So You Want to be a Biogerontologist

If a job needs doing, there's something to be said for stepping up to help out directly. A number of younger folk in the healthy life extension community see that engineered longevity within our lifetimes is possible, and in response direct their studies and career goals towards biotechnology and aging research. A few of the braver older folk have mastered the challenge of switching careers in mid-flow, returning to university in order to become life science researchers, focused on the biology of aging.

Biogerontology is a sub-field of gerontology studying the biological processes of aging. It is composed of the interdisciplinary research on biological aging's causes, effects, and mechanisms in order to better understand human senescence. ... Biomedical gerontology, also known as experimental gerontology and life extension, is a sub discipline of biogerontology that endeavors to slow, prevent, and even reverse aging in both humans and animals. Curing age-related diseases is one approach, and slowing down the underlying processes of aging is another.

So how does a person go about steering studies or a career with the aim of becoming a biogerontologist? I note that academic researcher Joao Pedro Magalhaes maintains a good overview aimed at students in the university system:

By and large, biogerontologists work at research institutions, typically universities or laboratories, though a few also work in the industry and a few companies research aging. The vast majority of biogerontologists have a PhD (or sometimes an MD or both), so if you want to become a biogerontologist you should be prepared to go to graduate and/or medical school. While it is possible to study aging in a private company or as a staff member of a research institution, the majority of well-known biogerontologists have their own research group, like ours, at a research institution. Again, you can certainly contribute to research on aging in a variety of ways and even without making of it your main job, yet if you are serious about becoming a biogerontologist and doing independent research at the highest level then this usually implies developing an academic career.

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One major doubt of students is which topics they should study to prepare themselves for a career in biogerontology. Because aging is a biological process I would suggest that you include biology courses in your education. With the sequencing of the human genome and recent progress in the genetics of aging and longevity, I would also recommend some basic knowledge of genetics. Nevertheless, many different techniques and skills can be employed to study aging. There are physicists, physicians, engineers, biologists, geneticists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and many other different professionals studying aging right now. Therefore, my advice is for you to learn different skills, understand the science of aging, and focus on the area you find more exciting or more adequate to your personal situation.

Where you wind up in life and the degree to which you enjoy success in your goals is all about the connections you make along the way. If you want to make progress in a particular field, you have to establish relationships within that field. For example, the SENS Foundation runs an academic initiative program - whose chief value to the students involved is the opportunity to make connections within the community of researchers interested in repairing the biochemical damage of aging.

Comments

Any ideas where a physicist-turned-bioinformaticist could fit in here? When I asked Aubrey for suggestions on where I could be helpful in anti-aging research, he didn't really have any. My impression has been that useful work in this area is mainly being done by laboratory biologists only, without much assist from genomic or computational results.

Posted by: Will Nelson at October 25th, 2010 10:49 AM

My experience has been that the software side of biotech is hard to break into: either you started there, of if you're coming in from the outside, you're most likely a support developer who works on websites et al.

That there isn't enough open source going on in the tools of the industry is one possible reason why this is so - the whole thing looks like a snapshot of 20 years ago in other areas of business software.

But I think you're right: the most important stuff taking place at the moment that's directly SENS-relevant isn't very computational at all. There's an argument for running more analysis of protein interactions for things like bioremediation and clearing out aggregates, but given a dollar to choose where to spend, computation isn't where it goes to best effect right now.

Posted by: Reason at October 25th, 2010 10:58 AM

Does anybody know how to find a company/university, which can hire you to work in this field?
Having a hard time finding it.

Posted by: Mark at September 15th, 2011 4:13 PM

Hello. I am an advanced student (25) currently on my way to get a Physics mastet degree. I want to go for a biomedical/biochemistry master degree to help out in this field, and there is a university which accepts Physics graduate for that degree.
I have some doubts. What should I study from now to get prepared? Cell biology, organic chemistry? I can choose two optional courses to put in my curriculum before I finish the Physics degree, and I would like to choose relevant courses.
Thanks for any advice. :-)

Posted by: Ferd at August 15th, 2014 10:51 AM

What top biogerontology schools are out there?

Posted by: Oleksandr Sklyarov at April 17th, 2015 7:58 AM

I am about to complete a HE Access Diploma in the sciences, with my focus being in biology. I've been offered a place at Newcastle, which is great because the have a raging research centre. I know the grade I get for my end of year project is more important than what the project is about, but for my own personal interest I would like a project that has some relevance to Biogerontology. Does anyone have any suggestion for a 6-10 day project that is focused, but could yield enough results to present some decent statistical analysis from?
I have a week until I have to submit my equipment list, so suggestions will be gratefully received.
Many thanks.
David Brown

Posted by: David Brown at April 26th, 2016 10:17 AM

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