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Elissa Epel

Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry, UC San Francisco

Elissa Epel, Ph.D, is a health psychologist and stress scientist.  She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, at University of California, San Francisco.  She is also the Director of the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, & Treatment, (COAST), and the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Lab, and Asst. Director of the Center for Health and Community.

For the past 10 years, she has been studying psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress that accelerate biological aging.  She also studies the interconnections between emotional processes, eating, and metabolism.  With her collaborators, she is conducting clinical trials to examine how stress reduction and mindful eating programs affect weight loss, pregnancy health, and baby outcomes.  She is currently studying how a specialized mindfulness training targeting parenting stress affects aging biology as well as child well-being, especially for children with autism.  New methods include how mobile technology and biosensor monitoring can promote changes in daily experience. She is involved in National Institute of Aging initiatives on measurement and role of ‘stress’ in aging, and on reversibility of early life adversity.

Epel studied psychology and psychobiology at Stanford University (BA, 1990), and clinical and health psychology at Yale University (PhD, 1998). She completed an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF, where she is faculty in the Department of Psychiatry. Epel has received awards from the American Psychological Association, for her research conducted as a student (1996, 1998), junior investigator (2005), and the APA Early Career Award (2008). She also was awarded the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Neal Miller Young Investigator Award, and the International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology’s Young Investigator Award.  Her research has been covered in several documentaries including IOM/CDC’s “Weight of the Nation,’ “Immortal,” and National Geographic’s “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” and on TEDMED and “60 Minutes.”  Her research on stress and aging is covered in the book Stress Less.