs claiming to slow aging and extend life. They also put a damper on the hype surrounding a growing body of scientific research on human longevity. "Will this research improve the quality of our lives as we get older? Yes," Olshansky says. "Will it make us live longer? No. Will it benefit our children and grandchildren? Yes."

Olshansky is the lead author of the new book "The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging," which will be released by Norton in January. The book, written with coauthor Bruce A. Carnes of the University of Chicago, provides a comprehensive account of the real science of aging, from a historical overview of religious and philosophical thinking about aging and death, to the biology of aging, including the future of genetic engineering. His article, "Anatomical Oddities and Design Flaws in the Human Body" is soon to appear in Scientific American.

Olshansky has received two five-year Independent Science Awards from the National Institute on Aging, allowing him to train in the fields of evolutionary biology, molecular biology, population biology, anthropology, epidemiology, and statistics. Olshansky also is the recipient of the institute's Special Emphasis Research Career Award. The U.S. Social Security Administration, Department of Energy and NASA also fund research conducted by Olshansky and his colleagues.

Olshansky is the president of the Society for the Study of Social Biology, associate editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Science and Biogerontology, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Sciences. He is the author and co-author of dozens of articles in scientific journals and book.

Prior to joining UIC, Olshansky, 46, was a senior research associate at the Center on Aging and a research associate in the department of medicine, both at the University of Chicago, and a scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. He holds a doctorate (1984) and master's degree (1982) in sociology from the University of Chicago. He holds a bachelor's degree (1975) in psychology from Michigan State University.

With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area and one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the entire metropolitan region.

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