Epel, Weiner among most highly cited researchers in the world

UC San Francisco Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences faculty researchers Elissa Epel, PhD, and Michael Weiner, MD, are among the most influential individuals in their respective fields, according to the most recent analysis of research citations by the science and intellectual property company Clarivate.

Researchers were chosen according to authorship of highly-cited journal articles—those that ranked in the top 1% by citations for their field(s) and publication year over the past decade. That citation-based list was then refined by expert judgment at Clarivate to produce a final slate representing the top 0.1% of all scientists.

A leading voice in the study of psychological stress, health, and aging

Epel is a professor and vice chair for adult psychology in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center. She is also an associate director of the UCSF Center for Health and Community and the UCSF Nutrition Obesity Research Center, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, a past president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and past co-chair of the Mind and Life Institute Steering Council. In addition, Epel is the director of the UC Climate Change and Mental Health Council, part of the UC-wide Center for Climate, Healthy and Equity.

She studies psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress and health, and how to apply this basic science to scalable interventions that can reach vulnerable populations. Epel also studies processes that accelerate biological aging, with a focus on toxic stress, overeating and effects on metabolism, and cellular aging (including the telomere/telomerase maintenance system). She and her colleagues develop and test interventions that combine behavioral, psychological, and mindfulness training. Currently, she is testing short-term interventions to improve stress resilience and physiological homeostatic capacity to slow aging. She co-leads studies funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kideny Diseases (NIDDK), and National Health, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)—including National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded national stress and emotional well-being networks—and has been involved in NIH initiatives on reversibility of early life adversity and the science of behavior change.

Epel has received several awards including the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology (2008, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research's Neal Miller Young Investigator Award (2005), and the Alliance for Aging Research's Silver Innovator Award (2017). Together with Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, she co-wrote The Telomere Effect (2017), a New York Times bestseller that has been translated in 30 languages. Most recently, she authored The Stress Prescription (2022), which focuses on science-based fundamental practices to reduce stress and increase well-being. Her work has been featured in venues such as TEDMED, NBC’s Today, CBS Mornings, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wisdom 2.0, Health 2.0, and numerous science documentaries.

Advancing our understanding and treatment of Alzehimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases

Weiner is a professor emeritus in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, radiology and biomedical imaging, medicine, and neurology, and former director of the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. He is the principal investigator of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, the largest observational study in the world concerning Alzheimer's disease, and also launched the Brain Health Registry, an internet-based registry with the overall goal of accelerating development of effective treatments for brain diseases.

His research activities involve the development and utilization of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and position emission tomography (PET) for investigating and diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases. For over past 30 years, he has worked to develop and optimize the use of MRI, PET, and blood-based biomarker methods to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Weiner’s research also focuses on monitoring effects of treatment to slow progressions in Alzheimer’s disease, and detecting Alzheimer’s disease early in patients who are not demented, but risk subsequent development of dementia. His overall research goals are to participate in the development of effective treatments and methods for early detection of Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders. 

Weiner has mentored over 150 postdoctoral fellows and authored 960 peer reviewed research papers and 71 book chapters. He has received numerous honors, including the American College of Cardiology Young Investigator Award (1976), the Alzheimer’s Association Nancy and Ronald Regan Award (2011), the American Academy of Neurology's Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer's Research (2013), and the Alzheimer's Association's Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award in Alzheimer's Disease Research (2021).

List honors researchers with high global impact

“We celebrate the Highly Cited Researchers whose contributions transform our world by helping to make it healthier, more sustainable and more secure,” said Bar Veinstein, president of academia and government at Clarivate. “Recognition of Highly Cited Researchers not only validates research excellence but also enhances reputation, fosters collaboration and informs resource allocation, acting as a beacon for academic institutions and commercial organizations.”

The 2023 rankings include 52 organizations — universities, government agencies and other entities — that are home to 27 or more Highly Cited Researchers. UCSF ranked 11th among all organizations with 34 highly cited researchers in biology and biochemistry, clinical medicine, immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience and behavior, and pharmacology and toxicology.

The Highly Cited list includes 6,849 individuals from 67 countries/regions. About 84% come from just 10 countries/regions, including 38% from the U.S. and 18% from mainland China.

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About UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, with a mission focused on research (basic, translational, clinical), teaching, patient care, and public service.

UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences conducts its clinical, educational, and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including the UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry BuildingUCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital; UCSF Medical Centers at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay, and Mount Zion; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; the San Francisco VA Health Care System; UCSF Fresno; and numerous community-based sites around the San Francisco Bay Area.

About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.

The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

About UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.