Advancing the science of aging well

We offer two Doctor of Philosophy programs: a PhD in Gerontology and a PhD in the Biology of Aging. Our school created the first gerontology PhD program in the world in 1989 and unveiled the first-ever biology of aging PhD program in 2014. The PhD is our crown jewel, the highest degree you can receive in gerontology anywhere. At the USC Leonard Davis School, we attract top students from around the globe. Balancing rigorous, high-level research training with leadership skills and scientific knowledge, graduates from our PhD programs enter the workforce with superb skills and experience.

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Our PhD Programs

As a small school within a large research university, we ensure that our students receive rigorous, highly personalized educational experiences studying with some of the world’s leading experts in fields such as biology, neuroscience, psychology, sociology and public policy.

Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology (PhD)

Students learn about the physiology of human development and aging, examining social policies related to aging as well as the psychological, behavioral, and sociological impact on lifespan development. Working closely with a faculty mentor, they concentrate on a specific area of interest and begin the process of discovering and shaping their own academic specialization. They work closely with faculty on research and publications, participate in colloquia, attend and present at national organization meetings, acquire teaching experience, and develop a rich academic, personal, and professional network.

Requirements: 60 Units of course work and at least four additional dissertation units.

View the curriculumStudent HandbookHow to Apply

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology of Aging (PhD)

The doctoral program in the Biology of Aging is designed for students who want to become leaders in biogerontology. The focus is on molecular, cellular, and regenerative medicine as well as the integrative biology of aging. This unique doctoral program, the first of its kind in the field, brings together two world-renowned institutions: the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Northern California. Students’ academic research activities take place on both the Southern and Northern California Campuses. Students can choose a mentor and PhD faculty committee from either the Buck Center or USC. PhD candidates take core courses on the molecular and cellular biology of aging and age-related diseases, and then select a speciality among neuroscience, molecular, and cellular biology, stem cell and regenerative sciences, and biomedical sciences.

Requirements: 60 units of work, including courses, seminars and research credit. At least 24 of the 60 units must be formal graduate course work (lectures or seminars). Following the completion of core courses, students may choose one of the following four areas in which to focus their elective courses:

  • Neuroscience
  • Molecular and cellular biology
  • Stem cell and regenerative sciences
  • Biomedical sciences
View the curriculumStudent HandbookHow to Apply

Bringing our expertise to life

Comprised of some of the world’s most talented minds in gerontology, the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology faculty is a group of intensely talented and passionate researchers and educators. Our faculty members include both the visionaries who pioneered modern aging study and the up-and-coming investigators who take gerontology research and service in exciting new directions. The Biology of Aging Doctoral Program is the nation’s first graduate program focused on studying the aging process, and offers students the choice of performing research and taking courses either at the Buck Institute or at USC.

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Conducting groundbreaking research

We’re driving innovations in genetic research and big data analytics to unlock better treatment and prevention for age-related diseases. Our research and development teams investigate areas such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory issues
  • Bioinformatics, biology, genomics and genetics of aging
  • Demography and sociology of aging, social determinants of health, disparities in minority populations
  • Drug discovery and development
  • Healthy aging, personalized nutrition and nutrigenomics, disease prevention, stress adaptation and resistance
  • Longevity and mechanisms in aging
  • Neuroscience, cognition and brain aging
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