USC Leonard Davis School Faculty Win Grants for New Research Directions

USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Instructional Assistant Professor of Gerontology Caroline Cicero and Assistant Professor of Gerontology Berenice Benayoun have been named the 2018 recipients of the Hanson-Thorell Family Research Scholarships, awards that support junior faculty members as they explore new avenues of research.

Benayoun and Cicero will each receive $25,000 in funding for one-year pilot projects. The awards are designed to promote innovative social and life science research, especially projects that have the potential to be converted into major grants.

Benayoun will be using the funding to identify new pro-longevity drugs.

“This Hanson-Thorell award is an amazing opportunity to kick into high gear a project I have been thinking about for a long time, combining big data analysis to functional analyses in the African turquoise killifish, a model organism I have helped develop,” she said. “It offers a boost in exploring an exciting new research avenue to identify new pro-longevity drugs that could work in humans.”

Cicero will use the funds to build on her age-friendly communities work, which began with an interdisciplinary practicum.

“Hanson-Thorell funds will allow me to expand our research and policy work envisioning both how to make Los Angeles a better place for people to grow old and what types of websites and mobile apps can help,” said Cicero. “I am grateful for the Hanson-Thorell Family’s support, which will help in the ongoing process of translating our data into implementing mobile apps addressing sidewalk safety, emergency response, socialization, and access to volunteerism and services.”

The Hanson-Thorell awards were created with an endowment set up by former USC Leonard Davis School Board of Councilors Chair Al Hanson that was designed to give junior faculty a start. His daughter, current Board Chair, Shari Thorell and her husband Bob have continued the legacy with additional support.

“We are honored to support the work of junior researchers whose innovative ideas and scholarship are sometimes overlooked,” said Keith Thorell, who served on this year’s selection committee, along with his wife Kristin. “It is an incredible honor for our family to fill a niche that allows younger researchers to fulfill their potential at USC while also furthering the study of gerontology. All of the proposals we reviewed were excellent and worthy of study. We chose the winners based on the exciting nature of the study and the potential impact on the field.”

Past recipients have gone on to secure additional funding in areas including understanding the role diet and genetics in the aging process and how to prevent disparities in health care settings.