Daniel Belsky, Ph.D.

Daniel Belsky, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Columbia University



After finishing his Ph.D. at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health in 2012, Dan came to Duke for a postdoc at the Center for The Study of Aging and Human Development. Dan joined the faculty at Duke in 2014. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine and Social Science Research Institute. Dan is a Senior Fellow at the Aging Center and a Research Scholar at the Duke Population Research Institute.

The goal of Dan’s work is to reduce the severe inequalities in aging outcomes faced by socially disadvantaged populations in the US and elsewhere. To this end, Dan's research seeks to understand how genes and environmental factors combine to shape human health across the life course. His work leverages tools from genome science and longitudinal data from population-based cohort studies to identify mechanisms of positive development early in life and of aging and chronic disease. Ultimately this work aims to inform policy and clinical interventions to reduce health disparities in aging.

Dan’s current projects are organized around two sets of questions: 

(1)  Why do socially disadvantaged individuals experience more rapid health decline in aging?
To answer this question, Dan is working on three related projects:

  • How can we quantify processes of biological aging in young humans who do not yet have age-related diseases? 
  • How do genetic and environmental factors affect the rate of biological aging?
  • What are molecular and behavioral pathways to resilience through which at-risk individuals can slow their pace of aging? 

(2)  How do our genes shape the environments we live in
To answer this question, Dan is working on two related projects:

  • How do genetic factors shape patterns of social attainment?
  • What are changes we can make to environments that modify genetic influences on social attainments and disease risk?