Advisory Board

Professor Daniel Belsky

Daniel Belsky, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Robert N Butler Columbia Aging Center.

The goal of Dan’s work is to reduce social inequalities in aging outcomes. His research seeks to understand how genes and environments combine to shape health across the course of life. He works with tools from genome science and longitudinal data from population-based group studies. The aim is to identify targets for policy and clinical interventions to promote positive development in early life and extend health span.

Read Calorie restriction slows pace of aging in healthy adults.

His focus for the past several years has been on the development and evaluation of methods to quantify the pace and progress of the biological process of aging in young, mid-life, and older-adult humans and the application of these methods to study (1) how life-history and social factors contribute to individual differences in healthy aging; and (2) whether and how aging processes can be modified by intervention.

Dan originated the Pace of Aging method to quantify the aging process from a longitudinal analysis of human physiology and recently translated this method into a DNA-methylation blood test that can be implemented from a single time point blood test in collaboration with the Moffitt-Caspi Lab at Duke University. Code to implement the tool, DunedinPACE, can be found on GitHub. Read Quantification of biological aging in young adults, Quantification of the pace of biological aging in humans through a blood test, the DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm, and DunedinPACE, a DNA methylation biomarker of the pace of aging.

He is the principal investigator of NIH-funded projects to test how caloric restriction may slow or reverse aging-related changes to the genome and to develop multi-omics databases for the CALERIE Trial, to understand the long-term impacts of in-utero famine exposure on biological aging with the Dutch Hunger Winter Family Study, and to test the potential of anti-poverty policy intervention to slow biological aging in the MyGoals for Healthy Aging. Watch A Deeper Dive into DunedinPACE with Dr. Daniel Belsky.

Dan’s work has received international attention, including from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Guardian newspapers, and appeared in outlets including PNAS, Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Aging, the JAMA journals, Lancet Respiratory Medicine, and top journals in epidemiology and gerontology. Read Cut Calories and (Maybe) Add Years to Your Life.

Since 2020, he has been named an ISI highly-cited researcher. He received the Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowship to conduct life-course longitudinal studies of how genetic influences identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) combine with environmental factors to shape successful development of youth.

He is in the Advisory Committee at the Telomere Research Network. This is a NIA and NIEHS sponsored network dedicated to facilitating the collaboration between telomere biologists and other scientists across disciplines to advance interdisciplinary research on telomeres. He is also a member of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group and CIFAR, a Canadian-based global research organization. HCEO connects cross-disciplinary experts to advance innovative thinking and approaches to inequality and human capital development research.

Dan earned his Ph.D. at the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Public Health in 2012 with his Dissertation on Research in Genetic Epidemiology, Developmental Science, and Public Health titled Informing Public Health Approaches to Obesity and Smoking Using Genome-Wide Association Studies. Dan earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Psychology in 2002 from Swarthmore College.

After his graduation, Dan became Research Associate in the Center for Health Policy at Duke University between 2005 and 2007, when he became Research Associate in the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

In 2007, he also became Teaching Assistant at Gillings School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he continued as Research Associate in 2008 and Predoctoral Fellow in 2010 working on the developmental genetic epidemiology of obesity and smoking. In 2011, Dan was also Predoctoral Fellow at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, researching the comparative effectiveness of health risk assessments for obesity and nicotine dependence derived from genome-wide association studies as compared to family health history screening.

In his research, Dan examined the developmental genetic epidemiology of obesity and nicotine dependence. He used theory-free genetic discovery (genome-wide association studies) to build multi-locus profiles of genetic risk for obesity and nicotine dependence (“genetic risk scores”). He validated these genetic risk scores using data from a population-based cohort of older adults. He then used longitudinal data from a prospective birth cohort followed through mid-life to characterize when in development genetic risk becomes manifest and how early manifestations of genetic risk relate to the development of adult health outcomes.

After his Ph.D. in 2012, Dan joined Duke University for his Postdoctoral Research Fellowship where he worked on Developmental Genetic Epidemiology. In 2014, he became Research Assistant Professor in the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University until July 2023.

Dan was also Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine in the Department of Medicine in 2015, and 2017 in the Department of Population Health Sciences until 2018, when he became Assistant Professor at Columbia University until the end of 2022, when he took the role of Associate Professor there.

Watch The Genetics of Success: How Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Associated with Educational Attainment Relate to Life Course Development.

Read Is adult ADHD a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder? Evidence from a four-decade longitudinal cohort study, A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety, and The p Factor: One General Psychopathology Factor in the Structure of Psychiatric Disorders?

Read Genetics in Population Health Science: Strategies and Opportunities, Polygenic Risk, Rapid Childhood Growth, and the Development of Obesity, and Polygenic risk and the developmental progression to heavy, persistent smoking and nicotine dependence. Read Diet, pace of biological aging, and risk of dementia in the Framingham Heart Study.

Visit his LinkedIn profile, his Research profile, and his Belsky Lab page. Follow him on Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Academia, and Twitter. Follow his Contributions for Bold.