University of Wisconsin–Madison

Elissa Epel, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry
University of California - San Francisco


Beyond “Stress”: Stress Processes, Mindfulness, and Biology of Aging

This talk will present a deeper understanding of our concept of ‘stress.’  A more precise description of the types of psychological stress humans experience, and common daily stress processes, such as perseverative thinking, mind wandering, and emotion regulation, can lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of the mind and mind-body connections with the autonomic nervous system and with cellular aging.  It can also lead to more targeted interventions, especially contemplative interventions.


Elissa Epel, Ph.D, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, at University of California, San Francisco. She is the Director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center (www.amecenter.ucsf.edu), Associate Director of the Center for Health and Community, member of the National Academy of Medicine, and President Elect of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Mind and Life Institute Steering Council. She studies psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress that accelerate biological aging, with a focus on overeating and metabolism, and cellular aging mechanisms, such as the  telomere/telomerase maintenance system. She and her colleagues develop and test interventions that combine behavioral, psychological, and mindfulness training. She co-leads studies funded by NIA, NCCIH, NIMH, and NHLBI, including a national Stress Network, and a multicampus consortium on obesity funded by UC Office of the President (COAST and SSEW–Stress, Sugar, Environment, & Weight, coastcenter.ucsf.edu).  She has been involved in National Institute of Aging initiatives on role of ‘stress’ in aging, and on reversibility of early life adversity, and on Science of Behavior Change.

Epel studied psychology and psychobiology at Stanford University, and clinical and health psychology at Yale University. She completed a clinical internship at the Palo Alto Veterans Healthcare System and an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. Epel has received several awards including the APA Early Career Award, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Neal Miller Young Investigator Award, and the 2017 Silver Innovator Award from the Alliance for Aging Research.  Epel has co-written a book for the public with Elizabeth Blackburn, The Telomere Effect(2017), a NYT bestseller.  Her work has been featured in venues such as TEDMED, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Morning Show, 60 minutes, National Public Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wisdom 2.0, Health 2.0, and in many science documentaries.  In addition to doing research, she enjoys leading meditation retreats with her colleagues.