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Kelvin J. A. Davies, the James E. Birren Professor, Vice Dean, and Dean of Faculty and Research at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, has received the 2015 Chester M. Southam Outstanding Career Achievement Award of the International Hormesis Society and the International Dose-Response Society.

The award was presented on April 21 at the societies’ annual joint conference, which was held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and titled “Adaptive Responses in Biology & Medicine.” Davies was cited for the “outstanding level and significance of his contributions to science and his extraordinary leadership,” according to conference directors Edward J. Calabrese and Paul Kostecki.

According to the executive committees of both societies, which together created the annual award of excellence for exceptional scientific research and leadership, the award serves to identify and recognize scientists, scholars, and teachers who have contributed to a deeper understanding of the field. The adaptive response term “hormesis” (from the ancient Greek hormáein, “to set in motion, impel, or urge on”) describes a favorable biological response following low exposures to stresses that provides protection should a subsequent, higher stress be experienced. The first published example of the term hormesis was in an article by award namesake Chester M. Southam in 1943.

Davies has helped pioneer the study of adaptive changes in gene expression that enable humans to cope with fluctuating levels of stressors such as free radicals, photo-oxidative stress, ionizing radiation, environmental pollutants, and dietary toxins. He developed the term “adaptive homeostasis” to describe the ability to increase (or decrease) the body’s range of defensive capacities through signal transduction pathways that control the expression of key protective genes. In particular, he has been defining the pathways and mechanisms by which adaptive homeostasis declines with age, predisposing the elderly to stress-related diseases and frailty.

“The concept of hormesis, particularly adaptive responses to oxidative stress, has been a central element of my research for over 35 years and has ultimately lead me to the theory of ‘adaptive homeostasis,’” Davies said. “Being honored in this way, by the top experts in the field, is enormously gratifying.”

At USC, Davies also serves as the director of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, director of the USC Free Radical Institute, and professor of molecular and computational biology in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences.

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