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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA)—the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging—has chosen Assistant Professor Bérénice Benayoun of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology as the 2021 recipient of the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award.

The distinguished honor is given for outstanding contributions to new knowledge about aging through basic biological research. It was established in 1986 to honor Nathan Shock, PhD, a founding member of GSA and pioneer in gerontological research at the National Institutes of Health. The award presentation will take place at GSA’s 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held from November 10 to 14 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Benayoun explores the role of epigenetics—the ways that genes turn “off” or “on”—in the process of aging, and she hopes her findings could eventually help delay frailty and prolong healthy life. Her lab’s current research focuses on epigenome and transcriptome remodeling with aging in vertebrates, how these changes interact with overlooked cues such as biological sex, and the roles that these changes can play in the aging process. Her lab is also one of the pioneering labs in the development of a naturally short-lived vertebrate as a new model for aging research, the African turquoise killifish Nothobranchius furzeri.

“This award is an amazing recognition of my work in aging biology by the experts in the field, and validates the choices that I have been making in steering my lab’s research program,” Benayoun said. “It’s a huge honor to stand with the previous awardees, and I definitely have some big shoes to fill there.”

Recently, Benayoun was also named a 2020 Pew Biomedical Scholar. She has also received the 2019 Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator Award in Mammalian Genetics, a Junior Faculty Award from the American Federation of Aging Research, and a Junior Scholar Award from the Global Consortium for Reproductive Longevity and Equality (GCRLE). She serves on the editorial boards of scientific journals Translational Medicine of Aging, Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and eLife.

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