Public Health Faculty Tenured in 2023
Allison Aiello, who is the James S. Jackson Healthy Longevity Professor of Epidemiology (in the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center), is a leading expert in aging and infectious diseases. Aiello’s research focuses on identifying the processes by which health inequities in aging emerge across the life course, with the goal of uncovering points of intervention.
Her early scholarship on pandemic preparedness, and timely findings regarding mask use and hand hygiene, have served as a critical resource for the U.S. and World Health Organizations in COVID-19 mitigation recommendations.
Her more recent work focuses on the close relationship between psychosocial stressors, immune impairment, infections, and chronic diseases. Among her many honors, she received the Society for Epidemiologic Research’s prestigious Carol Hogue Award for outstanding mid-career achievement. Aiello received her PhD from Columbia in 2003 and, after appointments at the University of Michigan and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, returned to Columbia in 2022 to join the epidemiology faculty. She was granted tenure in July 2023.
Daniel Belsky, Associate Professor of Epidemiology (in the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center), is a leader in the emerging field of “geroscience,” which brings different disciplines together to uncover the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that make aging a risk factor for disease and chronic conditions.
Seeking to understand why socioeconomically disadvantaged populations face shorter healthy lifespans, Belsky brings methods from genomics and data science together with cohort studies and randomized trials to investigate how factors like social class interact with genes to shape aging and health.
He has published widely in leading scholarly journals in epidemiology, psychiatry, and medicine, and recently worked with the Moffitt-Caspi Lab at Duke University to develop a blood test to quantify the pace of biological aging. Belsky earned his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and held appointments at Duke University before joining the Columbia University faculty in 2018, earning tenure in 2023.
Ami Zota, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, is a population health scientist who studies social disparities in exposure to environmental contaminants, and the impacts these toxins have on women’s health.
Zota has demonstrated how low-income communities are especially vulnerable to contaminants, whether through proximity to sources of pollution, like mine waste and oil refineries, or poor housing quality. She also developed a new conceptual model of “environmental injustice of beauty,” identifying how beauty standards that favor whiteness make women of color more likely to encounter toxic chemicals that are ingredients in skin-lightening cosmetics, hair relaxers, and scented menstrual products.
In the public arena, Zota has advised members of Congress on policy reform, including urging the FDA to take action to protect the public from the health risks of phthalates in food and food packaging. As a leading voice calling for environmental justice, she is the founder of “Agents of Change for Environmental Justice,” which trains emerging leaders in environmental and climate justice from historically marginalized backgrounds.
Zota earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard University and held appointments at George Washington University before joining Columbia’s faculty in 2022, earning tenure in 2023